Assignment: Economics of Information
It is richer and deeper than information and more valuable because someone thought deeply about that information and added his or her own unique experience and judgment. Knowledge also involves the synthesis of multiple sources of information over time.7 The amount of human contribution increases along the continuum from data to information to knowledge. Computers work well for managing data but are less efficient at managing information and knowledge.
Some people think there is a fourth level in the information hierarchy: wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge fused with intuition and judgment that facilitates the ability to make decisions. Wisdom is that level of the information hierarchy used by subject matter experts, gurus, and individuals with a high degree of experience who seem to “just know” what to do and how to apply the knowledge they gain. This is consistent with Aristotle’s view of wisdom as the ability to balance different and conflicting elements together in ways that are only learned through experience.Evans and Wurster suggest that traditionally the economics of information has been bundled with the economics of things. However, in this Information Age, firms are vulnerable if they do not separate the two. The Encyclopedia Britannica story serves as an example. Bundling the economics of things with the economics of information made it difficult for Encyclopedia Britannica to gauge two serious threats. The first threat was posed by Encarta, an entire encyclopedia on a CD‐ROM that was given away to promote the sale of computers and peripherals. The second was Wikipedia, which is freely available to all and updated on a nearly real‐time basis continuously by thousands of
7 Thomas H. Davenport, Information Ecology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 9–10. 8 Philip Evans and Thomas Wurster, Blown to Bits (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2000).
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13Economics of Information versus Economics of Things
volunteers; currently Wikipedia reports that it holds over 4.9 million articles, receives 10 edits per second globally, and boasts 750 new pages added each day.9 In contrast, Encyclopedia Britannica published volumes every several years and the price was between $1,500 and $2,200, covering printing and binding ($250) and sales commissions ($500 to $600).10
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