I sometimes catch myself thinking of information useful and, when I do, I tell myself that it’s because it provides knowledge that enriches. But what I forget that information is no more than a collection of data or facts with no guarantee of validity. It isn’t information itself that is powerful.
Let me demonstrate: Here is some information: 0961392142
Did you immediately try to suss out some meaning from this number?
You could argue that the phone book is useful for the information it contains. But that being the case, the information would still have to have a context. If I need somebody’s phone number and the above number happens to be the number I am looking for, that number will definitely be useful because it has a context.
Knowledge comes from knowing the context of the information. Perhaps that is why Google renamed its “Search” division to “Knowledge” division. Or perhaps as Cringely suggests in Google decides knowledge is power, they’re feeling the heat from Microsoft’s Bing.
Gather together facts on a relevant subject, annotate them with the results of studies and you have knowledge because you have context. Now it would be interesting to explore whether Google search results are knowledge or information, but I’ll leave that to you.
So, what if I told you that the above number is the ISBN of a book? Ah, another context! But which context, if any, is the correct one?
And, while knowledge may be power, knowledge is not wise. No amount of erudition can turn knowledge into wisdom.
The recipe for wisdom a bucket of knowledge with a double-dollop of experience, sprinkled with insight.
Food for thought.
If you now know without any doubt the correct context of the above number then you are at least a little bit wiser.