There are many ways people say, "This is data, that is information, this is knowledge, that is wisdom." You can cut it many ways. Here's one way.

Information is disconnected knowledge. It could be some observations recorded in a scientist's lab book. It could be a page of a wiki. It needn't be a KnowledgeArtifact?, it could also be a piece of a dream you remembered in the morning, or a part of a mathematical puzzle you are solving.

As you glue information together with your thoughts, it grows into Knowledge. When you learn Chemistry, when you absorb into yourself the knowledge of Chemistry, you are absorbing into yourself the collection and connection of hoards and hoards of little experiments, and hoards and hoards of little debates, and hoards and hoards of little ideas. You think about them, and you glue them together in your head. We connect that information by thinking about it.

When Knowledge is something that you actually use in your life, we can call it Wisdom. When you apply what you know, regularly, and it becomes a transparent matter of course, it becomes Wisdom.

Roughly put,

So, there's a chain of integration from Information, to Knowledge, to Wisdom.

Information is integrated together to make Knowledge, and Knowledge is integrated with your life to make Wisdom.

Alternative Explanation

I'd like to paint a slightly different picture under the influence of a physico-chemical and philosophical background.

Data. Data is basically a mathematical description of reality. Like measurement protocols in an laboratory, access data in a logfile, image data from a digital image, coordinates of a train in time and space on its way from A to B. Data can be counted in bits and bytes. Data may contain noise. Data may be redundant. Data may be insignificant. There may be random data.

Information. I'd suggest to use information for data that has been stripped from insignificant, redundant and random elements. A random data file contains exactly zero information. It's usually enough to know that the train departed from A at the time TA and arrived at B at the time TB. If you measure a temperature of 41.381 degrees but your device is only accurate to a single decimal, only 41.4 is significant information. So Information is useful data (nonredundant data, data that means something).

Knowledge. Knowledge is when you put information to use, usually to answer questions. How do I go from P to Q using a train? If you can answer this question, you have knowledge. WikiPedia or Google may provide knowledge although there will always be some human intelligence necessary to handle it. Knowledge is information in a useful form of activation. In simple situations, there are simple answers and knowledge is a far as you can get. Take train T1 from P to R and T2 from R to Q, that's fine.

Wisdom. Wisdom is more than knowledge, it has the overall quality you need form good decisions in complex situations. When a piece of knowledge is not enough, you need to be able to combine all relevant knowledge, put it into a perspective. Then, if you arrive at the right decision with certainty … that is wisdom. Wisdom is not about single cause-effect relationships. Wisdom is long-term. Partial knowledge may be worse than no knowledge, point into the wrong direction. Wisdom is complete knowledge applied correctly.

Of course, language is - as always - a matter of personal choice. Things just get intermingled because wisdom uses knowledge, knowledge is expressed as information and any of these is communicated as a data transfer.

When you step from data → information → knowledge → wisdom, each step will need some thinking or intelligence, if only to automate the task of transformation. Action doesn't seem to be necessary in the picture. Action can be based on data (toss a coin), information, knowledge or wisdom. – HelmutLeitner

Dungeons & Dragons, Intelligence & Wisdom

In an old AD&D book, it tried to explain the difference between Intelligence & Wisdom.

The story went like this:

Suppose you're outside, and it's raining.
Intelligence lets you know that it's raining.
But Wisdom tells you to go indoors.

I was confused by this, because I thought: "Well, if you were Intelligent, wouldn't you know to go indoors?"

I was 12 at the time. I hadn't yet noticed instances where people knew things were true if brought to attention, but when it came to acting in their day-to-day life, thought very differently.

Think about Chemistry. Many of us have taken a year or more of college Chemistry. But how often do we actually use that knowledge? Very rarely. That knowledge might be useful in the kitchen, but we don't know about it. It's just in our head, waiting to put itself on a test some day. When we learned it, we didn't hook it into our kitchen routines. We just learned it for the test.

Google's Mission

From an interview:

Q: Where would you like to see Google in 10 years?
A: Our mission is to organize the world's information and make it useful and available to everyone. We're getting there. We're available all over the world in different countries and over mobile and wireless devices.

(emphasis added)

When google gives us information that we actually use, it's not just making us more knowledgable, it's making us wiser.



Been meaning to move this over here for a while.

I just reworked it, to make it feel a little less "preachy." I think it works.

I like these arrows: → → → – hadn't noticed them before.

Here is my proposal: knowlege is compressed information or knowlege is the information and a way to extrapolate it.

I agree with that; We take a bunch of information, and then identify the patterns that can regenerate that information as needed.

So, we find general patterns, that can be fit to particular situations.

Then we can discard the information, and just seek out those parts that conform to the generalizations, which we can then act upon.

Lion, I kinda like a definition of information that keeps it distinct from anything already in our heads, i.e., information is the stuff being passed between us that causes a change in our knowledge. If I tell you something and you already know it, it's not information. Now, the act of me telling it to you may change your head in some way: maybe you think more about the subject; perhaps it causes you to wonder about my motives for telling you; maybe my telling you reinforces its viability; maybe it calls into question some of your existing beliefs. But in the abstract, simple sense, information (to me) is that stuff getting passed between us. I think your working definitions for knowledge and wisdom are pretty good, functional ones. This discussion reminds me of a chapter by Howard Liu in the book XML Topic Maps, where Howard covers some issues important in the field of Knowledge Representation (i.e., the one that the Semantic Web thinks it's playing in). It also reminds me of one of the more important contributions of the philosopher C.S. Peirce, where he talks about Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness. I won't go into that, but Thirdness is the key, and it's all about something that I think is missing in the above discussion.

That one key thing, Thirdness, is human interpretation. We all interpret what we gather: it's not taken in directly. A book does not contain knowledge, it contains data. In the process of reading it, we receive information through our eyes, which we interpret to gain knowledge. Our eyes do an enormous amount of work to provide us with the ability to filter out extraneous data in our ability to read a line of text, to "seeing" individual characters, words, phrases. (Note: to my understanding, research has shown that generally people don't actually read each character, and perhaps not even individual words, but more like larger patterns of words, known idiomatic phrases, etc.) But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's begin with this:

  Knowledge = Data + Interpretation
  Knowledge - Interpretation = Data

As I mentioned previously, I like to think of information as representing change in one's knowledge:

  New Knowledge = Old Knowledge + Information

Now, when we talk about this word "interpretation," what does it mean? It's not simple and straightforward, some kind of mechanical filter or distinct function. Interpretation occurs at a bunch of different places in the process of going from data → information → knowledge, in fact, probably at each stage in very complex, interactive ways. And of course we simplify enormously when putting such distinct labels on what is likely a continuum of experience.

When we read, we interpret each character (taking into account my note above), mapping the set of alphabetic characters into known words, phrases, etc. at a syntactic level. That is one kind of fairly primitive interpretation, that mapping process.

This always occurs within a specific context, or "universe of discourse." That is, the meaning of something is influenced by the context in which it is received. There are no universal meanings (despite some people's thoughts to the contrary). When we combine words to form phrases, we again interpret at a higher level, looking at individual word meanings in the context to their neighbors, weighing the possible meanings of each definition we know to come up with an overall understanding of the sentences. This is again another level or layer of interpretation. Furthermore, those sentences may have many layers of known or intented meanings, such as irony, humor, sarcasm, references to past events, etc. Again, another kind or level of interpretation. As we interpret at this higher level we may go back and revise our interpretation of the meaning of specific words or phrases: "oh, he meant that by that phrase." As I said, it's not straightforward, and it's a miracle our brains can do this so quickly. Of course, we sometimes err. (Life goes on.)

Now, the interpretation process occurs both for the writer in putting her thoughts to the written page, as well as for the reader in reading the written page to become part of his own thoughts. That chain of process, from one person's head to another's, we consider "communication." The same basic process happens when we talk to each other, but it's even more complex because of tone, body language, etc. But it's important to remember that communication never occurs without interpretation at many places along the chain, and that interpretation is a uniquely human process. Machines don't do it, not unless we use a very different definition of the word.

Enough for now. Hopefully this provides some more fuel for the discussion, and not just a wrench into the works.

No, this is good- it fills out the map.

"Information – Knowledge – Wisdom" is just about stages of integration.

Interpretation adds another dimension to it.

I'm not sure I agree that there are no "universal meanings," but that term sounds sort of nebulous, and I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing.

What I mean to say, is: If two people are in the same culture and share the same language, then the meanings that they derive from messages are going to be much more in alignment, than if they were in different cultures and (especially) spoke different languages.

That is: I firmly believe that there can be "more" or "less" equivalence in understood meaning.

Furthermore, I don't believe the world is just a mesh of words, one word turning into another word turning into another word. I think that there's an objective reality, and that there's a net, cast by words, over the objective reality. Some times the net is just netting lots of nets, and I think that's the kind of thing that Boudrillard is talking about with his "simulacra" idea. Things like fantasy worlds derived from fantasy worlds derived from fantasy worlds, where it's just pure mindstuff.

That said, I think that mind stuff is an objective "out there," even though we experience it largely on a subjective basis. But I think that there are shared mind stuffs, like Mickey Mouse, which everybody knows. I think that just because it comes from the mind, doesn't mean that it's worthy of treating as an objective thing in itself, out there. Just because it's "out there" in our mind, doesn't mean it isn't out there.

Uh… Trying hard to communicate here.. {;)}=

It'd be a lot easier with pictures. I should just diagram what I mean.

I guess:

My vision is that we are like space-people in space-suits walking around in both the mental and physical worlds. I view them both as objective.

Sometimes, I feel as if people like Boudrillard, or Postmodernists, or whomever, are saying that there used to be a real world, but that we have mixed it all up into semiotic stew. That everything's been confused. "The Map has become the Reality, (and we suffer for it.)" There's this feeling of almost dread, I sense, like one of those Cthulu mind eater things, that consume people to an eternity in semiotic madness.

I don't see it that way.

I think that words mean things. And I think that just because we're observing mental stuff (Simulacra,) it doesn't mean that it's not real. It's like: You could be in the mental world, and you could see an idea float by. You could take the idea, and put it in a jar, and carry it around with you. And then you could release it out in the wild, or show it to somebody.

The mechanics of communication can be difficult and arduous, especially if you have a bunch of differences. I'm thinking: Culture, Language, Temperment, what have you.

But, ultimately, I believe it's entirely plausible, and that, with a few hours of talking, an idea can be communicated to the satisfactory understanding of both sides. Now, if it's a really really complicated idea, that you have to build a gigantic pyramid underneath, in order to communicate it, then I would think it would take some time. (I'd, personally, start cutting corners, or figure out if there was some aspect of the idea that I was really interested in communicating, and find a suitable analogy in the other person's experience.)

But at any rate, I think communication is possible, and I think that meaning exists, and that people can share interpretation.

I mean: At a certain level, it's like that quantum thing: You know, where you have a Debrogli wave, or whatever it's called, and everythings "shimmering" at the edges. Right? Meaning and interpretation can be like that. We don't really know where the edge of the chair is, underneath you.

But, at a practical level, there's a chair sitting underneath you, and we can figure out it's there, and understand it basically the same way.

That's how I feel about communication and interpretation. I hope it makes sense.

(I just keep thinking: "I really need to just make a visual explanation of these ideas." But then I keep thinking: "No, I should work on communications technology, first. Because, then, it'll be trivial to make those visual explanations, whereas, right now, it just takes forever.)

(Continued on DiscussionOnMeaning)

I really like Helmut's addition.

I'd like to:

  • Move the discussion on meaning and interpretation to another page, (DiscussionOnMeaning, perhaps?)
  • Make Helmut's entry #1,
  • If my entry has anything to add, integrate it into Helmut's.

The major differences seem to me:

  • An additional distinction between data and information, which I like.
  • Distancing the relationship between wisdom and action, which I am still thinking about.

I'm thinking in my head: "Now, why, Lion, do you believe wisdom is tied to action?"

I feel out in two directions:

  • "I meant to say, somehow, that wisdom is integrated with your life, rather than just school learning." This segues into the contentious UselessSchool. (Perhaps we should have a minority report on that page?)
  • "What is the purpose of learning, and what is the fate of things that we learn?"

I have this sort of idea that, if you learn something, it should fulfill some purpose. I don't believe in learning "just because." If we are learning because we enjoy learning, then that is learning to fulfill some kind of desire and joy in processing information, or some kind of play. But that is still a purpose.

But, that's different than saying that wisdom is what's integrated into our life. If you are learning some things for fun, is that Wisdom? I don't think so. I think that ends at knowledge, and we shouldn't call it wisdom.

And yet,… And yet,… And yet,…

I just can't bring myself to say that wisdom comes without some experiential component.

Like, if you learn how to design rockets from a bunch of books, I don't think we can just say "this person is wise in building rockets."

There's the WardsWiki:ThirdSystem? phenomenon, where your first one is okay, your second one is okay or worse, and your third one is good. (Not always true, but it's understanding the idea and the story that's important.) And it doesn't matter how much you study, you're just not going to get that 3rd system right the 1st time.

There's a Go saying, and a Confusian saying, about this: Equal parts study and practice. That's how you accumulate wisdom.

This is what I'd like to mention. Other than that, I really think Helmut's is best, and would like to see it promoted to the front page. (And, I don't think Helmut will disagree with what I've said just now, about the importance of interactive experience.)

It brings up a third interesting thing:

  • "Does simulated interaction count towards wisdom?"

Maybe we should consider it halfway between knowledge and wisdom. Though, Ender of EndersGame may disagree. He wipes out an entire species, thinking it's just a game. But then again, EndersGame, the book, itself, is just a simulation.

Define external redirect: ThirdSystem KnowledgeArtifact

EditNearLinks: EndersGame