Beyond the Information Age discusses a new way of thinking about computers, knowledge and understanding. See the editorial for more information....

The Software of Life

Now that you know a bit about the nature of raw data we can move on to discuss how data becomes knowledge. Brains process data and remember knowledge. Therefore knowledge is simply processed data. Computers can process data too but in a much more limited way. Knowledge can be further processed into information that may be communicated or stored in a book. Knowledge moves from one brain to another via information communication. We all know we have knowledge but we may not know how to really think about it properly.

Knowledge is mysterious stuff that everyone seems to think they know but few can define. Knowledge is the software of life and all living things use it to survive. Since this book is ultimately about computer software it makes a good analogy to talk about knowledge in terms of computer software. Historically humans learn about themselves from the things they build. After we learned how to build mechanical pumps we realized that the heart was a pump. Once we built the first cameras we realized that the eye was like a camera. Now that we know how to build computers we can see that the brain is like a computer and likewise knowledge is the brains software.

The mysteries of knowledge are like the mysteries of computer software. If you pick up a computer disk and look at it you can not see the programs or data that are written on it. Even if you could see the type SM data under a microscope it would be meaningless. But when you place the disk in a computer, magic takes place and things begin to happen. The computer understands the data on the disk and runs the program. A book is to a human much like a computer disk is to a computer. When you read a book you acquire knowledge and can then do what the book tells you to do. The book presents knowledge in the form of information that you interpret with language and then remember as knowledge. It is rare that you actually remember any words of the book, you remember the knowledge in a mysterious internal mental format. This knowing format can easily be converted back into information if you want to tell someone about your knowledge using language.

If you were to look at a book objectively it is just a mass of SM data with dark masses of ink printed on the light mass of the paper. Your eyes see this SM data as SE data using reflected light energy. The SE data reveals the spatial shape of the letters that make up words. The words are ordered in the form of information in a specific language. To someone who can't read the language of the book, the information is meaningless. In fact the book contains no knowledge for the person who can't understand the language. To an understanding person the book can be read, understood, and knowledge remembered. A book can give you knowledge about how to bake a cake, plant a farm, or learn about someone else's life.

Last Update: 2006-Dec-23