Thoughts on creating a database of fundamental building blocks

I believe that many of the most unique ideas come at the cross-section of disciplines, often from those who have some level of depth across several areas. In my case, I recently had an idea at the intersection of movement-related activities, organization, and business/technology that I found quite interesting. I haven’t thought through this in great detail, but wanted to share my initial thoughts.

The idea was sparked a few months ago, when I was at a lyra (aerial hoop) private lesson, and I was working on flow, the smooth transition from one move to another. My instructor decided to try an exercise with me – she asked me to list all of the moves that I knew (which weren’t many, since I had only recently started taking lessons), wrote them down on a piece of paper, ripped the paper into tiny pieces with each move written on one, and placed them inside a bag. She then drew them out, one by one, and that was the order in which I was to do my newly-created sequence. The exercise brought me back to an concept that I had been thinking of for some time: building block categorization.

I. Fundamental building blocks

I believe that there is significant opportunity for further categorization of a variety of topics into the fundamental building blocks of what they are. When I was thinking through aerial silks combinations (another activity that I practice), I thought of the fact that although there are many options and variations, nothing really exists to break down the overall possibility of all moves that exist. I thought that there could be an opportunity to create a database of every single move, thus breaking down the art into its core building blocks, going down to the to the foundation of all combinations and sequences.

However, I think that this could be possible for many other areas, not just aerial, even though that is the first idea that came to mind because it is more physical and less widely-practiced, so there does not exist a widely-published body of knowledge on its fundamentals. Nonetheless, I could envision this being useful for all movement-related activities (i.e., ballet, contemporary dance, gym exercises, yoga, acroyoga, acrobatics, barre, figure skating, sailing, skiing, snowboarding, and more). Everything can be broken down into its component pieces.

Beyond this, I could also see this being useful for other disciplines, which may already be broken down – like principles of economics, biology, chemistry, psychology, languages, games (e.g., chess moves, poker plays), and more – but could at least be incorporated into this database of building blocks. Of course, for some of these, it would not be as simple as saying “this is a russian climb,” “this a footlock,” “this is a hipkey,” as it would be in aerial silks, but rather, it would likely be broken down into categories – for biology, it would be broken down into cell organelles, cells, physiology, ecology, etc, and within that, there would be sub-categories (i.e., cell processes, cell structures, etc), and it would go through the basic foundations of everything (or, at least, the goal would be “everything” – it would still have to be built up slowly). It could also be used in art and design, such as for architecture, fashion design, interior design, and more (e.g., in architecture, types of door designs, types of window designs, types of roofs, etc).

Of course, we could argue that for some of these disciplines, things like this already exist – Wikipedia, encyclopedias, textbooks, websites, etc. This may be true, but is there something in existence that has it all aggregated, broken down into categories, sub-categories, and pure fundamental building blocks? I’m sure there is some variation of this, but not fully consolidated like this. There are “databases” (consolidations of information) for certain disciplines, but not interlinked for all disciplines. And for arts and movement-related activities, which is where I first began with this train of thought, there exist many lists and sequences and performances and videos, but I especially don’t think that for all of these, there truly exists a database of core, fundamental building blocks.

II. Where this could be useful

Now, why would this be useful? I could envision several reasons why. To simplify, let’s go back to the core idea I had, a database of the fundamentals of aerial silks, lyra, and other movement-related activities.

  • Creating a “menu” of building block options: I think that, as the simplest step, this could help creators, choreographers, and anybody else wanting to create a series of movements, go to the database and just be reminded of all of the “building blocks” that exist. They could search by type (e.g., for silks, they could search “climbs,” “drops,” “inversions,” etc), and they could see the full possibility of all of the fundamentals (of course, this idea is contingent upon the database being as comprehensive as possible). This would not only spark ideas, because there may be building blocks that they simply hadn’t known about before, but beyond this, this would enable them to use this list of building blocks to develop new creations in ways that have not been done before.
  • Recommendations based on past success: If we take this further, imagine if there was an AI-based system underneath all of this that could actually analyze all that was in this database, as well as combinations that had been historically created from the database, and even past combination that already existed in the world (i.e., analyzing existing videos, films, and performances, breaking them down into their fundamentals, and storing the data as a combination), and provide recommendations. That is, the system could actually provide recommendations based on what has worked well together, what has been done many times before, and what has not – so that if someone were trying to create something, the system could recommend that “after move A, xx% of combinations have followed it with move B, and yy% of combinations have followed it with move C.” This could provide valuable data and recommendations on what to create, and people could also use it to get ideas on what may work well together.
  • Predictions of future success: I could envision that we now also overlay an additional layer of data onto this, such as past views, likes, or earnings – some measure of popularity or success. I could envision this then being used to actually determine and predict what may be popular based on what has been successful in the past. For example, the system could determine that certain combinations of moves, maybe at particular points in the overall performance (e.g., end, middle, beginning), and of certain lengths, are highly correlated with high number of views, likes, or earnings (earnings in the case of actual performances/films that sold per ticket or per view). This could then provide valuable information for choreographers to create new works that may have a high chance of popularity.
  • Specific optimizations: Alternatively, as more data is added and overlaid into the system, the creator would have the option to become even more specific in terms of what he or she is optimizing for (e.g., most popular combinations for certain age groups or countries, based on past views/likes/earnings data), or maybe optimize for something else, such as focusing on a certain type of move (e.g., a sequence optimized around most number of jumps, or certain types of turns, in the case of ballet).

III. Additional considerations

Of course, I could see some potential downsides to this as well – maybe, paradoxically, it could lead to a lack of creativity because the system is now recommending simply what has worked well in the past, rather than encouraging people to think for themselves and come up with their own creations. Nonetheless, even at its very core, I could still envision this being useful, simply as a database of fundamental building blocks of a variety of disciplines. 

Overall, I believe that there is significant opportunity to further organizing the world around us. This is simply one example and train of thought, but I think that there are many things that can be further broken down into their fundamentals or core ideas, which could then be used as data to analyze and reach conclusions or make predictions. I’ll explore this further in some of my future posts.

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