Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

Five Levels

October 27, 2010 4 comments

According to Russell Ackoff, there are five types of conceptual content. In order of increasing scarcity, they are Data, Information, Knowledge, Understanding, and Wisdom.

Data and information answer “what something is” questions. Knowledge answers “how something works” questions. Understanding answers “why something is the way it is” questions. Wisdom, the rarest form of conceptual content, is altogether a different beast. It answers all questions.

The acts of probing, sensing, and measuring produce raw data. The filtering, integration and association of data fragments creates information. The mistake-prone application of information and learning from errors leads to knowledge. The application of holistic, systems thinking to knowledge creates understanding.

Unlike the other four types of content, which integrate up and progress sequentially from each other, wisdom may not. Wisdom may appear instantaneously on its own by the grace of some higher power. It has to be that way. If it wasn’t, then only highly educated and experienced intellectuals would be capable of acquiring wisdom – and we know that isn’t true, don’t we? Wisdom is accessible to all human beings regardless of race, age, culture, wealth, or any other trait. The trouble is that society, especially western societies, wants us to think otherwise. No?

Knowledge, Understanding, And Wisdom

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Like growth and development, I’d say that most people tend to equate knowledge with understanding. Until relatively recently, I did too.

Via memorization, akin to “copying and pasting“, a person can be loaded with knowledge but devoid of understanding. Application of knowledge without understanding in an intellectually challenging endeavor like programming can, and does, lead to future messes for others to clean up.

Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live. – Damian Conway

Wisdom, a close cousin of understanding, can also be orthogonal to knowledge. However, the gap between wisdom and understanding can be much greater than the gap ‘tween understanding and knowledge. Wisdom can be acquired over time, but profound wisdom only arrives on the wings of grace, unscheduled. How do I know this? I don’t. I just like to make stuff up.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. – Peter Kay

The rocket science financial dudes who literally engineered the global financial disaster have lots of knowledge and understanding in their area of “expertise”, but zero wisdom. Ditto, the eminently credentialed economic Nobel Laureates who championed the downfall of the LTCM hedge fund twelve, yes twelve, freakin’ years ago. It seems that their elegant equation set was devoid of any simple control variables that accounted for the risk of the Russian financial crisis that caused the fund to implode.

As long as people continue to unquestioningly and passively accept the word of narrowly focused knowledge experts with zero wisdom, the saying “history tends to repeats itself” won’t fade away, ever.

All I can say is, beware of geeks … bearing formulas. – Warren Buffet

The Space Between Thoughts

Bing, bing bing. One thought after another arises out of somewhere (do you know where?) and manifests as an image or string of associated words in our head.  Where do thoughts come from, and why does someone think the specific thoughts that they do?  What determines the frequency of thought production? Is it good to be engulfed in a state of high frequency thought production? How is wisdom related to thinking?

As the figure below shows, I think that wisdom arises out of the space between thoughts. If you agree with me, then being ensconced in a high rate of thought production is in general, not a good thing. There’s no time for wisdom to shine through the continuous train of thought.


How does one lower the frequency of thought so that we can experience wisdom? I think that we can lower the frequency and create holes to appear in the thought train by not attaching any emotion to each thought. Since we’re human, we all attach meaning to each thought and we experience the feeling that accompanies the thought. If we don’t amplify that feeling into a personal emotion, we perform a 180 degree turn and look inward at our true nature . We then experience what we really are at our core – the pure awareness; the nothingness out of which all objects are created. The glorious process of creation itself.

Wisdom is not intellectual understanding, it’s experiencing/realizing. It’s “the peace that passeth all understanding”. By creating gaps in our thought train, we give ourselves opportunities for wisdom to arise.

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