Information vs. knowledge

January 6th, 2020

As a teacher and player, I have always understood the difference between information and knowledge.

To put it in another way, information is the proverbial finger, knowledge is the moon.

Good information will help point you to the moon but it is in itself, not the moon.

This is important to know in any search for mastery and wisdom.

Because sometimes, in our search for mastery, we could get carried away by an obsession with information to the detriment of knowledge.

The key difference between information and knowledge is that knowledge is experiential.

For instance, you may want to find out how a certain player achieves a certain technique.

So you analyze his movements, you derive certain principles about how he does what he does.

All this is information. You’re gleaning information from his playing. But that information in itself is useless because you’re physically still not able to do what he does.

All that information hasn’t translated into real technique at your fingertips.

But suppose you’re fired up with what you discovered, and you practice hard on those principles. You try to emulate what you’ve learned.

And if what you’ve gleaned is correct, one day, you’ll begin to start experiencing a change in your playing. There’s a new sense of confidence. Speed is rippling effortlessly from your fingertips.

That information has translated into knowledge.

You “know” how that information actually works at an experiential level.

To give another example, over the past summer, I decided to rent a car and drive around Germany.

To prepare for the trip, I gathered information on traffic rules in Germany; I went to many online forums and read up on driving on the autobahn.

So I had a lot of information when I arrived, but the minute I drove out from the airport in Frankfurt, it was a complete shock. Nothing had prepared me for the actual experience of actually being on a German road.

It was as if all the information that I had acquired were useless and they were.

But after a few days of actual driving, I began to understand how to navigate my way through the bewildering signs and lanes.

The only way I acquired this knowledge was through doing, through experiencing.

Information is important. I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to acquire them from different sources.

I’ve studied the great players, I’ve read many books, I’ve listened to many good players and learned from them, but at the end of the day, all that information is useless if I didn’t apply them.

So it’s important to move from information to knowledge, and the only way to do that is through experiencing, through practice.

The problem with information is that sometimes, people mistake them for knowledge.

And this often leads to territoriality. Because all they have is information, and they lack experiential knowledge, they tend to guard their particular information jealously and will defend it to the death (figuratively).

This is another difference between information and knowledge.

People with knowledge tend to be less defensive. They understand that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the information is.

Because information is just the means to the knowledge, the finger pointing at the moon.

If you already have the moon, why worry about the finger at all?

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