Knowledge Annealing

The following interpretation of Knowledge Annealing is copied from -- PeterMurchland

In metallurgy, annealing means to heat a metal close to its melting point and cool it over a long period of time. This causes untold billions of atoms to automatically align themselves into a minimum energy state, producing tough and hard structures in some metals (and softness in others), strength in plastics, or beauty in gems.

Chaos and smoothing

Technically, the heat introduces chaos into the system by loosening the location constraints on each atom, allowing each one to move closer to a configuration that reduces its potential energy. The subsequent cooling slowly constrains the atoms again, "freezing" the new configurations for most atoms as fewer and fewer atoms find better locations. In general, this allows the material to find an ordered configuration free of the damage caused earlier by mechanical forming or by rapid transformation from a configuration only stable at an elevated temperature. Annealing is nature's way (usually) finding a global near-optimum through local optimization by countless numbers of atoms. Complex structures can result from a simple self-organizing process, depending on the relative energies associated with different structures at different scales.

Similarly, you can also anneal information so that it will organize itself into formats offering minimum time to find, understand, and use it: transforming information into knowledge. The idea with information annealing is to put a hypertext system on a network (Internet?) and then allow all users to change anything they want.

A moderator might introduce some simple "rules:" like what files and menus might look like and what changes you can make to files created by others; this action helps to introduce a smoothing function. The process is really quite simple: Those who can't find or understand what they want, leave questions for others to answer. The system will quickly

A WikiWikiWeb is one possible tool for information annealing.

Another reference to information or knowledge annealing.

Information Annealing

"Information annealing" is a concept championed by Neil Larson, the owner of a smallish, West-coast company named, MaxThink. Neil's company produces a line of software products that are used to capture, organize, and present information and knowledge. MaxThink's products make interesting use of hypertext concepts. For more information on MaxThink, please visit their Website -

I have also come across the following reference. This paper discusses "meta-structures" which is a core concept within Larsen's "knowledge annealing" process.

I have not checked either of these sites yet, so make no guarantees about how useful the reference is. -- PeterMurchland

Well, maybe Maxthink is still in business (at least the site exists), but it only contains information on pre-web historical hypertext stuff, nothing of interest. The paper is also old (1991), but may be interesting for historical purposes and its generic classification (reproduced below), though I wouldn't recommend it as reading -- ChristopheVermeulen

 time\generality         general               specific  

stable class object temporary property situation instantaneous change event

I'm not certain I see the analogy. What, on a WikiWikiWeb, represents heat? What metric suggests the information here is a "global near optimum"? We have a great many diverse opinions here, and what results is very much a movable feast; nothing suggests that the wiki is stabilizing. Moreover it's growing, something heated metal doesn't often do. I'd suggest that what you're seeing as annealing is more like ConstructiveInterference. --PeterMerel

Since I only copied the material, I don't really feel qualified to answer your question, but my response would be that the flurry of postings, of modifications to postings, of creation of positions and responses, the "warming up of a debate" would equate to the heat.

I'm afraid I can't answer the question about GlobalNearOptimum?. Nor do I seek to defend the suggestion that annealing is occurring here. I am simply here because DenhamGrey suggested this tool might be effective in supporting annealing and felt I would contribute by providing a starting point to defining annealing. -- PeterMurchland

Ah, then please tap DenhamGrey on the shoulder and ask him to come and anneal with us :-) As to the "warming up of a debate", we certainly do see this happen on individual pages, but I think the causal relationship is reversed; when content is controversial or polarized (though still possibly accessible and high quality - different correspondents have different metrics ...) then that causes debate here to become animated. As consensus is achieved, the debate cools. When a new correspondent arrives with a very different outlook/quality metric then debate rekindles. So pages seem to co-evolve rather than anneal.

Worth noting that SimulatedAnnealing used to be a popular search technique a few years ago (and still is in fields like XrayCrystallography), before GA stole its thunder. Perhaps there is also a GA approach to KnowledgeManagement?--PeterMerel

Not exactly sure of the protocol here, but will jump in anyway. While I think that there are many arguments that would support the idea that this whole site is an example of an "annealing process," I would be guilty of a sin that I preach against: "The metaphor *is not* the message."

The "annealing" in "Information Annealing" is a metaphor (or a simile if you prefer). It was coined to describe a process for organizing information through using procedures in an environment with similar features as this one. I believe Denham and Peter are suggesting that this environmental type/interface could be effectively used to carry out the concepts of NeilLarson of MaxThink. -- WardBell

I think there is confusion over what is being annealed and the granularity. The important element in the annealing process here is not the text but the semantics, the meaning. The idea is, that as we interact with a body of text we gradually come to a state of similar meaning. The target is the individual page or concept rather than the entire site and the concern that the length of text grows is not central to the process.

There are many advantages that I see here, attribution is not mandated by the system, this releases us from strong (visual) attachments to our individual identities and texts, assisting the melding process. There is the freedom to alter a piece of existing text without the major contortions of creating an anonymous ID necessary on most other web conferencing systems. We can delete, insert, correct, append and annihilate, all in the interests of making common meaning (or trying to dominate, subjugate, encourage, support).

The editorial freedom leaves more room for the development of social protocols, which I have a hunch, are more important for creating common understanding and meaning.

What is interesting is the urge to produce order, to replicate the very controls this environment does away with. My bent is to go with the flow here, "when in Rome....."

-- AnonymousDonor

Here is a short article on knowledge annealing with a reference to this page. Who said recursion does not work? (Goedel) -- DenhamGrey

My first attempt at editing a page using KnowledgeAnnealing. -- AnonymousDonor

How much does this kind of approach depend on total cooperation among all of the various contributors to the web? In the absence of software-defined ground rules there can be people who come in and scribble on other contributions and mess up the results. -- EdwardVielmetti

CategoryKnowledge, CategoryManufacturing

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