Sketchplanations

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Data Information Knowledge Wisdom - Sketchplanations

Data Information Knowledge Wisdom

In his poem The Rock, T.S. Eliot wrote:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

In these short lines he touched on an intriguing differentiation between wisdom, knowledge and information. Add data at the beginning and people have proposed various models such as a hierarchy, chain, or pyramid to help understand their relationships.

It's perhaps like a skier who's experienced the data points of snow and conditions in the mountains most days of their life. They begin to observe predictable patterns and then gradually distill these into knowledge of the relationships between the weather and avalanche risk. And over a lifetime of building and applying such knowledge they may develop instincts and behaviours for predicting risk and living with the mountains that may even be called wisdom.

Perhaps there's something in it.

In an unlikely scenario, I once wrote a class paper, that somehow people still find to read, on The Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom Chain: The Metaphorical link (pdf). It touches on some of the subtle differences of how we think about each of these, such as how I might complain of information overload, but never of knowledge overload.

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