Childhood taunts and knowledge networks


I know something you don’t know!  I know something you don’t know!

I have a little sister, and I don’t think anything I experienced growing up was as infuriating as her chanting these six words at me.  The mere thought that she had information that I didn’t, whether it was useful or not,was a powerful irritant.

As data resources have expanded, solutions to manage information and access to that  information have generated huge economic growth.  In many cases, this market opportunity consisted of nothing more than brokering exchanges between information islands.  The existence of information gaps created opportunity.

Information has become the raw material of the network economy.  There will clearly always be a need to mine it, store it, and transport it.  But, like oil, ore and grain it has become a commodity and the economic optimisation models we’re employing will eventually suffer from the laws of diminishing returns.

Google is well on its way to implementing its vision to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” What if they are ultimately successful?  As access to information is increasingly democratised, where will these information markets move?

I think it’s important, as we contemplate this, to recognise the fundamental difference between information and knowledge.  Information is simple data, knowledge is the situational application of reasoning and intelligence.  Information is static, once created.  Knowledge is fluid, having to be created anew in each contextual interaction.

Knowledge, unlike information, is harder to commoditise.  Knowledge is more than just the manufacturing of information; every application is unique and therefore intrinsically valuable.

We use our individual creativity to synthesise knowledge and collectively each of us is a tributary to the powerful flow of the river of innovation.

So, as the raw value of information is commoditised we will eventually derive value from innovative ways to find, access and manage knowledge.  Once those knowledge markets develop, “I know something you don’t know” will hold a much deeper,  more promising, more valuable, and less infuriating meaning.

What do you know about that?

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