Dee Hock’s 1996 Quote…

Those who have heard me speak know that I often quote Dee Hock, the Founder of Visa, and one of the great business innovators of our time.

I use his quote below to describe how technology is evolving us, how we’re evolving technology and how both are evolving culture.

  • Noise becomes data when it has a cognitive pattern.
  • Data becomes information when assembled into a coherent whole, which can be related to other information.
  • Information becomes knowledge when integrated with other information in a form useful for making decisions and determining actions.
  • Knowledge becomes understanding when related to other knowledge in a manner useful in anticipating, judging and acting.
  • Understanding becomes wisdom when informed by purpose, ethics, principles, memory and projection.

Further, I map this evolution to a timeline:


Noise to Data


Data to Information


Information to Knowledge


Knowledge to Understanding


Understanding to Wisdom

Today, we are Knowledge Workers evolving into Understanding Workers.  Understanding Workers use technology to anticipate, judge and act.  Think about it.  This is what we’re doing with FitBit, Quantified Self,, Facebook, and so many other technologies of this era.

As we move into an Era of Conscious Computing, we’ll also be moving deeper into Understanding and closer toward Wisdom.

Published by Linda Stone

I coined the phrases continuous partial attention, email apnea, and screen apnea. I write about attention and our relationship to technology.

4 thoughts on “Dee Hock’s 1996 Quote…

  1. Linda-
    Dee Hock is one of my favorites as well — Love the word “chaordic” and how he thinks about organizations and people. Had the opportunity to speak with him in 2003/2004. His book inspired me to write this post drawing parallel of the intent of his creation of VISA years ago and that of Jack Dorsey’s Square these days. Just thought I’d share it with you.

  2. “…Everything we know, our strongly held beliefs, and, in some cases, even what we consider to be “factual,” creates the lens through which we see and experience the world…”
    (Suspending Disbelief, February 6, 2011)

    The philosophical term for these “strongly held beliefs” that are implicit and therefore unexamined by both the individual and society, is ideology (self-evident truths or the “factual”).

    One of our ideologies most in need of explication is the belief in progress, or, alternatively stated, the belief in the inevitable perfectibility of humankind through science and technology (with a presumed telos of secular godhood – transhumanism is an example of this ideology taken to its logical extreme).

    The evolutionary timeline above is an example of a ‘common-sense’ expression of the ideology of progress: declaring that a) humanity will move, indeed is scheduled to move, toward wisdom, and that b) humanity has never before attained wisdom because c) true wisdom is only attainable through scientific reasoning and technology. All three statements are contestable.

    As physical and social beings within a biological and ecological matrix, we should question the idea of progress and its effects. How do we define progress explicitly and who determines this definition? How do we ensure that this definition will be beneficial to most and not to just a few? How has the ideology of progress contributed to the legitimation of the current trend of increasing social stratification?

    As seductive as any new iWidget may be, it cannot answer or even ask these questions; nor can any solutions mediated or enabled by digital tech
    be truly universal; these technologies require a tremendous amount of resources – and assured access to those resources – not a luxury enjoyed by most of the world’s peoples. We are adding another distorting lens through which to see the world, but no longer experience it, and congratulate ourselves that as a result of our cleverness, we now have a true picture of the world.

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