Cognitive Knowledge-Bases of Commonsense

Cognitive Knowledge-Bases of Commonsense. 

This essentially pertains to the case of commonsense knowledge acquired as kids, about the world around us. 

KBs contain statements like – A microwave is a kind of a kitchen appliance. Hearts are inside the body. You cannot throw an apple onto the moon …. etc. 

Consider the first one, about microwaves. The question is – Were we taught in this format? This piece of knowledge is introducing a microwave oven to someone. You don’t teach a kid in this format, that “listen John, a microwave is a kind of a kitchen appliance“. It is not a scholastic class that is going on. 

Yes, in case of something specific, exact and technical which you would want to tell/teach the kid, you would tell something like ‘when you want to convert litres to ml (millilitres), multiply it by 1000’. 

Let us now delve into the domain of microwave ovens (commonsense knowledge about them). 

We need “fragments” of commonsense knowledge, and not Synthetic “made” and “formal” sentences of the same, for commonsense thinking – for commonsense thinking to be integrated with commonsense knowledge. Commonsense knowledge pieces should be like the fuzzy and mixed information/data shown in movie trailers – short 2-3 second scenes, bearing the ‘content’. Commonsense knowledge should be in that ‘format’. 

While reasoning about microwaves or doing reasoning which involves a microwave, the commonsense knowledge comes through in that fashion. 

There are 2 points here – 

1. Sub-processes : Your knowledge about microwaves is in the form of random and patchy sub-processes involved in regard to using/experiencing a microwave. 

2. Analogue and Equivalence : Instead of the synthetic statement – ‘The container rotates for the duration of the entered time’, a more of a “cognitive” statement would be that one-second 

mental snapshot of ‘when times up, the rotation stops’. This is equivalent to the synthetic statement, but more “real”. Also, this more relates to the way in which that commonsense was experienced and procured – and hence ‘learned’. 

Hence, the “REAL” knowledge corresponding to ‘A Microwave is a kind of a kitchen-appliance’ is – ‘A microwave is in a kitchen’. (And further bits added in that way). 

Furthermore, the above discussion also just hints at how the commonsense knowledge pieces (of the domain of microwave ovens) are related to their Procurement, Experience and Memory. Lets dwell a bit on these 3 phenomena, with a one or two examples of commonsense “fragments” corresponding to each. . 1. Procurement fragments : 

These fragments are related to the procurement of the commonsense pieces. In the below examples, we see those which are related to the procurement of what a microwave oven is. 

E.g. – – mama’s cookies during Sunday gatherings of friends… – what uncle John had once called ‘your giant noisy box’ ……. 

2. Experience fragments : 

These fragments are related to our experience as regards to the commonsense pieces. In the below example, we see those which are related to our experience of the key features of the usage of the oven. 

E.g. – the timing adjustment – (the pressing of buttons repeatedly by you) – in multiples of 30 seconds….. 

the eagerness when the countdown is getting to 4 3 2 1 ….yeah. 

3. Memory fragments : 

These fragments are related to the storage of the commonsense pieces in our memory. In the below example we see those which are related to the storage of the procedural logics about a microwave oven. That is, the memory of a piece of logic concerning an oven. 

E.g. – oh ya, mummy had (first) opened the door, to take out the dish …. 

the more the time, the hotter the dish. 

Another concern is that these entries being mere facts, they digress from and lack the aspect of cognition. Even though in the human system too, there are present these facts, they are “integrated” with the mental processes, which make them solid and grounded. Lets see the discussion below. 

A KB will have an entry like – ‘Hearts are inside the body’. (A typical entry would be like A-X-B; A and B being the entities/concepts and X being the relationship between them). 

But, there are 3 components to any piece of such commonsense knowledge – 

1. What is a heart? what is a body? 

2. The prevalent entry – hearts are inside the body. 

3. The meaning of the relation – ‘inside’. Which is, understanding ‘insideness’. And this involves the grasp of simpler experiential phenomena as regards to ‘insideness’ like say – “covering”, “obstruction in seeing”, “(the act of) open and see”, “something coming out of something (say you pierce a ball, and a fluid comes OUT OF it” etc. These exemplary aspects of “insideness” can be perceived by a kid (one or more in each instance of something being inside something), amalgamating into a holistic understanding of insideness. 

Each of these 3 components would get even more solid if we apply Minsky’s point to them – you dont understand anything unless you understand it in 3-4 ways. 

The harder knowledge (to understand) or loosely speaking, the knowledge to understand is the 1st and the 3rd components; the middle component is just a FACT. You understand the middle component only when you have an understanding of the 1st and the 3rd. We have integrated knowledge, not just discrete facts. Otherwise it would make no harm in making a statement like say – “OK, they (hearts) could have been inside the pillows we sleep on or inside our mothers’ bodies or……but it so happens that they are inside our own bodies”. That would rob the human element in the very phenomenon of the possession of that knowledge. 

Commonsense Facts (not facts in general) are integrated with cognition. You may just memorize the capitals of 100 countries without really having an idea of what a capital is; thats not the case with ‘Hearts are inside the body’. 

We don’t really make much mistakes in, or, forget commonsense knowledge. If someone says ‘I forgot whether my nails are inside my lungs or on my fingers’, the (cognitive) rot would have had spread deep and far within – and not just restricted to that isolated discrete fact! 

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