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Knowledge vs information

In Sweden there’s a saying that states something like: ‘Knowledge is perishable with a best before date’. In English, we think one phrases it like ‘Knowledge has an expiration date’. You’ll also find expressions like: the half life of facts i.e. that the knowledge you have today only half of it is worth anything within one, two, three or five years from now, depending on line of work. Many states that this goes for many professions even professions like dentists, and physicians and not just jobs which we couldn’t foresee exist five years ago. Many companies also build – due to this – huge Knowledge Management systems.

What are the underlying assumptions for the ‘Knowledge has an expiration date’? To answer the question we need to describe and sort out the assumptions. And yes, there is a best before date of knowledge if we equate knowledge with all information that are poured upon us every day. If so, we agree that what you know today, more or less half of it isn’t worth much a year from now. But, what if you compare knowledge with the roots of a tree and the information as all the leaves – the foliage – of the tree?

The Swedish Professor Emeritus Sven-Eric Liedman says approximately: ‘The person that says that knowledge has an expiration date doesn’t look at knowledge as the roots of the tree rather as the leaves which the tree fells every autumn.’  We have the same view as Mr Liedman and would rather state that knowledge and integrated knowledge or isomorphic knowledge is lifelong, and that the half life of integrated root knowledge at least is a mankind. A silly example of this is how we cope with language and where we don’t half life knowledge even though we know we speak ‘wrong’: Is there really a sunset and a sunrise every day? Yes, we apprehend it like that, however we all know the sun isn’t going to bed… Like the arabian proverb states: ‘The eye doesn’t see anything if the mind is blind’.

So, in which areas do you handle knowledge as information? In which areas do you handle knowledge as knowledge? What’s the pros and cons of doing this? Does your company have a Knowledge Management system or an Information Management system?

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