Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom

New additions are made at appropriate places. These individual pieces are not put in a chronological order. They are arranged in a logical sequence, to the extent, as per my 'instinctive wisdom'.
These terms are talked about frequently and appear to have some overlap. It is told that Information is derived from Data and subsequently Knowledge from Information and finally Wisdom from Knowledge. This appears a neat pyramid or a straight line block diagram.
However, Intuition also plays some role at each stage, from selection of type of data and the size of the sample to criteria for screening and selection at various stages. Since intuition is not yet fully understood it appears to be 'i' factor. It may also be influenced by knowledge of past experience, bordering with wisdom. That creates additional feed back loops in the block diagram and changes shapes of the pyramid.
 To illustrate this point let us give a few pages of identical data sheets or some complicated pictures or recording of various sounds to ten volunteers and ask them to independently note down important information and draw conclusions.   Each one will have his own intuition and ability of grasping, recognition, differentiation, prioritization etc. and previous knowledge and experiences. I think we will find that their findings will not be identical.

I am keeping this aspect open for further discussion and will update the blog as I receive further comments.

The discussion we already had in a separate chain is posted to this blog.
The chain of mails started from just a link to a video showing a 12 year old self made girl dancing.
S Dayal wrote: "This 12-Year-Old Girl Is A Superstar, And She Learned Everything She Knows From Watching YouTube Videos! http://m.coviral.com/this-12-year-old-girl-is-a-superstar-and-she-learned-everything-she-knows-from-watching-youtube-videos/"

There were some comments on pros and cons of watching internet. We will see them later. The discussion then turned to the topic of this post

S Dayal :
From the Knowledge management point of view first comes Data.
From a set of data we derive information.
From a set of information we derive knowledge.
... by knowledge we derive Wisedom.
The example of data can be temperature of a place at a noon.
When we collect temperature over years, we group them and call them as Seasons.
Seasons average temperature data, tells us that over years, it is rising.  That is Knowledge.
Now with this knowledge we can predict the average temperature of next year.  If we are more knowledgeable, we can correctly tell the temperature for coming decade.
That is how, Information is derived from Data and subsequently Knowledge, finally wisdom.
Above logic falls in the domain of KM (i.e. Knowledge Management).  There can be a physical or even a metaphysical approach to above may be leading to ... प्रलय !


Anand Ghare :

I was not able to watch the video on my poor internet connection, but I understand from text that the little girl has acquired amazing proficiency in dancing just from U tube. That means she has acquired a great level of skill. Where does skill fit in the ascending scale of Data, Information, knowledge and Wisdom?
Dilip Vishwaroop clarified :

I reproduce the Dictionary meaning describing " Knowledge " below :
Knowledge :
: information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience or education
: awareness of something : the state of being aware of something
Above definition clearly places Skill as a Sub-Set of Knowledge.
Knowledge in fact has a strong bond with Experience. A person becomes Knowledgeable only after gaining Experience or in other words - Knowledge is gained / acquired only after Internalising Information or more simply after Information is put to Practical Application. Through experience one comes into face to face with the intricacies of putting information to practical use.
By repeatedly executing Tasks (without Failure / least failures) related to certain Data or Information, one acquires Skill. Greater Skill is an indication of one's ability to execute Tasks efficiently, elegantly, and in an Error-Free manner.

Wisdom is One's ability to decide which Knowledge / Information is to be utilised where (profitably, suiting the Target / Goal), under the current Circumstances.
Thus the " Decision Making " ability necessarily demands possession of Sufficient Knowledge (envisioning full Pros and Cons) about the Situation where a Decision is required to be taken.
Ashok Malhotra :
   The dictionary meaning of "intuition" or other similar words is as follows:
"1. knowledge or belief obtained neither by reason nor by perception
2. instinctive knowledge or belief
3. a hunch or unjustified belief
4. (Philosophy) philosophy immediate knowledge of a proposition or object such as Kant's account of our knowledge of sensible objects
5. the supposed faculty or process by which we obtain any of these.
   So it has a distinct disconnect from the rest of the four subject terms, howsoever I have experienced its more frequent usage in our Indian context specially the ladies who seem to have a stronger since of "Intuitions", with a fair amount of success rates, why and how, no one has any explanation. Perhaps therein also lies the key to its mysteries, if someone can take up a scientific study.
   There are, of course, many unexplained mysteries of Nature and I have a large book on them published by the Readers Digest.
K.Natarajan :
The blogs on the perceptible gap between KNOWLEDGE ( which , to a large extent, can be acquired and cultivated by working on the INFORMATION available) and WISDOM, which was spoken of as the assimilation of knowledge, implying the same possibility of cultivation,(all well explained by Vishwaroop ji) was very stimulating.,
Reminding me of the common usage as interchangeables of Protection System and Shutdown system!
This rejoinder may be a bit off the mark, and seek your indulgence!

Knowledge is cooking of data, consisting of information accumulated by senses- observing, feeling,  hearing etc -with tools made by intelligence, like facts , ideas ,study, research, investigation, experimenting, skills and surmises included, all in the preview of mind and intellect., the 'tools' being 'manmade'

Wisdom is the cooking of Knowledge,  the  POTENTIAL to apply knowledge to the greater scheme of life, sometimes bypassing that also! It’s also deeper;  involvng the why and how of meaning and reason,  what our ancient sages called ' the search for Brahman' , the 'tools' conceived by Intelligence  being of no avail!

With a difference that In the present day world, there can be lesser equivalents of Brahman in the financial, engineering , medical  etc domains!

I have often thought about the many 'knowledge' books and institutions and used to wonder why a lot more had not bridged the gap to achieve the Wisdom, figuratively to mean the highest level of achievement.
We have not seen many Buddha s , in the religious field, or many Bhabha s or Einstein s in the materialistic world, which is odd if we accept that wisdom, the hallmark of these great people is achievable by  man made effort.

The inevitable conclusion is that in the cycle of senses, mind, observation, information, intelligence  and processing leading to knowledge ,  all are in the reach of man to varying degrees, depending on dedication and effort, but, BUT the final stage of Wisdom is beyond this. That requires an extra spark!

All the Gurukuls of the past or present day institutions and books could produce scholars, superb doctors or engineers  but would not provide the extra  filip  to make a Buddha, a Warren Buffett or an Einstein!
They can build knowledge but cannot give wisdom.

We all know about the karma doctrine ( if a member of this group  does not know, he must have been in deep sleep for the past one year!), a portion in our control by effort and a portion which we have just got, called as Sanchita and  Prarabtha karma, vaguely explaining the inequalities in birth  between Dharavi and Altamount Road!

The wisdom falls in the later prarabtha  karma. If we can view life as a combination of deterministic and stochastic processes, the wisdom (and the crude equivalent of material wealth) is more of a stochastic nature than deterministic!
Not everybody can become a Sankaracharya or a Bill Gates by any amount of training and committed pursuit.

With years of study and research, we may interpret the Vedas, that is knowledge.
The ancient sage must have given that casually , effortlessly, that is wisdom.
Crudely, the dancing girl of the first blog acquired the skill by effort, by ' watching YouTube millions of times'. That is Effort, knowledge.
The girl who performed on YouTube, effortlessly, could be wisdom!
Even by skilful emulation we cannot become originals!

The best amongst we mortals, with hard effort and dedication, reach the summit height possible of Knowledge and we reward them for that. Exceptional persons in the Wisdom category are Nature's gift to us and we respect them for that.

GRSrinivasan has rightly stressed on Application, what he calls as Deployment of Knowledge, how an individual at a high level, either spiritually or materialistically,  applies what he has acquired by his own effort, Knowledge,  or  God given by previous karma, or whatever, Wisdom
The difference in Application is as much as we see in a Narayana Murthy,  a Azim Premji, a Tata on one side and Vijay Mallya!  on the other side
Or a Sankaracharya, a RamanaMaharishi on one side and the many god men we see today!  on the other.

I am not saying anything new! Just a different way of cooking knowledge, WITHOUT WISDOM!
Ashok Malhotra :
Knowledge vs wisdom:
I am reminded of an example. Einstein was once asked: A cyclist starts from A @ of 10km/hr for point B at a distance of 15km. Simultaneously a bird starts from B @ of 20km/hr, touches the cyclist wherever he is n comes back to B, back to the cyclist n so forth till both are at B. Question is: how much distance the bird covered.
   After a while, the scientist replied the question correctly as 30km. The person enquired, so you were wise enough to solve it by logic, n not by summing of a series equation. The scientist replied: yes that's how I solved it, by summing the series equation. The wise Sol. was : as the cyclist travelled for 1.5hrs, the bird covered 1.5x20=30km.
K.Natarajan :
What had been covered earlier was the gap between Information and Knowledge.
This could be mathematical.
What I ventured to cover, a bit hesitantly, is the gap between Knowledge and Wisdom.
This could be an area of surmise and hence the running back and forth!
Anand Ghare:
The excellent analysis showing the gap between knowledge and wisdom by Natarajanji has made a very valuable addition to the debate. "Nothing new" he might have said, but not so clearly known to most of us, perhaps relearning for some.  I understood the 'i' factor associated with it, as hinted in my earlier response, more clearly

I may add my bit. In my view 'wisdom' does not mean only restricted to that of the great seers or successful persons listed by Shri KN. Even a small ant is wise, through application of her acquired knowledge or through God given instinct, to choose which food particle to be picked up and carried to her anthill. So are all humans. Some are much more wiser than others in some respect. Hence I think the example given by Malhotraji, is an example of wisdom. Some may call it parallel thinking!

Mohan Rao :
On the subject of knowledge and learning and the Internet I see a pattern of evolution which merits some attention. In forest sciences, there is conceptual idea called climax forest. The idea behind it is that as forests get destroyed over time, usually due to fire (from the hoofed animals striking on stone surfaces and creating fire), they rejuvenate themselves and in each stage, they get better and better, self-perpetuating, lushier, more diverse, and after a number of stages we have what ecologists call climax forests. So do we in almost every human endeavour given the time, to build and rebuild, and examples are many. Human communication was recorded for future in Vedic times by memorizing and chanting of mantras until, scripts came into existence and people scribed their communication on to papyrus etc for storing the info for future. That is how the Vedas and epic literature got preserved for a number of generations. Lithographic printing (thanks to Gutenberg) came very much later and once they came in, printing of communication made giant strides and pretty much everything from tomes to flyers got printed and still are. Papyrus became a museum item.

With the ability to digitize information, the age of printing seems to be gasping to survive because of the capability to communicate online. I can see, as time passes by, creating and storing info and retrieving them as easily as you store them is becoming the norm given the ability to store incredible amounts of information in various media, including cloud storage systems. Learning has never been easier. Entire libraries and university curriculums and coursework are going online.

At every stage of repro, reality to cognition, cognition to articulation, articulation to reception, reception to evaluation and  reciprocation, communication loses quality and depth. Words in my view have become a poor currency for communication. In many cases, such as  Beethovan’s sixth symphony, its magnificent flash of consciousness, human love and the music of the soul simply cannot be reproduced by words. “I cannot find the words to say it” is a common every day complaint among the humans.

In his hypothesis of Homo Intelligens, Yonegi Masuda compares the new threesome, computers, media and the robots to the frontal lobe, the vocal chord and the fingers, which brought the Homo Sapiens to the stage of Homo Intelligens after several millennia of evolutionary development. Now the stage has come for another giant leap in terms of communication from the digital and Internet age aided by technological extensions still on the drawing boards, global communication layers of networks, cortical extensions (brain-machine interfaces, etc) which should provide a range of new media for knowledge and learning, a climax of instant decision making capability to the humans where ever they spread their wings (Homo touristus). The Internet may be the stepping stone for this metamorphosis. Not with words, but like osmosis, with an innate ability to immerse oneself in a sea of information and culling what you want, in the silence of your mind and soul.

Ashok Malhotra :
  A very well explained expose on data, information, knowledge n wisdom and the futuristic trends in this domain foreseen by Mohanraoji.
  To my mind, whilst there is no doubt on explosion of data n knowledge and its availability to everyone via the climax forests, cortical extensions or Homo Intelligens, the key issue of "Knowledge Management leading to Wisdom" is going to be the most precious phenomenon and will remain in some gifted few human mind's domain (not all  brains, mind it) till the time the deep secrets of our brain n its thinking process are revealed n replicated as a first step being tried by the Russian tycoon.
   To illustrate my point about the difference between knowledge, intelligence and wisdom, let me link below an article in today's ToI about the most important current issue of "Choices of American Presidency" which may impact the Americans n the world equally in future, and the choice is not simple but has to be made today through our wisdom, not knowledge alone. As Socrates said "Wisdom comes by sharing n discussing the knowledge". Thanks.
The Simpsons saw 'Prez Trump' 16 years ago http://toi.in/jDs_5Y @timesofindia

G.R.Srinivasan :
 I want to add a final step after attaining knowledge/wisdom to what is mentioned by Dayal. Deployment of knowledge acquired is the one that proves the pudding. Many may remember our addition to CRs  a column "achieved during the year compared to targets" in place of (or in addition to) bright and intelligent which was in GOI CRs. This is also the practice in private industries where some companies use an American system called balance score card. It is observed that deployment is not at all proportional to knowledge and many times a lesser knowledgeable person is more productive.

Mohan Rao :
I agree with your statement that how the brain functions is going to be the Achilles heel in finally coming to grips on finding wisdom in a neo-computer. I would like add a couple of points though:

Wisdom has been somewhat interpreted as a mystique, something that is given to you by the powers above, and is not only erudition but also esoteric, a God-given gift, etc etc (like the Oracle of Delphi). I have a feeling that this idea of wisdom is oversold by the story tellers. Perhaps it helps pandits, astrologers, psychics, crystal ball gazers and people of that genre in establishing their practice of making difficult decisions for the general public at storefronts. They all have self-professed ideas of their prescience, wisdom, or whatever they profess (tarot cards, astrology charts etc) but they fall short of wisdom, and some people tend to flock to them if they see that their decisions indeed worked well.

In reality, wisdom is nothing but good judgment, ability to make the soundest decisions often on one’s feet or in a heartbeat.  Decision-making at scientific/technical levels is an old art and most of us have confronted this in our professions. There are tons of people who make this their living, specializing in various mathematical techniques (Monte Carlo techniques, needs and criteria analysis, various what-if analysis, risk analysis etc) and cross disciplines to offer their services (I know a young friend of mine who worked with Stephen Hawking on String Theory and was later hired by a London bank to carry out financial risk assessments).

With respect to wisdom of computers, Artificial Intelligence(AI) is a fast advancing field and does the work of converting information into computer wisdom. There are now chatbots (talking robots) to talk to you and guide you at hospital ER triages, at shopping malls, libraries etc to guide you through. There are robots marketed to make your coffee in the morning, to work at hospitals at nano-scales to work their way through veins and arteries cleaning up plaques etc in heart patients and in various body parts doing chores asked to by the Meds. These are only examples. As in HMT Bangalore where machines build machines, there are robot factories where robots build robots. We are not far from computers that replicate the human brain and robots that can carry out whatever tasks are required to be done from interstellar spacecraft to nano-robots that can do the minutest of jobs. Russians are talking of major breakthroughs in building humanoids with electronic brains by 2045.

Internet has now become ubiquitous in terms of knowledge management (storing, searching, retrieving etc). In the next few decades we may see a world poised to deploy countless computer systems that convert knowledge to so-called wisdom (i.e. decision-makers) and tens of thousands of robotic humanoids that do the bidding of the computers in assisting humans along our journey on this planet. Newer issues (real or imaginary) will emerge whether with the power of the human brain, these systems will remain docile to the human or be self-centred, emotional, self-replicating and try to take over the world and be able to wage a war with the humans leading to an Armageddon (in lighter vein), as some of the sci-fi films of today seem to be ready for the ride on the silver screen.


Anand Ghare :
I was remembering some very simple meanings of the terms Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom.
Data (generally raw) is just a bunch of some numbers, letters, words etc.
Information is when the relevant Data is picked up and arranged or organized (Phone nos. in my personal Directory)
Knowledge is gained when that information is utilized for some purpose.
Wisdom is to know which information and knowledge to be used at which time and how, seeing pros and cons etc..

Thanks for giving me more insight on these terms.

Raghavan Varadhan :
Where does "Intuition" fit in?

S Dayal :
In (a simplified) Knowledge Management domain there are                                                                                             Intuition,    Skill,   ...
1.  Data                                        v             v
2.  Information derived from data               v             v
3.  Knowledge derived from info                 v             v
4.  Wisdom derived from knowledge               v             v

Intuition, Skill ... and many more similar attributes, fall under Cross-Functional areas.    Intuition is required in (1) data collection, (2) Deriving information and so on till  ... (4) Knowledge.  Same is true for Skill ... or any other attribute as well

For example, now GM and Tesla are doing research in anti-skid brakes, in their cars.  They are collecting 32 parameters (DATA), in real-time, of single component of the car BRAKES !
I was surprised by just by the number of parameters itself, leave alone the mechanical components of the brake.   (1) At what speed the brakes are applied by a driver (2) At what distance, the driver feels safe / unsafe to slam on the brakes ... well the rest of the information falls under the envelop of confidentiality.  In the commercially launched product, they do agree, that they will reduce the number of collection of the real-time data, for their real time anti skid braking system.

Gregor Mendel worked with seven characteristics of pea plants: plant height, pod shape and color, seed shape and color, and flower position and color. With seed color, he showed that when a yellow pea and a green pea were bred together their offspring plant was always yellow.  The INTUITION (genius) of Gregor Mendel was in select the number SEVEN, at the time, when there was no microscope, or electron microscope to identify the Genes.

It was only the discovery of electron microscope, it was found that Pea plants have only Seven Genes !

Every research begins with a hypothesis and then subsequently collection of (1) Data ... leading to a new (Wisdom) theory, invention or even a simple innovation.

Anand Ghare:

Which and how much Data should be collected seems to be depending on Intuition!
OMG!!!  We have i or j factor here also!


Other comments on Internet learning:
S Dayal :
This 12-Year-Old Girl Is A Superstar, And She Learned Everything She Knows From Watching YouTube Videos!

By Nenad on March 16, 2016

Adilyn Malcolm has proven that the internet is the ultimate learning tool for those with a passion. She is a 12 year old girl who has learned how to dance to dubstep with just her iPad and YouTube videos. Thanks to the ability to pause and rewind, she has said that that learning has never been easier.

Sometimes she has had to watch videos “millions of times” in her own words, but the video is which she showcases her skills speaks for itself. All the dedication is definitely worth it as her moves are flawless and soon enough she will be the one inspiring others.

We live in a day and age where knowledge is readily accessible for those who want to learn. Adilyn has an incredible talent for dance and her dedication and practice have taken that to the next level.

Other than YouTube, she has had no professional instruction. It’s amazing to see what the technology of today can help people achieve. Take this for an act of inspiration.

More at



Ajay Chakrabarti :


S Dayal :
Steve Jobs, has said that, "Getting information form the internet is like, drinking water from the fire hose.
Internet does give, plenty of information, but it also gives ZERO experience.
Internet is just a medium, like newspaper, radio or a TV.  The authenticity of the contents available on internet may need validation or cross check from an independent source.

Any amount of internet or Artificial Intelligence, can not beat the natural stupidity of the human beings.

Internet as a learning tool for all the students for all the subjects? ... is still an open ended question, indeed.


Ashok Malhotra :
There is a lot of gap between the "information" and "knowledge". It's the same as food n digestion of food products.


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