2011-10-27

A Hierarchy to Understanding

There are a great many quotations and musings which have been said throughout time about the subject of knowledge and understanding. A while back I came across a graphical presentation of something the artist called the "Hierarchy of Understanding" [Information is Beautiful].


Much like Maslow's hierarchy of needs [Wikipedia], David McCandless graphically presents the idea that wisdom comes from baser forms of information. Data begets Information which begets Knowledge which begets Wisdom. It's a fascinating thought exercise as well as a beautiful depiction of what I think is an important message: seek out the source!

If Wisdom is the culmination of experiential Knowledge, then finding the sources of that knowledge becomes an important exercise in understanding. All too often people will spread information without considering its source, truth, or purpose. In such a networked world, that is a very dangerous thing. If we wish to consume so much information, then I suggest that we become connoisseurs of it; carefully sampling each tidbit and weighing its value for further consumption.

Consider my suggestion of Metrication Day 2011 that it is always good to ask the question "Why?":
Science is about exploration; to gain an understanding about the things we do not know. No one source will ever answer all questions. Think for yourself and seek a deeper understanding. Perhaps it's that too many, as children, were given the answer "Because I said so" whenever they asked "Why?" Personally, I have and will always answer any child's question of "Why?" with my best answer, or, at the very least, "That's a great question, let's find that answer together".

You would not devour a meal before minimally evaluating its edibility, therefore I also encourage you to carefully consider what intellectually digest before you risk poisoning your reason and wisdom.
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