From Data to Information to Knowledge to Intelligence

The debate between data and information has been going on for quite some time. When people say "knowledge is power", are they referring to data or information? Is knowledge different still? And how about "intelligence" where does that fit?

How can we go from data to information to knowledge to intelligence?

The answer is simple. By understanding the animated nature of data evolution and transformation, and acting upon this understanding.

And this is brought to light by logs from your Information Systems.

Understand this and unleash the Power of Logs.

Figure 1 - Data to Information to Knowledge to Intelligence, and the role of logs as metadata

Data seems mainly one-dimensional.

Consult any data base or data warehouse, perform even complex queries on these and you will get a "flat" answer.

The fact that you get a single answer will make you think that data is absolute, where in fact it's not.

In fact, data is relative. And it has a very high frequency of change!

For example data is relative in time, and today's flat answer may not be yesterday's flat answer and probably not tomorrow's flat answer.

Figure 2 describes the different iterations of flat data, and how these snapshots and iterations tie together to form the movie of the ever-evolving nature of data.

Figure 2 - Flat, one-dimensional data and multi-dimensional time-based data evolution

And understanding the ever-changing and evolving nature of data is key to transforming data into information. Indeed one has to understand the cycles of change of data in order to pretend to gain information.

Our brain is a superior machine for this transformation as we are able to subconsciously and automatically model, infer, expand, project and otherwise manipulate data as well as recognize patterns, differences, similarities and other properties of these data, allowing us a higher level of understanding and abstraction.

This is how our brain transforms huge amounts of data into information, by processing it, by transforming it.

The data about how to transform data, data about data, is called metadata.

Data is the raw material, the metadata is the way to manipulate the data, and information is the result of this manipulation, much like the fruit is the raw material and the juice is the result of its manipulation.

Figure 3 - Metadata as key component to understand data evolution

We are dealing here with very complex concepts and mechanisms in information technology. This is a fairly new science; one of the oldest theoretical studies of data was Shannon's entropy theorem. Shannon studied how much information was and could be contained in data.

Again, data about data, metadata.

Metadata is key to transforming data into information.

Figure 4 - Detail on metadata as key component from one iteration to another of flat data

Although our brains are expert systems in managing metadata and we are using heuristics so effective that we touch the very own nature of the magic of human kind, when transposed to Information Technology we have very clear and very practical limitations.

For example, it is simply not practical to keep, along with the data, all the previous versions of that data along with the reasons why this data had to change and generally all the context surrounding that change, and this for every iteration and version of the data. This is impractical because it would imply:

  1. An immense storage space
  2. An Artificial Intelligence system that is expert at sorting through the universe of metadata and extracting the one used to reconstruct in real time the lifecycle of the data

Too bad, as this is really what could eliminate data flatness and put back into perspective the animated nature of data in all its glory.

Okay, so what is it that we could do then? What is the minimum metadata that is absolutely key to understanding a little bit how this data came about?

Stay tuned for next installment!!

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