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The now taken-for-granted notion that data lead to information, which leads to knowledge, which in turnleads to wisdom was first specified in detail by R. L. Ackoff in 1988. The Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom hierarchy is based on filtration, reduction, and transformation. Besides being causal and hierarchical,the scheme is pyramidal, in that data are plentiful while wisdom is almost nonexistent. Ackoff’s formulalinking these terms together this way permits us to ask what the opposite of knowledge is and whether analogous principles of hierarchy, process, and pyramiding apply to it. The inversion of the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom hierarchy produces a series of opposing terms (including misinformation,error, ignorance, and stupidity) but not exactly a chain or a pyramid. Examining the connections betweenthese phenomena contributes to our understanding of the contours and limits of knowledge.


Presented at the 2nd North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization held at Syracuse University, June 18-19, 2009.



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