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Marco C. Bettoni / Sibylle Schneider: Experience Management: Lessons Learned from Knowledge Engineering, unveröffentlichtes Manusskript 2001, FHBB Basel.


"The word "construction" is generally used in connection with industrial and civil engineering. What is to be understood, however, under "construction" in connection with knowledge? The meaning is very similar. The brain "constructs" its knowledge in the sense that it can know only what it has done (i.e. conceived, built and tested).

The first who formulated this in such a way was the Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico about 1710 [Gl95]. Today Prof. Walter J. Freeman - neurophysiologist in Berkeley - writes in his newest book [Fr00]: "All that brains can know of ha been synthesized within themselves, in the form of hypotheses about the world and the outcome of their own tests of the hypotheses... ". Freeman has proven with his experiments on rabbits that the patterns of perception are not imposed to the organism from outside.

In the same way as a Smart, a Swatch or simply a screwdriver are not "maps" of reality but useful constructions, one must also consider as useful constructions the knowledge-objects that he or she "constructs" in his or her head. As a first example of a useful construction we would like to suggest a small experiment: If we draw in the air with the forefinger a circle of approx. 30 cm of diameter, how do we operate in order to perceive the circle? What do we map if there is nothing at all to be mapped? As a second example let us take something from daily life (what we daily do is namely what concerns all of us), for instance two common daily words, "look" and "see". These are two very interesting words. Because they designate two coupled experiences which take place one after another and are dependent of each other. They are useful to recall us the fundamental insight that

what we see depends on how we look!

The same happens with 2 other words, namely "listen" and "hear": how I listen determines what I hears. Language hence embodies in such words-pairs already since thousands of years Vico's insight that everything we know (the what) is determined by what we do (the how, our way of knowing) and not by what is given (the indefinite thing). In 5 words: the how determines the what."