Thursday 27 August 2020

Data, information, knowledge and wisdom

Photo by Martin Schitto, July 2020

Would I rather be knowledgable or wise? Can you be one without being the other?

I see a kind of progression, according to synthesis level, from data to information to knowledge to wisdom.

In a preamble to one of their articles The School of Life picked up the distinction between knowledge and wisdom, suggesting that knowledge is the accumulation of facts, figures and theories, while wisdom is the further synthesis of this knowledge with experience.

Knowledge can be forgotten, while wisdom can't.

Knowledge is specific to subject and context, while wisdom is universal and timeless. 

Regarding the latter point, many moons ago, I did my A-levels following my Cambridge Entrance Exams (this was a bit topsy-turvy, but that's always been my way). I had to swot much more for the A-Levels than the Cambridge Entrance Exam as these were more about regurgitating my knowledge - the structure of DNA and how it all worked, for example. For the Cambridge Entrance Exam in Biology, you'd get asked something like "What is the importance of water to life."

I've written a post or two about A.I, and I fancy that a machine these days may have fared better in my Biology A-Level than I did. I don't discount the idea that a machine could be described as "knowledgeable" - why not, if we already describe machines as "intelligent"?

But I doubt that we'll ever have a machine that is wise in the way that a human being is.

I'd welcome a change from thinking about "data-driven insights" to "the wisdom of insight".

The rather pensive photo of me in my cellar pub had me philosophising, about the Road to Excess and all that stuff.

I know I'm doing something wrong as I don't seem to have cracked the "wealthy" bit of the healthy, wealthy and wise thing, although I'm not sure wisdom brings wealth these days.

Maybe it's a case of "Late to bed and late to rise makes a (wo)man happy, healthy-ish and wise"?

Saturday 15 August 2020

Method in Madness?

There was a time early in my agency career when creativity just happened - in a mysterious way - and questioning how the the creatives got to their ideas was likely to earn you at best a sarcastic riposte, and at worst eternal banishment from the creative floor.

Of course, we had a high-level idea of how creativity worked, but on the whole we were interested first and foremost in cracking ideas that fit the brief - and if they were really cracking, the brief could be made to fit ;)

These days it's all very different. There are no mad geniuses prowling the second floor and throwing typewriters out of windows. We're all team players, and openness and transparency is all the rage, including the tedious, usually post-rationalised blow-by-blow thought process of how you arrived where you arrived. I blame all this Design Thinking gubbins - the thought of scrums and sprints gives me the heebie-jeebies - it doesn't sound agile to me, rather completely exhausting.

Creative processes are described in flow charts and icons:

Occasionally with a few disembodied arms and hands - or brains - to add the "human-centric" touch:

Can I be the only one that feels as if these standardised processes lead to standardised ideas?

Even in a completely different world - literature and fiction - authors seem only too keen to display their working on social media, usually in the form of a forest-slaying over-abundance of Post-It notes:

I really don't want to read that novel, however it turns out.

My favourite representation of the creative process is this one:
I take a deep breath at this point and tell myself that it's a good thing that there are different ways to approach creativity and as long as I'm not forced into one of these flow-charts of Post-It proliferations, then let it be.

Adobe Create have come up with a rather nifty tool (not a process) to discover your own creative type.  No surprise that I was the Visionary (who looks like the lovechild of a cactus and a cucumber - well, that was a surprise).

And, for things to go pretty swimmingly, I have to get together, not with a cactus or a cucumber, but with a Thinker.

Who I am sure comes armed with a stack of flow-charts and a catering pack of Post-Its.

Friday 7 August 2020

Digital Quackery

 I am sure that one of the career paths we're going to see developing in the next few years is that of the Digital Nutritionist. This may seem as bizarre today as the idea of someone with no recognisable talent called an "Influencer" earning millions did a decade ago, but hear me out.

The whole idea of Digital Nutrition has been waiting in the wings ever since we started talking of "digital content" (the word still reminds me of stomach contents, so point proved) and "digital consumption" as well as "news feed" and all the other nutrition-related analogies. As I have said before, the whole digital space (aaarrrggghhh!) is one that we started by surfing or exploring, then became happy to stumble and bumble around and finally we've ended up in a passive state of being "served" or "fed." Of course, many of us have overdone it and had to resort to some form of "digital detox".

No surprise that the last few years have brought a plethora of reports and articles about the dire consequences of digital overload to our health and well-being, broken only by a short period at the beginning of lockdown where the internet and all things digital were hailed as a saviour in dark times.

The next logical step is to ask the question: does digital consumption have to be detrimental to our health and well-being per se? Or can we draw an analogy with analogue nutrition (if you like - I mean actual food that you shove in your mouth)?

This article introduces the work of AeBeZe Labs - see also the website from Jocelyn Brewer. It's all about Digital Nourishment, Digital Hygiene, Healthy Digital Diets, Digital Pharmaceuticals. 

OK, I studied a bit of pharmacology and I know that we release mood-altering neurotransmitters (Serotonin, Oxytocin, GABA, Endorphins, Acetylcholine et al) in response to stimuli, which could be watching a film, listening to music, reading an article. And usually one transmitter will alter the mood of most people in a certain direction: calm, happy, motivated, focussed or whatever.

But the flaw is that we all have different tastes and reactions. The awful caterwauling that was Justin Bieber plus Ed Sheeran (who on earth had the grotesque idea of throwing these two together into a studio?) that I heard on the radio this morning might well send some into oxytocin-drenched raptures, but it sent me into an extreme fight or flight reaction.

Bodies are rather more standardised when it comes to what is good or bad in terms of nutrition. Minds and souls certainly aren't.

And, finally, how do you account for good old-fashioned non-digital media in all this? I'm talking about books, be they penny dreadful potboilers, or highbrow works of literature.