Tim Berners Lee is on the money yet again.

There’s been some hype going around that the internet volumes are beginning to clog it’s arteries and that there are issues ahead.

TBL reacted to this by saying something to the effect that; the internet is not at risk form volume of information but volume of misinformation.

Let’s just think about that. There was a time, long before Google, when a tool called webcrawler claimed to index every document on the internet and as I recall, it went damned close. Today nothing can do any better than scrape the surface and what is more, there is little appetite for doing it.

It was incredible what you could find with a bit of patience back then. For me the quality lay in the surprise. I was exploring as opposed to searching. In those days surfing was something a few cool people did instead of watching Corrie. Nobody has time for surfing now though.

The novelty became the business tool, became the competitive advantage became the essential productivity tool in less than a decade. Not only do we not have time to explore for nuggets of knowledge and correspond with interesting knowledgeable people around the globe, we need filters to delete 80 % plus of our mail, we are trying to develop trusted networks to find people it is safe to talk to and our problem in finding the information we once only dreamed of, but now rely on for survival, is one of wading through the rubbish to get to it. I suppose this effort counts in that equation, but if you can’t beat them, well!
My point is this, if you don’t know something, or worse still you don’t know that you don’t know, then more information, data, or even knowledge is probably not going to help you and in fact, it is inevitable that before long you will find several contradictory experts.

So where did it go wrong?

Man’s access to and use of knowledge has always involved trusted sources, be they books, or advisers and when things were really important, second opinions were critical.
It was never important to be right, just to be trusted. All sources were expected to be wrong sometimes, but far better than no knowledge at all

My favourite description of knowledge is the one that says it is “to know”. That implies it is known by a person. In scientific terms it is often broken down into explicit, implicit, and tacit.

Let’s explore this concept for a moment;

Very little knowledge is explicit and it generally refers to hard data in my view, though some will argue otherwise.

The fact that john selected b as his favourite response out of abcd is explicit. It’s not much use though.
Let’s jsut assume that we all now what the context of absd was, 100 replies like this would make up a useful block of explicit knowledge.(data in my book)
What that information tells us (implicit knowledge) , may be that the males prefer B and the females D. However, an experienced researcher might spot the fact that it had nothing to do with gender but, was a result of colour blindness, or another aspect lost on the rest of us. (tacit knowledge)
At this point you have the full package and you are reasonably safe to make a decision of some sort.
My view and most business people would go along with me, that any less than the full pcakkage would be dangerous indeed.

If we follow that hypothesis and set these standards for knowledge and if we measure the internet in this way, there is an enormous need for reliable knowledge that combines at least the first two elements if not all three, in order to be truly useful as a source of knowledge.

So far we have succeeded in creating a few working proptypes of semantic modelling and inference engines that are capable of implying a level of information int the raw data out there, if and when we ever find a way to implement it.

Here are my questions:
 Where does the internet serve this need for knowledge?

Is it ever likely to get be achieved?

Is this need actually worth serving?

What would success look like?

Would more information or even more knowledge lead to better decisions with any degree of consistency?

Ed Taaffe

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