The Value of K strictly depends on its relation with Goals; in particular, on three crucial roles K plays:
Technical datum; means for pursuing and achieving G (to know how, to know existent conditions, a crucial information like the combination of the safe, etc.).
Beliefs are the support of our preferences and action: if I loose my expectation that that result is ‘possible’ (my ‘hope’) I will drop out my goal; the same for my belief that G1 is better than G2 (beliefs on the Value of the Goal, or better beliefs that give Value to the Goal) (see section “Goal processing and the utility of beliefs”).
Beliefs are frustrating or gratifying; that is, they are the failure or realization of our Goal. Achieving a goal (in a cybernetic model) just means that the epistemic representation and the motivational one do match; achieving a goal just means to believe that the goal is achieved.Footnote 24
Deriving the K value
As just said, a piece of information (data or belief) is ‘relevant’ or better ‘useful’ only relative to some Goal: either it represents/is the ‘frustration’ or the ‘satisfaction’ of the Goal; or it is a necessary condition for a given action for achieving the Goal. Let’s focus on the second case.
The Knowledge Value (KV) is due to the value/importance of the goal G’ (G’V)
This is a bit too simple; the theory of Value presupposes the theory of ‘evaluation’. Given that we do not have only one goal but open sets of goals; and we may have a set of currently ‘active’ goals, and a set of possible or future goals, we have to consider the Utility of a given Inf or K in relation not just a single (and actually pursued or taken into account) goal, but in relation to a given Set of goals (Sg) considered by the subject in its evaluation. Thus, the value of K is due to the value/importance of the goal-set Sg it is useful for, and their value.
The evaluation (attribution of ‘Value’) to a given entity Obj in fact is usually multi-dimensional; there is not just one parameter, one standard
Footnote 25 or criteria (in other terms one current or possible use and goal) relative to whom we appraise the correspondence and utility of Obj. This implies also that there is a sum of partial values of Obj. It can be ‘good’ in relation to goal or Value G1 & G2 & G3, and thus be more precious of an Obj just useful/good for G2. However, it can also be very good for G1 but frustrating, harming G2. Thus the Value of Obj is the value of G1 minus the Value of the frustrated goal: it is partially good and partially bad.
Consider for example (section “The costs and risks of K” ii) when the subject decides to revise a lot of her previous knowledge, to made a ‘revolution’ of her view about Obj. The new Inf—although very costly from that point of view of abandoning previous certainties, of restructuring a K world, of revising a lot—is so convincing, authoritative, not rejectable that she decides to accept it. Clearly enough here there is a conflict, and then an ambivalent evaluation (value) of K’: on the one side, a negative value (the cost of revising, destroying other sources and trusts), on the other side, a positive value; which presupposes another goal (explicit or implicit (pseudo-goal)): not only to have integrated and supported beliefs, but also the goal of having the best ones, the most credible and supported ones, from the best sources. This goal (which gives the positive value/utility to K’) is clearly prevailing on the goal of preserving previous knowledge, of not working too much for revision.
The degree of “contribution”
Second, K Value is due to the degree of “contribution” of that piece of K to the choice, plan, action, or G achievement. A given K/D can contribute more or less: it can increase more or less the probability to achieve that goal.
In other words, Data are not equally precious; and this predicts:
The probability to memorize, to preserve, or to forget them;
The probability to search for them (the value of the epistemic goal of acquiring them).Footnote 26
Useful or necessary?
However, also the idea of the ‘contribution’ of the K item is too vague and incomplete; one should in particular be more precise on a fact we mentioned: that D/K—as any other ‘tool’—can be useful but not necessary; that is, it might have alternatives. The many the alternatives to that K’ the lower its KV.
In order to achieve G’, I need D1 OR D2 (not D1 & D2). Suppose that either D1 or D2 are sufficient for realizing G1: if I have/access D1 I can achieve G1; but also if I get/have D2 I realize G1. Neither D1 nor D2 is needful. Which is the value of D1 or D2? It is the Value of G1 simply divided? (Except they have a different probability to bring to G1).
This also makes the KV context dependent. In fact, K replaceability or necessity can be related to a given context C: a given K can be accessible or not in a given C but not in another; and make more or less precious its alternative. In context, C’ to achieve that G it is necessary to have/use K’; but not in C”.Footnote 27
This KV has interesting contextual dynamics. Consider this example:
In order to achieve G we need three data, we have to know: D2 & D2 & D3. The value/importance of the Goal is in some sense divided for the number of necessary data: no one of them is sufficient (just the set), all of them are necessary.
In order to achieve G we already have/acquired D1 and D2 and we just search/expect for D3, and if we obtaining D3 we realize our goal G. At that point, in that situation all the value of the goal is concentrated on D3: now, it is necessary and sufficient for G.
(So, there is a strange dynamics of the value: the value, importance of “acquiring” versus the value of not forgetting, of preserving, memorizing).Footnote 28
Necessity and adjustable goals
An important kind of ‘necessity’ of a given information (and in general of a given resource) is when we have goals that can be ‘partially’ realized.
There are goals that are “Yes/No” “All/Nothing”: either we achieve it or not (for example, to get a PhD qualification). However, there are other kinds of goals that can be achieved just in part: either because they are ‘gradable’, they refer to a quantityFootnote 29; or because they are composed of sub-outcomes, and one can achieve a sub-set of the global goal. The problem is if that part is satisfactory for realizing (enough) that goal. (For example, our goal was to have a nice trip and vacation: this part was excellent, this was very good, but this event/experience was bad).
Now, a given resource or tool can be necessary for the full and complete achievement of the goal, but not indispensable, essential: even without it the goal is OK. For example, I have to prepare a given special food: without the meet and the potatoes the food is not there at all; without fire, cooker, and oil I could not cook it; without salt it is not a good food; however, it would be better to also put some oregano inside, and I do not have it. However, it is not essential; the food is OK, and is almost perfect.
The same holds for Inf Items; some Inf Items might be useful for a full realization of my goal, but some of them are good if there but not indispensable.
Belief strength and contribution
The degree of contribution of a given Inf item (belief) for achieving my goal by deciding and by doing something (thus it ‘utility value’) is also due to its degree of credibility, certainty (section “K quality”). Stronger beliefs contribute to a given choice and decision to do, more than the doubtful ones. Suppose that for a given choice I need six beliefs, but all of them are not very sure; perhaps I will suspend my choice or renounce to my goal. Suppose now that only two beliefs are quite doubtful while the others are quite sure; it is possible that this is for me enough for taking that decision. Thus, the role/effect of the various beliefs in this decision was not equivalent; the decision is more ‘due’ to the stronger beliefs than to the weakest ones (that might have deter me from). So the more certain the belief the more impact it has on the choice or decision to act (section “Goal processing and the utility of beliefs”).
Subjective or objective value?
Moreover, there is also another crucial and basic aspect of ‘value’ on which one should be more precise: its ‘subjective’ or ‘objective’ character.
There is a ‘subjective utility’ of a given resource (in this case of a given K/D), that is the perceived/evaluated usefulness by the agent, which determines how much it is desired and searched for (the value of the doxastic goal to know it). But, there also is an ‘objective value’
Footnote 30 of K’ for G’ of Agent’. Not necessarily our evaluation are correct and rational or realistic; not necessarily we really understand what we would need and the utility of things/actions. For example, our ‘interest’ (what would be better for us and our goals, or—vice versa—contrary to our good) frequently does not coincide with our desires and objectives/decisions. We can do not understand what is ‘in our interest’, and do not realize that we do not understand it: we believe/feel that we know it.
The principles presented here should both apply to the subjective KV estimated by the subject and to the objective value in the perspective of an ideal observer. However, notice that the Set of goals that is used for evaluating G’ by the Subject can be and usually is different from the Set of goals taken into account by the external observer for his ‘objective’ evaluation of the Value of that K for the subject.
Of course, also for K ‘Utility’ (also the subjective one) is different from ‘Pleasure’. That a given D/K gives us some ‘pleasure’ can just be an aspect or kind of utility (since feel pleasure can be one of our goals). Also a disagreeable D/K can be very useful. For example, if I have to demolish a lot of my previous integrated K about Q, to revise and work a lot, this might be very unpleasant (and I could even resist to K in order do not do that) but can be very useful. Saying nothing of the case when subjectively to come to know K is very bad and undesirable (I would prefer do not know that), but in reality, objectively, this is very useful for me (other goals of mine).
There is a V of a K in a given situation, context, for a given and specified Goal (as for achieving G1 the value, utility of K’ is tot). However, it is also important to realize that:
Human beings have a generative and open set of Goals; we generate and activate new Goals;
A given resource or tool is not just for one and unique plan and goal; resources can be multipurpose and multiuse; and the same holds for Ks.
Given that, there is a just ‘potential’ Value of a given K item or domain: for possible future goals and uses; not for an active and specific goal to choose and pursue.
Now, the larger the perceived/expected amplitude, the imagined set of goal families K’ is useful for (its ‘polyvalence’), and the more important those goals families the higher K’ utility; although quite vague and just potential. Why money has become the dominant objective in human activity? Because it is a means for everything and thus becomes an end in itself (like K).
Not only there are vague sets of events but even conceptually defined classes. As we saw, doxastic representations, for example, propositional beliefs, can be specific and episodic (about a given event and object) or ‘generic’, that is, about a Class. The same applies to Goals; we my have an event goal or a class/generic goal: the goal that here and now Black be happy is different from the Goal to make it happy always when possible.
If a given resource or K is useful for a class-Goal it is useful for any possible instantiation of it; thus it is more precious than a K useful only for one shot.
We even acquire knowledge that we do not need now and that we believe that is completely useless for us, stupid, boring, etc. “Who care! Why I have to learn that!”
However, first, there is in fact some current goal determining the importance/value of having/using such a K (the approval of professor; the vote on the report card; etc.). Second, I can trust/believe that it will be probably useful for future goals of mine; I trust them (parents, professors) that it is useful for me, has value, to learn that. Third, this is exactly a case of ‘tutorial’ role in K management as a social ‘institution’. We construct the ‘institution’ of K that people has to have in this community, for our identity and tradition, or for playing possible future roles. You do not understand that and do not have these goals now, since you follow your current desires not your future ‘interest’. But K as a collective institution also obliges and prescribes some learning (school) independently on your current use/utility, and current interests. In sum, this is the ‘normative’ way we build the K capital of our society; what “count as” instruction and knowledge.Footnote 31
Our doxastic representations have a ‘quality’: a subjective ‘certainty’. We are more or less “sure”, “convinced” that P.
In our model the degree of certainty, the strength of a belief, depends on its origin, on the sources; on the basis of two main principles:
The more reliable, trustworthy (competent, honest) the source the more sure its information and my believing in it.Footnote 32
The many the convergent sources the more sure I feel (Castelfranchi 1997).
The degree of certainty should affect the KV: for example, I should ‘pay’ a given K from a very trustworthy source (or a K with a given degree of certainty) more than from a not so reliable source or a doubtful K. The degree of certainty (quality of K) has a important value since we actually bet and risk on that; we decide to spend our resources and actions on the ground of what we believe; so our trust in what we believe exposes ourselves to failure, harms, …
K is a resource that changes its value on the basis of its origin, of the brand, of ‘seller or producer’; or because the source is/gives a value in itself (like in dogmatic knowledge) or because the quality of its products has been proved superior (previous experience, reputation, marketing,..).
In sum, the Value of K is affected by its degree of certainty: the more sure, grounded, the more precious it is.
The value of uncertain and doubtful information is clearly inferior.
The epistemic integration value of K items
There is also another utility and value of Inf items (data, candidate ‘beliefs’), not directly relative to specific ‘motives’, neither as frustrating/satisfying, nor as tool for realizing the goal. There is an ‘importance’ or ‘value’ of a given data or beliefs just in relation to knowledge organization, integration, mutual consistency and support. In a sense this importance or value is due to the ‘pseudo-goal’ of having robust, integrated, knowledge. To have coherent and justified knowledge is a crucial ‘function’ of our cognitive system (for example Thagard 2000).
Any process of knowledge acquisition, generation or elaboration does not only generate some output knowledge item; it also generates a trace of its origin, and ‘relation’ that supports and integrates such a new item. It generates at the same time knowledge structure (network) or ‘relational knowledge’: Reasons to believe.
This is true not only for inferences, but in general. Knowledge items remain related to their source: “I saw that p”; “I think that p, because…” “The TV said that p”, etc. Thus, there is a special relation between the Belief that p, and the Belief “I saw that p” or “the TV said that p” or “Since Q then P”.
Consequences of this ‘trace’ and relation theory are the following ones:
Items are integrated in cognitive nets: you cannot eliminate or insert a new item of K, without dealing with its supports and relations. This is the well-studied problem of Belief revision and updating: changes are never merely local.
Part of the difference between various ‘mental attitudes’ (like: belief, knowledge, opinion, prediction, etc.) is to be recalled to the “story” and the support of the proposition: its ‘Reasons’.
We maintain in our mind both: Reasons to believe, and Reasons to Do
We talk about ‘support’ relations, because cognitive items hold thanks to such relations.
Now, this cognitive ‘need’ of reason to believe, of support and integration of K, this structure gives to K items different ‘role’ and ‘importance’ or ‘value’. Not all items are equally important in a given domain, context, or episode (independently on their degree of certainty and on goals). There are K items more ‘central’, ‘important’, ‘crucial’ while other items are just ‘marginal’, just ‘details’. This depends on their network role: is this piece of K supporting and explaining many other Ks of that episode or domain? What earthquake would happen if this K would result wrong? How much belief-revision work we should do? Or this information is quite irrelevant, it doesn’t support or explain nothing, and we can cheaply abandon (drop, revise, forget) it?
In other words, K items have different value and utility in relation to the need for coherence, support, and argumentation within our beliefs. It is more probable (ad reasonable) that we forget or put aside marginal details (that is, facts that are not important for understanding the whole, that do not explain the other facts and the global event) then central facts. It is more probable that we resist more to revise and abandon crucial, central, important items than irrelevant, marginal one.
In sum, K has a peculiar form of Utility and Value—its importance—just relative to doxastic (not motivational) aspects: how much it is integrated in the K nets and how many K items does it support or is supported by, and how central is in the topology of the Net?
Goal processing and the utility of beliefs
Mind is based on a belief-goal bridge: the real backbone of cognition.
Beliefs support goals (beliefs as reasons for goals)
Beliefs determine goal value
Beliefs determine goal processing and dynamics
Beliefs determine goal species
But this also gives Value to beliefs, make them more or less important from another point of view (different from the previous ones).
Beliefs support goals, by acting as reasons for them. A cognitive agent is an agent who grounds his actions on his beliefs: or better, he acts on the basis of what he wants and prefers (goals), but he wants and prefers on the basis of what he believes. In a cognitive agent, goals should be supported and justified by reasons (not necessarily unbiased and “rational”). We activate, maintain, decide about, prefer, plan for, and pursue, goals that are grounded on pertinent beliefs (supported by other beliefs, etc.). Goal-processing is belief-based.
Let’s summarize the role of different types of beliefs in filtering the goals and in regulating their transition step by step, from their activation to the action execution (for extended discussion, see Castelfranchi and Paglieri 2007).
Goal processing has in fact different phases, like: goal activation; choice between various active and competing goals; goal planning and formulation of an Intention to do something; execution of the planned action. Now, all these phases require specific information input and exploit specific beliefs. So, a given belief can be the condition for the activation of a given desire (for example, I see that there is an open ice-cream shop in front of me); or a belief is the condition for abandoning a given goal (the believe that it is impossible or the belief that between two active goals there is a contradiction, a conflict, and we have to choose between them); or a condition for choosing G’ and not G2 (for example, I believe that this dress that I personally like less that the other will be more appreciated by John and I want to like to John); or a condition for formulating the intention and the planned action (for example, to believe that such action has those results and that I’m able to perform it); or a condition for the action execution (for example, the information that it is the right time). Failing these belief tests would stop the processing of a goal (e.g., putting it in a sort of mental waiting room, until the agent beliefs will allow reactivating them), or may even eliminate certain goals; on the contrary, success of these tests will make a certain goal persist until the choice, the planning, the execution of the pertinent actions.Footnote 33
Now, given that a given belief B’ is responsible for the acceptance of that G as ‘to be possibly pursued’ (up to me), or of the choice of that G as better than its competitors, or as a possible ‘intention’ of mine (I’m able and in condition) etc. it acquires a special ‘supporting’ Value. If B’ is revised, I have to drop that G; and this may be a cost, a waste; or I don’t want to renounce to G for its importance and attractiveness. This crucial role of B’ may entail unconscious ‘refusal’ to revise itFootnote 34 and even self-deception in order do not renounce to my G or do not frustrated it.
To know just for to know
We have (for evolutionary and cultural reasons) the final Goal of acquiring knowledge, the intrinsic motivation of curiosity. Thus knowledge and its acquisition can be/have a Value per sé.
However, first, curiosity is not for everything, omni-directional (at least, it is focused on certain domains: our ‘interests’, in order to restrict an infinite search). But this means that we are ‘interested’ in that, that is, we have the goal to acquire K in that domain, on that topic.
Second; it is true: we have the final goal to ‘cumulate’ and ‘store’ knowledge also without a clear immediate use of; like for money, or like ants for food. K it is a ‘good’ per sé. However, not all the founded Inf has the same value. Like for money it is different to put away 1000§ or 10§. How do we evaluate the value of a storable K item, which is not immediately to be used for a given active goal G’?
The generic goal to acquire knowledge is insufficient for explaining that. We plausibly evaluate in an approximate and intuitive way the presumable Value of that new information either on the basis of our ‘interest’ in the domain/topic it is Pertinent for (an area we know that we will have goals of specific uses), or in term of potential possible uses/goals (section “Other distinctions”). Like when I decide to buy a dress that I do not need just now for a specific ceremony (or I do not want it will be used only for that) and I evaluate the probability of other future occasions and good uses of it: “this dress is better; I’m sure that I can use it for a lot of other occasions and roles”.
So, even for the INF/K acquired just for the goal of acquiring K, there are additional Values/Utilities relative to not just to ‘know’, but to possible uses, interests.