Nature of knowledge

子曰:「由!誨女知之乎!知之為知之,不知為不知,是知也。」
Confucius said: “Zilu, let me teach you what knowledge is. Recognize what you know as what you know and what you don’t know as what you don’t know. That is knowledge.”

With so much information available at our fingertips, it’s very tempting to believe that we “know” a lot more than we actually do simply because we have read (or more likely scanned) something somewhere on a computer or smart phone screen.

But as Confucius points out to Zilu, knowledge is a very different beast than mere information or data: it requires cultivating the judgment (and humility) to discern what we don’t know as well as what we do know.

For all the talk about the wonders of Big Data and smart technologies, we are still at a very primitive stage of learning how to manage the massive volumes of information we are generating – much less converting it into intelligence that we can act on and engage with. We still have a long way to go before we truly start to harness the promise of the knowledge economy.

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