For a 30 day period, every day at precisely 10 a.m. (or 10:00 or 1000 hrs.) Greenwich Mean Time, you record the temperature on the same thermometer at precisely the same location in both degrees Celsius and degrees Fahrenheit. You now have 30 data points.
On a piece of graph paper you label the bottom, horizontal axis from zero to 31. On the left side at the zero point you create a vertical Celsius scale and on the right side (at the 31 point) you create a Fahrenheit scale precisely synchronized to the Celsius scale. Then you plot the data.
Next you draw a line connecting the point from day one to day two. You continue sequentially across the graph and create an image of the variance of 10 a.m. temperature over a 30 day period. You have information. It is neither good nor bad. It is information. But it is not knowledge – at least as considered here.
In activities and making decisions we easily define the who, what, when, why, and where of what we want to do or achieve. OK, it may not be easy, but it is doable assuming we are motivated. But determining the HOW, as in HOW to get there, requires creativity – the application of knowledge.
When one studies history, one is immersed in data and information. In school one learns to parrot back the facts, even treating that path of events as more information only needed to pass the course. If one is lucky and has a challenging teacher that demands exploring and understanding the relationships between events, one also acquires knowledge.
This suggests that knowledge is about actions, the cause and effect relationships that can influence out successes and failures.
You visit a website and use your trackball, mouse or touchscreen to navigate. You know that if you point at something and click the right button, you will get a response (maybe). This is knowledge – it is action based.
Looking at the future and using an ultra-simple (OK, silly) example, let us say that humanity moves forward and eliminates all CO2 from the atmosphere. All photosynthesis would stop and food would disappear. We know this because we know that the process of photosynthesis in plants requires CO2. But note, the knowledge is about the process.
As we move forward at an accelerating pace, how do we increase our understanding of processes (knowledge) at an ever increasing pace? What do we really have to know, not just to further accelerate progress, but to avoid calamity and catastrophe? And how do we assess the validity and integrity of our knowledge?