Knowing about humans

Central to what humans need to know is about how to be a human and how to relate to other humans. So this part of my knowledge map is about knowledge related to humans.

I see three levels of knowledge here. First there is knowledge about one’s self, how to operate a human body, a human mind, and the skills it takes to live as a human. Second there is knowledge about how to interact with other, individual humans. This includes all kinds of relationships and how they work. Third, there is a level of society, which is how humans organise themselves on a larger scale.

knowledge map 2

In this post I’ll sketch out my thinking about each of these areas a bit more.


So the first set of things that one must know to function as a human in the world, is about oneself. This includes basic skills like being able to walk and navigate, talk and use technology. It includes knowing about the needs of the human body and how to meet them, what to eat, how to prepare food, how to care for the body you have. Then there’s a lot to learn about your mind, emotions, motivation and how to keep that functioning well.

Next out it’s about finding resources. How do you get what you need? How do you ensure you have shelter, clothing, economic resources. Of course not all of this can be done alone, so the boundaries with my next categories are blurring, but there is a certain element of personal agency in gaining access to the resources needed to survive (and thrive).

And there’s the matter of what to do with your time. For this you need to understand yourself and what gives you pleasure or makes you happy. What activities are you naturally good at? What skills do you want to develop? What will you fill your 100-odd years of life with? You will have to make micro-choices each day about how to spend time, so you need to know what your options are and how best to make those decisions.

I think that this is the kind of knowledge that people are most engaged with every day, but it’s also a realm of knowledge that we neglect in education. (Perhaps this is a good thing!) Clearly the desire for this kind of knowledge fuels the self-help genre of books, and the advice in many magazines and online forums.


After knowledge about one’s self, the next most important category is about relating to others. This (kind of) overlaps with the first category because it’s almost impossible to be a functioning human without interacting with other people. Maybe these two categories will merge at some point.

There is a lot to learn when it comes to relating to other people. First there are all the communication skills. Then there is understanding the various bases of relationships, what makes other people tick, what works and what doesn’t work in friendships, intimate relationships and with those that are just acquaintances. There is also the entire realm of parenting; raising little humans.

There is lots to learn about working constructively with other people. This includes functioning as a family, making and maintaining friends, and working as part of a team to achieve larger goals that you can alone. For each of these there is a comprehensive knowledge base and skills that can be developed.

Again, these are knowledge realms that people care about and can’t get enough information about, judging by the reams that are written and consumed, as well as the more formal research that is carried out. I think there are rich pickings here in terms of fine learning tools to support this kind of learning.


Finally, the third level of knowledge about humans is how people function together at the level of society. That is, all the ways in which humans try to organise their interactions as a species. Here belong all the social institutions: legal systems, political systems, economic systems, religions and belief systems, education systems, nations, supra-national organisations, cities and settlements.

These are ways of organising relationships, not between individuals, but between groups or classes (in the set theory sense, rather than the political or economic sense) of humans. This involves knowledge about the fundamental mechanisms of alignment, co-ordination, resource-sharing, power and control. Somewhere in here is institutional theory and how human institutions form and dissolve over time.

This area of my map of knowledge probably corresponds quite closely with the traditional discipline of sociology, but by lumping all these diverse institutions together, we get to see the inter-relationships between them, the ways in which they support and necessitate each other. I also think this is about more than just academic observation and critique of such institutions. It’s also about how humans engage with these institutions and how we design and develop new, better institutions for the future.

So, that’s the big circle in my map of knowledge; the part that concerns humans and human relationships. I’ll expand on (and cross-link to) each of these areas in more depth in subsequent posts.

What do you think? Is this map making any kind of sense to you? What have I left out? Let me know in the comments below.

(The featured image in this post is by Free-Photos from Pixabay.)


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