Ming the Mechanic:
OrgSpace

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 OrgSpace2002-10-07 20:51
9 comments
picture by Flemming Funch

I have a persistent vision of a multi-dimensional information storage system. It flashes before my eyes frequently. I dream about it at night. I'm missing it many times each day. The world needs it.

In my dream vision it seems rather simple. A virtual space with an arbitrary number of dimensions. There is always an obvious place to put something, or you just make the place on the fly, and you can find it again along any of the available dimensions. You can add a new dimension whenever you need one. A dimension can be regarded as a storage bin, a category, a trait, a degree of freedom, whatever suits you at the moment. It all seems simple and obvious. You just make connections between the things that ought to be connected.

But if I sit down and try to make a computer program to implement it, or even if I just try to diagram it really well, I quickly get lost, and it suddenly seems to be an impossible problem to wrap one's mind around. A universal database structure that will represent any kind of structure at any scale, in an efficient manner.

I call this thing OrgSpace. A space for organizing. A space that organizes things. Org might also stand for Organic, implying that it is a fluid, evolving, alive kind of thing, rather than a dead, mechanical thing. That would be the name of the program, the name of the underlying scheme, and the name the place you put things. I trademarked it, as it might be used as a produce name or company name. I've created several incarnations of the OrgSpace program. They mostly add up to ways of storing different kinds of data in folders, with the key capability of being able to put one item into several folders at the same time. But none of my implementations are quite IT.

When I mention my vision of a multi-dimensional storage place to people, many people have suggestions of some program that they think would do it. But none of them are quite right. There's The Brain which shows a mind-map of information one can zoom around in. There's MindModel, which lets you define your own characteristics for items as you store them. There are the many implementations of a Wiki-Wiki, which is a system where a group of people easily can create webpages on the fly and link them to each other, and store information wherever they see fit. It's all great stuff. But still not quite IT. The closest thing appears to be ZigZag thought up by Ted Nelson, the father of hypertext. I don't yet understand it well enough to see if it fits what I'm talking about, and there are no implementations of it that actually seem to do anything useful.

I want something that works kind of like how a computer is imagined to work in many science fiction settings. You say: "Computer, give me a list of people who came to my house on Thursday the 5th" and it gives you a list, and you say "Which ones of those wear size 8 1/2 shoes?" and you say "List their phone numbers" or "OK, list all the e-mail messages I've exchanged with that particular person". In other words, you can enter it from any angle, from any dimension, and your data is stored in such a way that it is relatively easy to search and list things along any of the available dimensions, and you can switch to another dimension whenever you feel like it.

When I have a piece of data to store, I'd want it to be a no-brainer, so that any possible type of information can be easily stored, and there'd be only a very minimal requirement of being aware of data structures and field lengths and indexes and that kind of thing. There should never be a situation where I say "Damn, there's no place for that. I need to redesign my folder hierarchy". It should take a few seconds to store anything. So, if I have a piece of paper with my daughter's social security number, I'd quickly find a place for it. If I have a name of a movie I'd like to watch, or a name of a wine I like, or an appointment for next Friday, or the recipe for chocolate mousse, I should be able to store these within a few seconds without fearing that I'll never find them again. I should be able to store them in enough different dimensions at the same time, that there will be a whole bunch of ways of finding them again. They'll be stored by time, place, person, subjects, categories, type, etc. including links to other items. So, if I got the recipe from my Aunt Gerda, that should be easy to remember. If I got the wine I liked at a certain restaurant, I should be able to record that in a meaningful way in a few seconds. I don't mean just writing it down, I mean storing the structure of relationships. So, I should be able to come along later and easily find any kind of items related to that restaurant. And in a more structured way than just searching for the name, like in Google.

The thing is also that we all already live in a much more multi-dimensional world than we did just a few years ago. But we still act in many ways as if we're living in the same old 3 or 4 dimensional world. Our organizational structure isn't really supporting the world we actually live in. I work for people I don't see. Many of my friends I never see. My information and my entertainment comes from many different places at the same time. I can write to thousands of people at the same time. The things I do contain many simultaneous layers. Lots of things in my world relate to each other, but not in a simple linear manner. Years ago I could keep track of my information by having a filing cabinet with drawers in, with folders with labels on, and I would put a piece of paper in the appropriate folder. With a few exceptions, such as bills, such a system completely doesn't work for me nowadays. If I put something in such a folder and put a subject title on it, I will probably never see it again. Because chances are that I will be searching for it under a quite different heading the next time I need it.

We could say that a traditional filing system is maybe 1 and 1/2 dimensions. It it a bunch of categories, and it has a hierarchy where some categories are inside other categories, but still an item can only be stored in one place, unless I photocopy it. I'd need at least 6 or 7 dimensions to stay sane. Preferably many more.

We need information structures that approximate the actual structures of our lives. They need to have enough dimensions. A filing cabinet doesn't do it. A day planner doesn't do it. A few hundred post-it notes don't do it. Google doesn't do it either.

Smart people who work on web standards are trying to create a Semantic Web. That means that the world wide web would be more structured, so it is easier to represent and organize meaning. Something better than just looking for occurrances of certain words. A semantic web might be able to tell you which words are names of people and which ones are names of companies. It might contain structures for what are the standard things people want to know about cars, and you might search more methodically through those, as if it were a database.

That's some of what what I'm talking about. But I don't understand most of the technology involved in the semantic web. It involves various standards based on XML - Extensible Markup Language - which is just a simple method of structuring data. The standards built on top of that are about agreeing on what those structures are, and how they are exchanged and organized and indexed. I think.

I'm not sure if those projects really cover what I'm personally looking for. I suspect not, but they might help, if I just understood them.

I'd be happy if somebody would just go and invent it and give it to me. I just have the sneaking suspicion that it hasn't been invented yet.

A lot of people walk around being rather overwhelmed by their lives, unable to keep track of even the things that are important to them. Most of us exhibit something like Attention Deficit Disorder. Things we know and feel strongly about one day can easily be forgotten the next day, just because a new load of information gets dumped on us, and we don't know what to do with all of it, we keep a rather short attention span.

I assume our minds and our brains will evolve, so that we're more able to deal with the world. But it seems like that's going to take some time before we catch up. If we do. The world is accelerating. Anyway, in the meantime, until we're able to think holographically in 16 dimensions, and be quite calm about it, or until we have universal telepathy, we could use some assistance in organizing our information. Computers are obvious tools for that. They just need some much better underlying metaphors than those of file folders and desktops and windows.


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9 comments

7 Oct 2002 @ 21:41 by vaxen : Already exists ming...
it is called 'your life.' You live in it and have your 'being' in it. Multidimensional and Cosmically perfect. However there are some new devlopements at MIT and IBM and NASA that you may or may not be aware of. These developements lay in an area of computer science called 'quantum computing.' Atoms instead of chips. The 'qubit.' Of course this area of research requires 'much money.' The researcher at the private level just does not have the necessary funding available for quantum matrix computing...but in 20 years it will be the norm. No wonder you are having this vision...so are a lot of people and practicle 'machines' have been constructed and are being used. One thing you have in common, though, with other researchers is your own 'atomic' computer...your bio-organism en toto. Nice article ming. Glad that you are thinking along these lines. The hardware is in the process of being invented and what exists already is not available to the public. So...dream on ming san.  


7 Oct 2002 @ 22:29 by b : You often excite my mind Ming
From my first coming here, it was your words that brought me in to NCN. Your visions of how we might change civilizations for the better on this planet. I see your dream of a multidimensional structure of file storage, layered headings relating to the same subject and multisubjects simultaneosly as something we can construct in our minds. By first looking into the parts of our mind, realizing that some parts are unconcious and work on stimulous/response and other parts are able to use logic and reason as provided by the being itself. Yes, there are subatomic particles that make up mental matter and space to put them in. It takes a certain discipline that is multidimensional in its quality like a long run where breathing has to be controlled and even, to go the distance with stamina. Then there is that wonderful second wind that comes after a short lull at the top of running at peak . The enormous pleasure of the unheeded continuence at going full out. The feelings, emotions, qualities of existence are on many levels and layers within our individual conciousness as I suspect your dream of multidimensional storage and retrieval is. In time, with energy, it will be.  


8 Oct 2002 @ 01:16 by ming : Quantum Minds
It probably is what we already are. Consciousness existing in many dimensions simultaneously, stretching far and wide. Many layers and directions and connections at the same time. Maybe I just yearn to transcend the limitations of our minds - our limiting beliefs of being one thing and not the other, our over-simplified ideas about what we should and shouldn't do, and what is right or wrong, true or false.

Maybe it takes quantum computing to even come close to constructing mechanisms that approximate how we work or think... or how we ought to think. Infinite universes interacting, to provide all possible answers at once - even the in-between ones.  



8 Oct 2002 @ 01:40 by jstarrs : Hey, Ming...
...I think you're talking ("Infinite universes interacting, to provide all possible answers at once - even the in-between ones.") about enlightenment!  


15 Oct 2002 @ 00:21 by dharmicmel : knowledge management
Mr. Funch:

as always, you bring up fascinating things; what dreams to dream!!!

I don't know exactly what it is going to take to bring a new depth, or new dimensions to metaphors, but I think they are central to all things
in the future, both near and further along, but probably not too far along, perhaps there will be thinking, work, and applications in the fields of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and nanotechnology, that will combine and recombine in ways that will make your dream a living reality for all of us; artificial intelligence will come to mind and metaphor, and make for a rainbow bridge, for this and many worlds/dimensions; virtual reality will make it possible to edit and re-edit the realities involved, especially an infinite index of possibilities for mind; nanotechnology will provide a ways and means that seems almost too good to be true, and let us hope, in the only negative note here, that we know what to do with this stuff, and that we are more wise than we are intelligent
I think our minds will evolve, and in fact, are evolving, as your persistant dream testifies to; but when and how, substantially and significantly, well, that is something that remains to be seen; brings me back to the singularity ...
but what a dream
maybe when we go beyond the present metaphors, it will be in part, because we have internalized something else, and maybe then our minds will be something of a higher imagination, something that can dance with higher, more evolved metaphors; I know I am dancing around the subject here, but right now, I can only share with you what I have a sense for; I wish I could give you more substance, but someone else will have to do that

echo, great days
blessings, and high thoughts  



9 Apr 2006 @ 23:27 by Astar @213.39.187.58 : hereiam
Saluti Fleming!

Have you found the 'door' to your OrgSpace by now?

These human bodies are quite a convenient means to make em type the messages
one's lot pretends to be unable to telepathically download directly through ya.

That's all it takes; dive through anOTher one's consciousness into their
spirit-space and here it is; all the stuff you ever wanted to know, but
hadn't bothered to store in your own private space. It's as simple as that.

Nightime, when your body rests is a good time for up-linking.
Spirit Name serves as a kind of spirit-URL.

CU aboard ;-)

Astar - the Troll, who isn't  



12 Apr 2006 @ 01:12 by ming : Astar
Well, yeah, lots of stuff we can access just by tuning into it. Which is all great. But not necessarily as practical for down-to-earth human information. Like contact information for people you know, correspondance, technical data. At least I haven't found a way of avoiding having to organize stuff like that somehow.  


25 Apr 2006 @ 16:47 by Astar @80.171.96.238 : 1001
is it not funny how e-mails mysteriously get lost? (no surprise)
or - communications are ignored by recipients (no surprise either)

anyway - what you mean is the www - wissen wollen wagen - or sth to that effect ;-)

it's all t/here

typed any rare keyword or even a whacky name into a search-engine lately?
thanks to the gods of the internet, SEs don't cache forever. Leave no trace ;-)

should you find it, talk about the weather.

Please delete my two postings here. Thanks!

love,
Astar  



15 May 2006 @ 02:34 by Andy @202.82.143.78 : I'm looking for the same
Mr. Funch, you are not the only one looking for that thing. The difficulty is not only to draw such a thing but also to explain it to others. At the moment just add new fields or new tables to a database for every new dimension or new XML-descriptors or whatever their name is to the style sheet.  


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