A universe of finitely presented groups is sketched and explained, leading to a discussion of the fundamental role that manifestations of non-positive curvature play in group theory. The geometry of the word problem and associated filling invariants are discussed. The subgroup structure of direct products of hyperbolic groups is analysed and a process for encoding diverse phenomena into finitely presented subdirect products is explained. Such an encoding is used to solve problems of Grothendieck concerning profinite completions and representations of groups. In each context, explicit groups are crafted to solve problems of a geometric nature.