Data, not knowledge

I just saw this quote on Twitter:

“A child today has more knowledge in the palm of his hands than Einstein or Darwin.”

I agree that tablets, smartphones and other technological devices open worlds of wonder for children, but I have to disagree that it puts knowledge in their hands. I think that the person who said this is confusing knowledge with access to data. Technology provides children (and adults) the latter, not the former. I think that this picture is a good illustration of the difference between the two:

(image source)

I think that this is a case where an image really is worth a thousand words. Do you agree?

8 thoughts on “Data, not knowledge

  1. I agree.

    There could be a fifth picture too. Called Wisdom. Not needing to eat the cake knowing it is a distraction and instead reflecting upon the marginal utility in cake consumption and abstaining.

    I jest but I do sense this wisdom thing or intuition is still important – don’t always need the cake evidence to have a position on the cake.

    Foodie regards



    1. You don’t need to eat every cake to know if you like it, etc… because you know from previous experience (or your knowledge about whether certain ingredients go well together) that it is likely to taste good / be too dry / too filling, etc. Is that what you call wisdom? But then, again, I never thought chocolate and wasabi would go well together, and Lindt proved me wrong 😉


      1. When I was writing it I knew I was dice with death talking about marginal utility with an LSE alumnus

        Wasabi rocks – I’d buy it!

        It’s also important that people can absorb knowledge and transform it to something useful – thankfully when it comes to cake I do have this absorptive capacity 🙂


  2. Hmm.

    I agree with you that there is a possibility the person is confusing knowledge and data. And that it’s important to understand the difference.


    Then there is this blog, and the picture you used to illustrate your point.
    And on top of that other blogs, wikipedia,, the Khan Academy, Coursera, Quora, and so on.
    I think there’s a lot of knowledge we have access to through our devices, even if it’s simply by having a discussion on Twitter on a certain topic. Or in the comment thread of a blog post.

    So, in the right setting, and with some guidance (and wisdom), I think we now can put more knowledge in children’s hands than Einstein and Darwin and many others had combined.


      1. Or, that bakery that makes the best macarons, hidden away in a small sidestreet that people tell you about, and who also makes amazing chocolate. It’s a matter of being pointed in the right direction in some cases.


  3. I think it’s an incredibly liberating situation that we all have access to so many ingredients, so we can spend our time focussing on the added value of creative cooking. I think the fact that our children will inevitably take the ubiquity of data for granted is a good thing. Our brains will be freed up to be creative. That’s the legacy of this new information age.


    1. You are so right about it being liberating. The other day I was talking with a colleague about how much time and energy is spent trying to overcome logistical barriers and getting answers – time and energy that is not spent creatively, actually doing something useful.

      The only slight problem with having data on their hands is that it may be filtered. Finding what you need is a skill, too.

      But, overall, I agree that it is a major benefit.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, David.


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