Data and Wisdom

Internet Claims

I came across three interesting claims whilst searching the internet this week, I thought I’d share them with you…

Claim 1:

90% of the world’s data was created in the past 2 years ~ Science Daily

Claim 2:

An ounce of information is worth a pound of data
An ounce of knowledge is worth a pound of information
An ounce of understanding is worth a pound of information
An ounce of wisdom is worth a pound of understanding ~ Russel Ackoff

Claim 3:

You shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet ~ Winston Churchill

Interpreting the claims

The claim that I believe most is Winston Churchill’s — though it is often misattributed to Abraham Lincoln.  I guess there is a grain of truth in the others.

It is hard to prove that 90% of the worlds data has been generated in the past couple of years. Though on a purely personal level I am leaving a trail of numbers a mile wide behind me.  Somebody somewhere is collecting data about the books I read, the music I listen to, the trains I catch, the steps I take and lord knows what else.  Data that never existed before.  It sounds like a reasonable estimate.  So let me generalise.

There is an awful lot more data about

Likewise if I take Mr Ackoff’s claim to its logical conclusion I can state that wisdom is 65,536 more valuable than data.  I guess we could have a long debate about the validity of that as well.  However it is questionable how much wisdom you will gain from the fact that I have walked 11,419 steps so far today. So let me generalise again:

Data by itself doesn’t tell you much

Logical sleight of hand

Let’s make a couple of assumptions:

  1. Wisdom comes from data
  2. The relationship between available data and available wisdom is constant

Then it is possible to prove that the increase in available data has resulted in a proportional increase in available wisdom.

Or to put it another way:

An awful lot more data leads to an awful lot more wisdom

Which begs a question

Are you using the extra data?  Because somebody else is.

Wether or not they are using it wisely is another question entirely.

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Comments

  1. Hugh R Alley says:

    James:
    Your logical sleight of hand is … I don’t know how to describe it…

    I don’t buy either of your premises.
    I certainly don’t buy the conclusion.
    Even the one that is restated.

    I think you wrote that whole section tongue in cheek, but I’m not good enough at British humour yet to know for sure. I just hope so!

    Happy New Year

  2. Maybe a little tongue in cheek Hugh.

    I do think that all wisdom comes from data, be that experiences, observations, books… I’m not sure where else it could come from.

    Is the relationship between available data and available wisdom constant? They do say that the best works of fiction are written in Excel and PowerPoint, so probably not.

    I guess the real question is “do you have the ability to convert all that extra data into wisdom?”

    Sorry if I was a little oblique :)

    Happy New Year to you too.

  3. Data is just data until you do something with it… analyze it, understand it, share it, act on it. I suppose there’s wisdom in that.

    Annette :-)

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