Replying to LO29408 --
Don and AT,
I am almost in agreement with Don, he's put the issue very well. And At
exposed the problem of saying that knowledge is out there. I am thinking
whether we can grade 'knowing' in some fashion and whether that will help
us get over this problem of trying to define this hard boundary between
what is knowledge and what isn't?
Suppose we temporarily agree with the religious and the spiritual people
that 'complete knowledge' or the 'whole truth' is something that is only
for God, the Universal being, Prophets or seers etc. This is intended to
mean that know mortal knower or collections of knowers (over time even)
can know everything about anything, let alone about everything. Let us
assign a grade 10 to the state of perfect knowledge. Then an unconscious
thing, say a stone, might be said to have knowledge at grade 0. All
conscious beings would have knowledge which is somewhere in between and
the grade would depend on what the knowledge is of. But no ungodly
creature would ever have grade 10 knowledge because everything in the
universe is connected to everything else and so you can never reach grade
10 without knowing everything about everything.
Now, are non-conscious things which can have knowledge that is more than
zero and less than 10? For example, if we read a historical account of
some kind, say an autobiography of Winston Churchill. It will have
knowledge about some of the things that Churchill knew about. That will
be less than what Churchill knew about these things. Partly because he
may not have intended to tell everything, partly because he couldn't
necessarily do so and partly because his own knowledge about the events of
his time would have been less than 10 as he wasn't God.
Mow, if there are other documents about that period which all contain this
middling level of knowledge about broadly the same things. Could they add
(This can't be a straight arithmetic addition as 10 is an unreachable
limit) up to more than what Churchill knew about some of these things?
This would be because other writers knew some things that Churchill
didn't. And it is more than simply saying that this combined knowledge is
more than what Churchill wrote. It could be more than Churchill, when
alive, knew. Simply because, he wasn't everyone else and others had their
For example the knowledge about the atomic bomb in the Manhattan Project
was managed in such a way that no single person had 'the whole picture',
but together they did.
This way of looking at it seems to me to suggest that it perfectly
reasonable to talk about the knowledge in artefacts such as documents.
It is comparable with human knowledge on this basis and there is no need
to worry about whether knowledge is in heads, brains, minds etc. or in
documents, and artefacts.
So, I would like to know whether others agree with me in that artefacts
representing expressions of human knowledge intended to be such can have
What about artefacts that were not intended to be so. For example,
ancient peoples have left behind objects of their daily or ceremonial use
without intending that we discover and study them in the future. But,
archaeologists do create knowledge from their studies. I think, it will
be sufficient to say that such artefacts contain information about the
ancients, but not knowledge. That the knowledge is created by the
What about things which are not artefacts? Say, geological patterns.
This is evidence and with the aid of theories we can build good theories,
some of which stand the test of time. If one accepts that some of these
theories may actually be true, (we don't have to worry about specific
theories, only whether some theories could be true in principle. For
example, we might have two theories which are mutually exclusive and only
one of these can be true and one of these must be true), then do we need
to think of degrees of informativity in the same way as with Knowledge?
In other words, do we have to consider that some things are data or facts
that arise when someone makes a measurement or an inspection when these
come to light? And that other data collectively ( analogy with multiple
mortal knowers) have a higher degree of informativity because these lead
to information through their being a correlation or a pattern within these
facts or data. And of course patterns imply theories or hypotheses which
can end up being knowledge?
Does it help to be fuzzy and qualitative than hard and fast about these.
Are Knowledge and Information simply yes/no facts, or are they shades of
Dileep Damle MSc, MBA
Knowledge Technology Manager
Abbey National plc
>I believe there's an important point lurking here. It seems to me that
>Stacey was primarily thinking in terms of sensory inputs that people get
>from each other in a social context, while At's point above deals with a
>person's perception of his non-human environment. By "social context"
>here, I mean that one person speaks, writes, draws, gestures, etc. with
>an intent to have others perceive it. We could say that only artifacts
>of that kind qualify as information. This would imply that information
>exists specifically to affect people's knowledge (I carefully avoid
>saying "knowledge transfer" here).
"Damle, Dileep" <Dileep.Damle@abbeynational.co.uk>
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