Commonsense Information v/s Commonsense Knowledge

         Commonsense Information v/s Commonsense Knowledge 

Definition of ‘Commonsense data’ : things which everyone knows. 

Let us divide this commonsense data into 2 sets – Set (1) and Set (2).

Let’s look at the sets.

SET (1) – 

It would contain commonsense data like – 

The sun is hot

Hearts are inside the body


Here, these data pieces link 2 entities/concepts with a conceptual relationship

In the first example the 2 entities/concepts are the ‘sun’ and ‘heat’, and the conceptual relationship between them (not explicitly stated in the sentence) is ‘bearing’. Whereas, in the second example the conceptual relationship (‘insideness’) links the 2 entities – ‘heart’ and ‘body’.

Let’s delve more and see some properties of the data pieces in this set – 

  • These are not the first things one comes to know about the subjects – here, sun and heart respectively. Our first exposure/introduction to the heart is its beating that we feel when we put our palm on our chest. The first experience of the sun is that it’s yellow and in the sky.
  • There is something to understand in such data. (This will get clearer later).

Hence it should be called ‘Knowledge’; it isn’t mere ‘Information’. And since it is something everyone knows, it should be called ‘Commonsense Knowledge’.

SET (2) – 

It would contain commonsense data like – 

Sun rises and sets

The sun is yellow/orange-ish, light comes from it, if you look at it straight your eyes cant bear it. Hearts beat, hearts are parts of bodies.

A hypothesis statement about such data – 

These wont play to be relevant/noticeable deduction-grounds of anything intelligent that one thinks/speaks. These are so basic that rarely will a thoughtful question arise and will it be answered by factoring in one of these items. Say, suppose one is thinking about the sun or the heart, there will never be a situation wherein you say to yourself – why is ‘X’ happening? Oh right, that’s because of ‘Y’ (where the Y is an element in the Set (2)). Questions won’t arise in the first place since they would be nullified / nipped in the bud, by one of these extremely basic facts at the “very pre-inception”, so to speak, and things will move ahead in the thought process without it being noticed that these data pieces factored into the thinking. The next link in thought would arise “automatically” i.e. without it being so that — ‘you stop somewhere, then a fact like this occurs in your mind, and the next link is created’ — the whole as an observable, noticeable process. 

In principle, yes, there would be deductions which would be based on these items, but they won’t be worth noticing. Hence such data should be called (mere) ‘information’ (something like ‘My uncle’s name is Peter’). And hence, in this context, ‘Commonsense Information’

Other comments on and differences between the two sets – 

  • If you know an element in Set (1), it means you know elements from Set (2). For e.g. – It is not possible and is pointless to know that the sun is hot without knowing the colour of the sun. But knowing only (2) and not (1) would seem like an odd unexposed mind. 
  • Set (2) is more preliminary a kind of a data-set than Set (1). But the items in set (2) are still commonsense-data. (But “ultra-basic”).
  • Set (2) data doesnt occur in AI Commonsense Knowledge Bases (e.g. CYC). A KB has entries like ‘a man is bigger than a fruit’ or ‘hearts are inside the body’ which belong to Set (1). In these  knowledge pieces (i.e. of Set (1)), you are creating “new” links  between 2 concepts/entities (e.g. the comparative sizes of man and fruit), thus pulling together a relationship. Hence there is a sort of a thinking/understanding element associated with these set (1) commonsense data pieces.

Also, the Set (1) pieces will never be proactively taught to a kid by anyone. (No mother, without context, will tell a kid – a computer mouse doesnt have a heart). 

  • The first things that come to mind when you come across a subject (say, sun or heart), without any context, are the items in set (2); when you come across the subject as a part of a context, the first thing that comes to the mind are the items in set (1).
  • Suppose someone asks a kid – Do you see the sun all day? and the kid says – ‘it rises and sets. So how can one see it all day?’ The basis of this answer is an item from set (2) – ‘sun rises and sets’. The basic visualization of the Set (2) item (rising and setting) is inherently binded with the question statement itself (‘…seeing the sun all day or not’). ‘Rising and setting’ is too clearly and obviously connected to the appearance or disappearance of the sun. So, it hardly comes across as some intelligent thinking was done using that piece to answer the question.                                                                  But when an item from set (1) is used, it does come across that the kid has done some genuine thinking (though tiny in representable amount). For e.g. – Suppose someone asks a kid – What if I take you near the sun? And the kid says – the sun is hot, so we will burn. Here the kid uses ‘the sun is hot’ (set (1)). 

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