Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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Information and Knowledge

June 9th, 2005 · No Comments

Atanu Dey writes:

f you come to think about it for a moment, what we really want is knowledge, not information. (Recall what the business school guru said: what people want is not a quarter-inch drill but rather a quarter-inch hole.) The good news is that there is a lot of information out there. The better news is that the cost of accessing that information has been dropping exponentially. But the bad news is that the cost of searching through the vast stock of information to satisfy your knowledge needs is increasing.

First a brief aside on the distinction between knowledge and information. People use the terms interchangeably but they must be distinguished if we wish to reason with some degree of clarity about our information-suffused modern society. A telephone book has information about names and numbers, but it does not know telephone numbers. A human brain knows a phone number, in contrast. Outside the human brain, it is information and organized within the structures of a human mind, it is knowledge. Dr Johnson appreciated the distinction very keenly. Information is what economists call a public good, while knowledge is a private good.

There is a big opportunity managing information overload. Create a filter which will let only the top quality information through and people will beat a path to your door. You may say that it is a Super Filter which filters out not just spam but low quality non-spam content as well. In the past, portals which gave you everything (when there was not very much of anything) were a big hit. Now (when there is much too much of everything) portals which give you access to absolutely selective exclusive stuff will make it big.

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