Tuesday 27 March 2018

A key point in the difference between knowledge and information

I have often used this story as a way to distinguish knowledge and information, but here are a few more points:

map courtesy of NASA
I like to illustrate the difference between Information and Knowledge, with a story or an example.

Let's take the example of a geological map of mineral data, which you might use to site a gold mine.
Each point or pixel on the map is a datum - a mineral sample point, with a location in space. 
The map itself is information; built up from the data points in such a way that it shows patterns which can be interpreted by a trained geologist. 
However, to interpret that map requires knowledge. I could not interpret it - I am not a mining geologist - and unless you are a mining geologist, you could not interpret it either. The knowledge - the know-how, acquired through training and through experience - allows a mining geologist to interpret the map and come to a decision - to site a gold-mine, to take more samples, or to declare the area worthless. 
In this example, the data, the information and the knowledge come together to form a decision, but the ignorant person, the person with no knowledge, could never make that correct decision.

The key point in the story is this;

The mining geologist applies their knowledge in order to interpret the information. It is the knowledge which makes the information actionable.

I know there are quite a few people who define knowledge as "actionable information", but that's not quite right. It is the knowledge that makes the information actionable.

Knowledge + Information = Action.

That's the key disctinction between Knowledge and Information, right there.

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