My 2012 post on the Co-Production of Data and Knowledge offered a critique of the #DIKW pyramid. When challenged recently to propose an alternative schema, I drew something quickly on the wall, against a past-present-future timeline. Here is a cleaned-up version.
Data is always given from the past – even if only a fraction of a second into the past.
We use our (accumulated) knowledge (or memory) to convert data into information – telling us what is going on right now. Without prior knowledge, we would be unable to do this. As Dave Snowden puts it, knowledge is the means by which we create information out of data.
We then use this information to make various kinds of judgement into the future. In his book The Art of Judgment, Vickers identifies three types.We predict what will happen if we do nothing, we work out how to achieve what we want to happen, and we put these into an ethical frame.
Intelligence is about the smooth flow towards judgement, as well as effective feedback and learning back into the creation of new knowledge, or the revision/reinforcement of old knowledge.
And finally, wisdom is about maintaining a good balance between all of these elements – respecting data and knowledge without being trapped by them.
What the schema above doesn’t show are the feedback and learning loops. Dave Snowden invokes the OODA loop, but a more elaborate schema would include many nested loops – double-loop learning and so on – which would make the diagram a lot more complex.
And although the schema roughtly indicates the relationship between the various concepts, what it doesn’t show is the fuzzy boundary between the concepts. I’m really not interested in discussing the exact criteria by which the content of a document can be classified as data or information or knowledge or whatever.
Dave Snowden, Sense-making and Path-finding (March 2007)
Geoffrey Vickers, The Art of Judgment: A Study of Policy-Making (1965)