This presentation builds upon the growing consensus to rethink the DIKW pyramid and to replace it with a more accurate model that represents the true source of knowledge – people. It also proposes that a new research area be considered in the field of knowledge sciences, specifically one that addresses the relationship of knowledge and wisdom, drawing from work in religious studies. The paper highlights important factors that are missing from the knowledge sciences discussion – understanding, learning, and spirituality.
In his 2010 blog, David Weinberger, Director of Harvard’s Innovation Lab, accurately described the origins and popularization of the DIKW (Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom) pyramid. The pyramid was first described by T.S. Eliot in his poem, The Rock. In 1989, it gained popularity in a reference by Russell Ackoff (International Society for General Systems Research). Weinberger correctly describes the promotion of the DIKW concept as a desperate attempt to justify the high dollar investments that were made in information systems in the 1990s. While the DIKW pyramid served an economic goal in the 1990s, it came at a high opportunity cost – the side-tracking of further explorations of the relationships of knowledge, wisdom, spirituality and understanding. A brief review of the past 20 years of knowledge sciences research suggests there are few references to these topics. This research reconnects wisdom, knowledge, spirituality and understanding drawing from the wealth of work in religious studies and Biblical references in particular. This research is anchored in the recent recognition of the role of spirituality, morals, ethics in the 21st knowledge society. This is a view that is well received in Asia, where knowledge sciences are understood to include the spiritual side and knowledge resides in people and results from understanding. It also adds to the growing consensus that it is time to refocus our thinking away from the DIKW pyramid and towards a more complete view people, the source of knowledge, and of a more complete knowledge life cycle.
Foundational authors, Nonaka and Takeuchi, correctly recognized the role of spirituality in gaining understanding and attaining wisdom. With the pivot of knowledge management (the practice) to technology in the 1990’s, though, this recognition was lost. In religious studies we see attainment of knowledge and wisdom without any references to “information” or “data”. Clearly, over millennia, data and information have not been prerequisites for attaining knowledge. From the technology perspective, where structured and encoded data may through interpretation produce information, the attainment of “wisdom” too often takes the form of humor and jokes. The lack of treatment of wisdom in the knowledge sciences discipline is significant and obvious. We believe that by characterizing the treatment of wisdom in religious studies and connecting it to the treatment of knowledge in knowledge sciences, we will be opening a new line of inquiry in both disciplines. This new line of inquiry is critical to the healthy development of a knowledge society in the 21st century. At the same time, we hope to expand the discussion in the field of religion and information to include the broader concept of knowledge.