Russell L. Ackoff

From Data to Wisdom

Information crisis
From Data to Wisdom
Russell L. Ackoff (USA)
Essay (Journal of Applied Systems Analysis 16: 3-9.)

From Data to Wisdom is a text by Russell L. Ackoff that appeared in Journal of Applied Systems Analysis in 1989 and was first delivered in 1988 as a presidential address to the International Society for General Systems Research. The article formulates what is today widely known as the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom hierarchy (DIKW). The text is seminal for its pyramid visualisation, also called the DIKW pyramid or knowledge hierarchy, with which structural and functional relationships between data, information, knowledge and wisdom are explained. As Ackoff states, “Data is raw. It simply exists and has no significance beyond its existence (in and of itself). It can exist in any form, usable or not. It does not have meaning of itself,” while “information is data that has been given meaning by way of relational connection. This ‘meaning’ can be useful, but does not have to be.  . . . Knowledge is the appropriate collection of information, such that its intent is to be useful. Knowledge is a deterministic process. When someone ‘memorizes’ information, then they have amassed knowledge.” This knowledge has useful meaning to them, but it does not provide for, in and of itself, an integration such as would infer further knowledge.” Subsequently, wisdom lies at the top of the pyramid.

The inherent belief is that data can be used to create information; information can be used to create knowledge, and knowledge can be used to create wisdom. The DIKW Knowledge-hierarchy system serves as a base to structure the central exhibition, commissions, catalogue and public programs at BIO 26| Common Knowledge.