Knowledge, or Information?

In 2011, I began talking with people about my plans to found Learning Life.  The original idea for Learning Life came to me several years prior, literally in a dream exciting enough to wake me.  But I did not start talking in earnest about Learning Life until 2011, when I decided to leave academia to chart this new course and career.

One day, I spoke with a friend and thoughtful academic who skeptically challenged Learning Life.  Her challenge went something like this:

Knowledge or information?“You’re not spreading knowledge, you’re spreading information.  There’s a big difference.  And the information you’re spreading is disconnected facts.  Knowledge, however, is a mix of facts and analysis (or theory), and the analysis organizes the facts into a coherent and penetrating whole.  You can’t really understand facts without analysis, and that takes more than disconnected facts printed on a surface, or published online.  That takes reading, thought and discussion developed over days, weeks, months or years.”

There is truth to this challenge.  Learning Life is spreading information, and better understanding the world we live in requires more than just facts, but intelligent analysis to incisively organize the facts.

But facts still matter.  Indeed, people need facts to think.  Imagine trying to understand virtually anything in the world – how the internet works, how plants grow, how governments or economies operate, etc. – without knowing facts about whatever you are trying to understand.  Research shows that the more one knows about a given topic, the better one remembers, comprehends and problem solves on that topic (see my earlier blog post “On the Importance of Knowledge” for more on this).

Learning Life spreads information as an invitation to knowledge, and as part of knowledge.  We do not claim that information is all one needs, but rather that information is necessary to knowledge, and hence should be spread.  The facts we spread on the surfaces of everyday life are intended to stimulate conversation and learning that might not otherwise occur in everyday contexts.  And, by connecting these facts to further learning online, we invite people to develop their knowledge.

Learning Life’s approach – spreading information on everyday surfaces and connecting those surfaces to further learning, fun and reward online – is not cure for all our ills, but it can and should be part of public education, that is, part of any democracy’s effort to inform and empower its people.

If life is learning, let learning live.

Paul Lachelier, Ph.D.
Founder, Learning Life