Image originally published in the December 1982 issue of THE FUTURIST.
Knowledge and wisdom are ambiguous terms that are difficult to define. I find the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom (DIKW) model a pragmatic working definition.
- On the first level is data: I define data as unsorted numbers or letters. Data on its own carries no meaning. In order to become information, data must be arranged meaningfully.
- The second level is information: Information consists of isolated concepts that represent patterns (perceived regularities) found in data. For example a trend or average in statistical data, or words (concepts).
- The third level is knowledge: For information to take on meaning, it must be interpreted by putting it into context with other concepts. Knowledge is a network of inter-connected concepts. This definition of knowledge is different from the classical philosophical understanding as"justified true belief". I understand connectedness as the central criterion for knowledge (without judging its truthfulness). People can hold concepts of varying truthfulness in their mental network.
- A fourth (and epistemologically different) level is wisdom (also called meta-knowledge or strategic knowledge): Means knowing when to use knowledge.
Also see previous blog entry for further discussion.