If we want to quickly find out what knowledge is, we usually enter this noun as a search target in a popular web browser. Algorithms instantly present a surprisingly rich palette of synonyms: knowledge, erudition, dexterity, proficiency, cognition, qualification, learning, News, ability, wisdom, mastery, skills, professionalism, reason, qualifications, science, knowledge, education, news resource, erudition, orientation, broad horizons…
It turns out that none of them explains the meaning of the term we are interested in.
Well, it is necessary to repeat the search … this time we dictate to the search engine the password: “what is knowledge?”. Now the screen displays a lot of definitions, many of which are very similar to each other. One of them is the proposal of a serious, polish scientific publishing house – “knowledge, in the most general sense the result of all possible acts of cognition; in a narrower sense — the totality of reliable information about reality with the ability to use them…”[i]
It would seem that, in principle, the topic is already exhausted, but it turns out that the more we learn about knowledge, the more the issue becomes more complicated and interesting. From this perspective, it can be seen that the proposed synonyms do not always accurately reflect the content that we would consider satisfactory. It is enough to analyze such words as: wisdom, information and data. After a moment of reflection and verification of their meaning, we conclude that using them interchangeably is a mistake. Each of them means something completely different. Not only that, they all have their own definition.
From data to wisdom
As a result of the process of establishing relationships between data, information is formed. Knowledge is acquired as a result of matching schemes, according to the systematized relationships of individual groups of information. Algorithms of internet search engines automatically organize and group data about passwords entered in them. As a result, the user receives a set of terms that, according to the browser, most correctly answer the question asked. Such an answer specifies the intentions of the questioner. However, this is not information, because the process of its formation is unique and individualized. It requires a comparison of data with the intellectual content of the recipient. This is the result of mental-rational analysis and synthesis of data presented by the browser.
We can say that on the basis of the same data, the recipients will “take” diametrically different information or their interpretation will be completely neutral for them. This does not mean that the data will be worthless. If appropriate, they can be the context for an analysis from which valuable information emerges. For example, the message that our counterparty has an online bank account may be meaningless. If it turns out that this is also our bank, we get information that this may be a favorable situation. The transfer of money between customers of the same bank takes place immediately and without charge.
Skepticism of the internet seeker
The more data “feeds” our mind, the easier we are able to understand their meaning, to transform them into information, and then into knowledge. When it merges with experience, it becomes wisdom. Wisdom is a property of the human mind that even the most sophisticated computer and the most sophisticated algorithm cannot achieve. Internet resources are an excellent collection of data. What information is created from them depends only on the user of the global network. Its intellectual capacity and needs will determine whether the results of internet searches turn into knowledge.
The internet is widely used as a source of data, although almost all its users believe that they find information in it. If this were the case, it would be enough to enter the desired password into the browser and get a satisfactory answer. However, it is different. In order to obtain a set of data that will be the basis for determining that we are sufficiently informed, we sometimes need to specify several times the intentions describing the term or topic of interest to us.
If we do not have the right data, information or knowledge, we may be under the uncritical illusion and naively assume that the first effect of internet searches is knowledge. Unfortunately, people suddenly and without hesitation and verification, consider all the content posted on the internet as reliable and true. Perhaps this is a habit from a time when the information market was dominated by paper editions of newspapers. The authors of the press articles were then professional journalists. They cared not only about their own reputation, but also about the credibility of titles and publications. Readers trusted in the reliability of the publication. The internet has democratized the global circulation of information, and the public dissemination of content has ceased to be the domain of intellectual elites. Internet opinion leaders create a picture of the world, providing their fans with a set of data that is supposed to satisfy them. Content has become a product that is subject to marketing laws, and knowledge is sometimes treated contextually.