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

Types of Knowledge


Direct-knowledge is firsthand experience with data received through sensors like seeing, hearing, and feeling, smelling and tasting. Something feels hot, looks blue, tastes bitter, or smells bad are all data that can be remembered as Direct-knowledge.


Indirect-knowledge is knowledge aquired by processing information. The processes of thinking, and understanding produce indirect knowledge. Indirect-knowledge is second-hand and can not always be trusted because it depends on how the knowledge was understood in the first place.


Intuitive-knowledge is knowledge stored in subsystem memory that is not accessible to the higher brain functions. Intuitive-knowledge may be stored in DNA or a motor-control subsystem like the knowledge that controls walking. The autonomic nervous system uses intuitive knowledge to operate our basic bodily functions.


Procedural-knowledge is the how-to instructions that tell step by step how to do something. Procedural-knowledge is like a recipe or computer program, it is a list of instructions needed to perform a specific task. Procedures are a sequence of knowledge events spaced out in time.


Questions are knowledge in search of knowledge. A question is like a void of knowledge that needs to be filled. Questions can be stored in memory just like any other knowledge. Questions can initiate procedures to acquire the questioned knowledge.


Decisions are made of a combination of procedural knowledge and questions. The question can cause the procedure to change with respect to the answer to the question. Knowledge of decisions can be a historical record of why certain procedures were executed in a certain way.


Information is a type of knowledge used to communicate other knowledge, and may or may not contain the knowledge actually communicated. The information 'that's hot' implies the communication of some direct knowledge about some unspecified thing being hot. Information uses languages that come in the form of Physical, Functional, or Symbolic. A wave of a hand or a spoken word communicates information. A type of behavior also communicates information. Written and spoken languages are symbolic forms of information.


Fixed-knowledge is knowledge that comes from information in books or in DNA sequences that can not be changed. Laws and constitutions are written examples of the use of fixed knowledge to establish standards of behavior.


Dynamic-knowledge is knowledge that is moving and changes with time like the position of the sun. Dynamic-knowledge can be tracked with mathematical equations, clocks, or by other means. Dynamic-knowledge is always changing and therefore can not be stored directly in memory. Knowing that things are changing may be all the knowledge necessary about a given subject.


The concept of true and false knowledge can act as a preamble to other types of knowledge. An optical illusion can produce false direct knowledge. False indirect knowledge is evident when someone lies to you. False knowledge comes from misunderstanding, lying, miscommunication, or nonsense. True knowledge is usually the direct type but indirect knowledge can be proven true with logic or mathematics. A trick question could be considered false knowledge if there is no possible answer.


A contradiction is a type of knowledge used to change the state of some other knowledge from True to False or from False to True. Contradictions are used as a tool to decide whether certain knowledge is logically true or false.


A prediction or conjecture is knowledge of the future developed from processing current knowledge. Our brain can process dynamic knowledge to predict where we should be to catch a ball. We can also use our experience (knowledge) to predict the most likely outcome of current events.


Nonsense is knowledge that results from information purposely or inadvertently scrambled so that it confuses the brain. There are billions of reams of nonsense printed each day and it is very confusing. True knowledge can even appear as nonsense if the information is misunderstood. Indirect knowledge taken out of context also produces nonsense.


The End is the empty-set of knowledge where no knowledge exists. Like the number zero is a very important place marker or indicator. The End marks the end of a stream of knowledge. If you say, 'I don't know' that is a statement that you have reached the end of your knowledge on that subject. All knowledge-based systems require an end statement to organize their memory structures.

All these knowledge types are stored in memory and provide the knowledge base that makes life possible. If a tiny bacterium had no knowledge about where food was, it would surely die. At the human level we must process huge amounts of data from MEST into knowledge of our surroundings before we can even stand up and walk. MEST gives us direct knowledge that humans used for millions of years. It was only when we learned to talk and write that we discovered information. It was probably very shortly after the first words were spoken that the first lie was told and humans discovered the true/false nature of knowledge and information.

Last Update: 2006-Dec-23