Basic Concepts of Knowledge Management - Part 1

06 Mac 2008 | Label: , , | |

This paper provides an introductory conceptual framework for knowledge management. It treats the concepts of Knowledge Management System, Knowledge Base, Knowledge, Knowledge Process, and Knowledge Management in the abstract. It then develops corresponding definitions at the slightly lower level of abstraction of human organizations. Two approaches to knowledge management are identified and characterized. The paper then concludes with a discussion of some issues suggested by the framework.


The Knowledge Management System (KMS)
The KMS is the on-going, persistent interaction among agents within a system that produces, maintains, and enhances the system's knowledge base. This definition is meant to apply to any intelligent, adaptive system composed of interacting agents. An agent is a purposive, self-directed object. Knowledge base will be defined in the next section.

In saying that a system produces knowledge we are saying that the system (a) gathers information and (b) compares conceptual formulations describing and evaluating its experience, with its goals, objectives, expectations or past formulations of descriptions, or evaluations. Further, this comparison is conducted with reference to validation criteria. Through use of such criteria, intelligent systems distinguish competing descriptions and evaluations in terms of closeness to the truth, closeness to the legitimate, and closeness to the beautiful.

In saying that a system maintains knowledge we are saying that a system continues to evaluate its knowledge base against new information by subjecting the knowledge base to continuous testing against its validation criteria. We are also saying that to maintain its knowledge, a more complex system must ensure both the continued dissemination of its currently validated knowledge base, and continued socialization of intelligent agents in the use and content of its knowledge base.

Finally, in saying that a system enhances its knowledge base, we are saying that a system adds new propositions and new models to its knowledge base, and also simplifies and increases the explanatory and predictive power of its older propositions and models. That is, one of the functions of the KMS is to provide for the growth of knowledge.

Knowledge Base of a System and Knowledge
A system's knowledge base is: the set of remembered data; validated propositions and models (along with metadata related to their testing); refuted propositions and models (along with metadata related to their refutation); metamodels; and (perhaps, if the system produces such an artifact) software used for manipulating these, pertaining to the system and produced by it.
A knowledge management system, in this view, requires a knowledge base to begin operation. But it enhances its own knowledge base with the passage of time because it is a self-correcting system, and subjects its knowledge base to testing against experience.

This definition of knowledge base contrasts with a popular definition of knowledge as "justified, true belief." [2] The definition does agree with the necessity of justification as a necessary condition for knowledge; but it insists that justification be specific to the validation criteria used by a system to evaluate its descriptions and evaluations. The definition also agrees that knowledge is a particular kind of belief, provided that belief extends beyond cognition alone, to evaluation.

[3]The biggest discrepancy of the above definition with the popular one is in not requiring that justified beliefs be "true." Truth can be used as a regulating ideal by a system producing descriptive knowledge. "Right" can be used as a regulating ideal by a system producing evaluative or normative knowledge. But the system in question can never say for sure that a proposition or a model within its knowledge base is "true," or "right;" but only that it has survived refutation by experience better than its competitors, and therefore that the system "believes" it is true or right. So instead of knowledge as "true, justified belief," the position taken here is that knowledge equals justified belief that some conceptual formulation, fact, or evaluation, is true or right as the case may be.

Finally, the emphasis on a system's knowledge base, rather than its knowledge, recognizes that an identification of knowledge as individual conceptions, propositions, or models is inconsistent with the reality that acceptance of a piece of information into a system's body of knowledge is dependent on the background knowledge already within the knowledge base. This background knowledge is used to filter and interpret the information being evaluated. [4], [5], [6].
In a very real sense, a system's knowledge is the analytical network of propositions and models constituting the knowledge base. It is therefore, just for convenience, that one may refer to a particular proposition or model as something a system "knows," because it knows that "something," only if one assumes that numerous unspecified background propositions and models are also known by it.[7]

The Knowledge Management Process and Knowledge Management (KM)
The Knowledge Management Process (KMP) is an on-going persistent interaction among human-based agents who aim at integrating all of the various agents, components, and activities of the knowledge management system into a planned, directed process producing, maintaining and enhancing the knowledge base of the KMS. Knowledge Management is the human activity within the KMP aimed at creating and maintaining this integration, and its associated planned, directed process.

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