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Knowledge as Oobleck (Brief Resource Review)

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Knowledge and Knowledge Systems: Learning from the Wonders of the Mind

By Eliezer Geisler

Hershey: IGI Publishing

2008

348 pp. hardcover

In this day of an explosion of information and the building of knowledge management systems, Eliezer Geisler (a professor of business at the Illinois Institute of Technology) has decided to get to the heart of the matter by probing exactly what knowledge is.

In Knowledge and Knowledge Systems: Learning from the Wonders of the Mind, Geisler explores the history of philosophical thought on knowledge and then goes on to create his own model.

He identifies sensory inputs as the most atomistic part of knowledge and shows how these inputs cluster to form KANES (Knowledge bAsic uNit of Existence). These form nuggets and then super nuggets. Eventually, these knowledge pieces form memes. Language is the container for knowledge and its transmittal to others.

Geisler uses ideas and phenomena from biology to understand knowledge and how it grows through sedimentation. He explains the need for ever-more complex information to survive in a complex society.

This brief review over-simplifies the philosophical nature of Geisler’s work, which goes into various debates (physicalism vs. qualia, for example). He draws intriguing conclusions about God, about mental leaps (or the lack thereof), and knowability / unknowability of information. He sees infinite possibilities for the collection of information but concedes that people may agree that certain knowledge domain pursuits may have been exhausted in terms of human value.

All information has value, he posits. Some of it has long-term value as “life learning,” and other parts tend to have only transitory value and will need updating.

This author’s main argument is that knowledge management systems need to be aligned to the nature of the information being gathered in order for efficient use—for the capture, storage, evolution and use of knowledge (which he apparently equates with information).

He writes: “Let’s face it: we are swimming in an ever-expanding ocean of data or information, and we have very few and effective tools to make sense of it” (p. 242). He proposes a deeper alignment between “the modes we use to search, retrieve, analyze, and construe items of knowledge—and the modes in which knowledge is structured and progresses” (p. 243).

References Geisler, E. (2008). Knowledge and knowledge systems: Learning from the Wonders of the Mind. Hershey: IGI Publishing.

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