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Knuth's Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of KNOWLEDGE
Knuth's Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of KNOWLEDGE
Knuth's Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of KNOWLEDGE
Knuth's Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of KNOWLEDGE
Knuth's Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of KNOWLEDGE
Knuth's Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of KNOWLEDGE
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Knuth's Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of KNOWLEDGE

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The words data and information are used without sufficient delineation of HOW, WHERE and WHEN to use them. They are at times used interchangeably and the dictionary meanings which seek to distinguish …

The words data and information are used without sufficient delineation of HOW, WHERE and WHEN to use them. They are at times used interchangeably and the dictionary meanings which seek to distinguish data and information end up with cyclic references. The use of these terms in computer science and information technology also follow the same colloquial trend with some pseudo-scientific attributions (raw facts are data and processed data is information) that do not pass simple tests of validity or rigor.

At times the word knowledge is used to explain the meanings of data and information, compounding the confusion and not having its own meaning. Donald E Knuth’s definitions of data and information are sufficiently precise and rigorous to be called scientific. Unfortunately Knuth's definitions of "data & information" do NOT turn up in the search results of Google, Yahoo, Bing, WolframAlpha. It seems perhaps the SINGLE AUTHENTIC source is vanishing. One definition of "data" which comes very close is from Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.

They are discussed and used as foundation to define knowledge.

Knuth’s definition of “information” includes the word “meaning” which itself is a very complex and is wrongly defined in most places (according to me). I have a proposed definition for meaning also…too long). It is NOT essential to bring in the concept of "meaning" in the definition of "information". This is a new addition (09OCT13).

The available definitions of knowledge are examined and contrasted with Knuth’s definition of Data and Information. It is argued that “knowledge” refers to the “ability of a person or entity” “to provide data or information” “in response to a query”. This provides basis for knowledge representation, authoring and processing (separately described).

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  • 1. Putcha V. Narasimham 205, Krishna Apts, Avenue No. 6, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500034 Tel: 91 40 6666 9393. Mobile: 98660 71582 putchavn@yahoo.com, putchavn@gmail.comOur Ref: Knuth’s Definitions of Data & Information; Proposed Definition of KnowledgeDate: August 1, 2007,August 18, 2007 Rev 10March 2011 This is a proprietary article copyrighted © 2006, 2013 by Putcha V. Narasimham, all rights are reserved. This is presented for restricted discussion in AMS School of Informatics and permission is given for printing of this article in the compendium of AMSSOI. This article is rewritten based on critique by Dr Narisimha Bolloju. This version is contains only the definitions and proposal. Knuth’s Definitions of Data & Information; Proposed Definition of Knowledge Putcha V. Narasimham Synopsis The words data and information are used without sufficient delineation how, when or where to use them. They are at times used interchangeably and the dictionary meanings which seek to distinguish data and information end up with cyclic references. The use of these terms in computer science and information technology also follow the same colloquial trend with some pseudo-scientific attributions (raw facts are data and processed data is information) that do not pass simple tests. At times the word knowledge is used to explain the meanings of data and information, compounding the confusion and not having its own meaning. Donald E Knuth’s definitions of data and information are sufficiently precise and rigorous to be called scientific. These are discussed and established as a base to define knowledge. Knuth’s definition of “information” includes the word “meaning” which itself is a very complex wrongly defined (according to me. I have a proposed definition for meaning also…too long). The available definitions of knowledge are examined and contrasted with Knuth’s definition of Data and Information. It is argued that “knowledge” refers to the “ability of a person or entity” “to provide data or information” “in response to a query”. This provides basis for knowledge representation, authoring and processing (separately described).Knuths Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of Knowledge 03MAR13 Page No 1 of 6Copyright © by Putcha V. Narasimham, 2006, 2013
  • 2. Putcha V. Narasimham 205, Krishna Apts, Avenue No. 6, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500034 Tel: 91 40 6666 9393. Mobile: 98660 71582 putchavn@yahoo.com, putchavn@gmail.com 1 Introduction With the pervasive use of computers, information technology and Internet in industries, services and businesses including education consulting and entertainment domains, it has become necessary to know with some precision what “Data”, “Information” and “Knowledge” mean and what the distinctions are. Furthermore, the meanings and definitions must be valid both in human and machine contexts. Donald E Knuth’s definitions of data and information are sufficiently precise and rigorous to be called scientific. These are discussed and established as a base to define knowledge. The word knowledge” is widely used but there is no agreed or acceptable definition for it. The available definitions of knowledge are examined and contrasted with Knuth’s definition of Data and Information. The three terms are related but are distinct, having their own meanings. A new definition is proposed for knowledge. 2 Knuth’s Definitions of Data and Information Donald E. Knuth [1] has defined “Data” and “Information” with sufficient care and clarity and they are eminently applicable for most situations one encounters in computer science and information technology. They are reproduced here with reverence for use in this and related work. Data: (originally plural of the word “datum,” but now used as a singular or plural): representation in a precise, formalized language of some facts or concepts, often numeric or alphabetic values, in a manner which can be manipulated by a computational method Information: The meaning associated with data, the facts or concepts represented by data, often used also in a narrower sense as a synonym for “data” or in a wider sense to include any concepts which can be deduced from data Knuth [1] For interpretation and examples see the author’s presentation on Data and Information [3]. In “Information Theory”, Information is defined as “the minimum number of binary digits, bits, to encode a message” [Wikipedia]. That is valid within the domain of Information theory for measuring Information (according to that definition) but not in stating what information is. Thus it is not very helpful in computer science and information technology. The wider sense of “information” at times includes what is commonly called “Knowledge”, but that is not valid for serious study and application. That is the motivation for this paper.Knuths Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of Knowledge 03MAR13 Page No 2 of 6Copyright © by Putcha V. Narasimham, 2006, 2013
  • 3. Putcha V. Narasimham 205, Krishna Apts, Avenue No. 6, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500034 Tel: 91 40 6666 9393. Mobile: 98660 71582 putchavn@yahoo.com, putchavn@gmail.com 3 Published Definitions of Knowledge and their limitations We looked for a definition of “Knowledge” which satisfies two criteria: 1 Does it relate to both human and machine contexts? and 2 Does it help affirming or denying what is claimed to be Knowledge? Surprisingly, we have not been able to find definitions, which satisfy both the criteria. Only two of the following representative definitions (Table 1) have the potential to meet the two criteria. Table 1 Definitions of Knowledge and how they meet two criteria Source Definition Criteria Met 1 2 www.hyperdictionary .com [n] the psychological result of perception and learning and No No WordNet: reasoning www.hyperdictionary The act or state of knowing Yes No .com That which is or may be known; the object of an act of knowing; a Webster’s 1913 cognition; -- chiefly used in the plural. Dictionary www.questia.com Accumulated results of (our) cognitive activities Yes No AA www.questia.com Knowledge is some sort of relation between two things: the Yes Yes BB knower, that is the person who knows, or his mind or knowing faculty, and an object, that is the thing known, or what he knows. www.hyperdictionary The objects, concepts and relationships that are assumed to exist in Yes No .com some area of interest. Computing dictionary Wikipedia, the free In philosophy, Knowledge is usually defined as beliefs that are No No encyclopedia. justified, true and actionable. Any description, hypothesis, concept, theory, or principle which fits this definition would be considered knowledge. Philosophy generally discusses propositional knowledge rather than know-how. Peter Senge Knowledge is the capacity for effective action Yes Yes Thomas Davenport Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual No No information, expert insight and grounded intuition that provides an and Laurence Prusak environment and framework for evaluating and incorporating new Quoted by Amrit experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded Tiwana in The KM not only in documents of repositories but also in organizational Tool kit, Prentice routines, processes, practices, and norms. Hall AA Book Title: Epistemology: The Theory of Knowledge, an Introduction to General Metaphysics. Volume: 1. Contributors: P. Coffey - author. Publisher: Longmans, Green, and Co. Publication Year: 1917. Page Number: 25. BB Book Title: Plato. Contributors: R. M. Hare - author. Publisher: Oxford University. Year: 1982. Page Number: 30.Knuths Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of Knowledge 03MAR13 Page No 3 of 6Copyright © by Putcha V. Narasimham, 2006, 2013
  • 4. Putcha V. Narasimham 205, Krishna Apts, Avenue No. 6, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500034 Tel: 91 40 6666 9393. Mobile: 98660 71582 putchavn@yahoo.com, putchavn@gmail.com 4 Comparison of Definitions For the assessment presented in Table 1, the following sub-criteria 1.x & 2.x have been applied: 1.1 Avoid definitions that call for human faculties or abilities such as psychological, perception, understanding, intuition and insight. 1.2 Prefer definitions in which the features or properties or attributes are amenable to taking numerical, alphabetical or alphanumeric, or Boolean values 1.3 Prefer definitions in which procedures or computations are amenable to execution on computers (with appropriate software as necessary). 2.1 Does it identify all the entities or factors essential for testing and concluding if what is claimed to be knowledge is knowledge or not? 2.2 Does it include extraneous entities and factors to extend the concept or illustrate the application or use of the concept? Let us consider the definition “The act or state of knowing” (Row 2 Table 1) and apply the above criteria. This is applicable to both human and machine contexts but leaves a few vital questions unaddressed. 1 What or which has acted or Known? 2 what is known? And similar questions. The first two questions are partly answered in “Questia BB” and Peter Senge’s definitions but they need identification of entities and factors involved. Also, the definition must be elaborated to be complete and self-sufficient. The purpose of this article is to develop such a definition and design a framework HyperPlex that meets the essentials of such a definition. HyperPlex serves as an authoring system to create and store knowledge and deliver the Data and Information sought. The other aspects are NOT part of this article. 4.1 Sources of Knowledge that do not define knowledge Pluto established a subject of “Epistemology” a study of the nature of knowledge and its justification, also called Theory of Knowledge. Pluto’s student, Aristotle shifted the emphasis of philosophy from the nature of knowledge to the less controversial but more practical problem of representing knowledge. He established initial terminology …category, metaphor and hypothesis are direct borrowings from Aristotle’s Greek [John Sowa 2]. We have not been able to find good definitions of “knowledge” in our search of epistemology publications. “Knowledge Representation” by John F Sowa [4], a rich source of data and information on knowledge, describes many aspects of knowledge as viewed from philosophy, logic, mathematics, physics, linguistics and computer science but it does not index or define “knowledge”. Similar is the case with “Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid” by Douglas R. Hofstadter [not included in the references since it does not fall in IT]Knuths Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of Knowledge 03MAR13 Page No 4 of 6Copyright © by Putcha V. Narasimham, 2006, 2013
  • 5. Putcha V. Narasimham 205, Krishna Apts, Avenue No. 6, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500034 Tel: 91 40 6666 9393. Mobile: 98660 71582 putchavn@yahoo.com, putchavn@gmail.com 4.2 Peirce’s principle Applying Peirce’s principle [John Sowa, 4] of Firstness, Secondness and Thirdness to Knowledge, we observe that Knowledge is a “Triadic Predicate” that brings “thing known (Jneyam)” and the Knower (Jnata) into a relationship “Knowledge (Jnanam)”. The terms in italics are “Sanskrit” equivalents, which indicate that the triadic (triputi) principle was in use in Indian philosophy and logic for ages (exact chronology not accessible). Let us start with “thing known”. It is an object or a concept, which can be represented by data & information in the context of computers. “Knower” is an “entity” (person, computer, animal), which is capable of receiving and retaining the data and information relating to the object or concept. Now, “knowledge” has to be a collective term applied to “the relationship between a series of objects or concepts and the entity”. From these principles, the following definition is derived for empirical testing. TD Wilson [2] published a very thorough analysis of Knowledge Management and pointed out the “Nonsense” that passes off as Knowledge Management. He does not exactly give the definition of knowledge but the points he discussed are very relevant to Knowledge. 5 Proposed Definition of Knowledge For the purpose of this article, “Knowledge is the ability of an entity to respond to specified types of queries”. “Respond” includes “process and / or create and deliver data & information”. That leaves scope for people or entities to use their analytical / intuitive / creative abilities. “Specified types of queries” defines a domain of interest and the variety of queries that can be posed to the entity. Here, the ENTITY can be, a person, an agent, a computer with appropriate software, or a network of them. The definition may appear incomplete since the type of responses is not defined. We may like to specify that the responses must be relevant, verifiable, consistent with the validated accumulation of data and information, meaningful, acceptable etc. But all that would be additional qualification of Knowledge or refinement of Knowledge but they are all of the same kind namely “Knowledge”. Any inclusion of those terms would bring in extraneous / contentious issues. Some of those terms themselves, “relevant, verifiable, meaningful” are triadic predicates. The distinction of Knowledge with respect to data and information should be clear. Data & Information are instances of Knowledge but not Knowledge. Contents of Books, Files, Databases be it text, graphics, voice, video will eventually be data and information. Knowledge is the ability of an entity (a person or a machine or a program) to receive queries and respond to them. Discussion of Knowledge often includes “Intelligence, understanding, meaning” which are relevant but proper analysis of those terms and distinctions would be elaborate and go beyond the scope of this article.Knuths Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of Knowledge 03MAR13 Page No 5 of 6Copyright © by Putcha V. Narasimham, 2006, 2013
  • 6. Putcha V. Narasimham 205, Krishna Apts, Avenue No. 6, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad 500034 Tel: 91 40 6666 9393. Mobile: 98660 71582 putchavn@yahoo.com, putchavn@gmail.com 6 Conclusion This proposed definition of knowledge has been used extensively within the private circles of the author, co-research workers and students but not published. The reviews and feedback from those associated have not pointed any need for revision of this proposed definition. This definition is expected to be a firm foundation for many subsequent developments of modeling and processing of meaning, semantic network, semantic search and related applications. There is no revision of it since 2008. 7 Acknowledgement HyperPlex project is an unfunded personal project initiated in 1990 as HyperFrame: Knowledge Builder Server Framework. All its rights of HyperFrame and HyperPlex belong to Hyper Realm Consulting, a partnership consulting firm formed in 2000 and AAGAMA Computer Consultancy Services Private Limited since 2009 and Knowledge Enabler Systems formed in August 2011. 8 Key References (not well organized): 1. Donald E Knuth, Fundamental Algorithms (The art of computer Programming Volume 1) Second Edition, Narosa Publishing House, New Delhi Madras Bombay Calcutta, Copyright © 1973, 1968 by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc, Copyright © Addison-Wesley/Narosa, Indian Student Edition. 2. TD Wilson The nonsense of knowledge management by - 2002 - ... Examines critically the origins and basis of knowledge management, its components and its development as a field of consultancy practice. informationr.net/ir/8-1/paper144.html - 3. Putcha V. Narasimham, PPT “Definitions, interpretation and examples of DATA and INFORMATIONS” © 2001-2011, Knowledge Resources of Putcha V. Narasimham. 4. John F. Sowa, “Knowledge Representation Logical, Philosophical, and Computational Foundations” © 2000 Brooks / Cole, Thomson Learning TM, 5. www.jfsowa.com/pubs/semnet.htm a very good survey / tutorial article. ---III---Knuths Definitions of Data and Information; Proposed Definition of Knowledge 03MAR13 Page No 6 of 6Copyright © by Putcha V. Narasimham, 2006, 2013

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