Integration is the act of mentally combining information or ideas. It is the process of taking isolated ideas and consolidating them into a unified whole. It's taking little things we know, and making a bigger picture out of them. I know that my car is out of gas. I know that a car cannot be driven without fuel. I now can integrate this information to realize that I can't drive my car until I get more gas. The new piece of knowledge is a combination of the previous knowledge.

Integration is necessary for thinking. Without it, we would only have isolated thoughts that are unconnected to all of our other thoughts. These thoughts would be too simple to use effectively. The world would appear chaotic and unstable. We wouldn't see similarities between entities. We would be left in a state of confusion and helplessness.

Integration, though, is only useful if done correctly. Understanding is the criteria for knowing how to integrate. The integration must be logical, meaning consistent and non-contradictory. If one knows a car can be red, and also a car can be blue, a proper integration is that a car can be different colors. An improper integration would be that a car must be red and blue at the same time. It means that the integration must be correct

The knowledge must be integrated by fundamentals, or it won't be useful. If two men killed people, it would be proper to integrate them as two murderers. It would be improper to integrate them as blue eyed men. Even if the latter integration is true, it misses the more important point that these are dangerous men. To think of them having blue eyes is to categorize them by unimportant features, which has the effect of ignoring those features. Only confusion can follow.

Additionally, not all integration is necessary or proper. Some knowledge cannot be integrated directly. A car exists, and a tree exists. There is no useful integration possible with just these two ideas. A case of improper use of integration is the attempt to combine a businessman and a thief. Both take your money, and so it is possible to integrate them under a category of those that take money from you. But the distinction between the two is important. One voluntarily trades goods or services for your money. The other takes it by force. In one case you want them to take your money. Not in the other. An attempt to integrate these into a single category is destructive since it ignores the difference. Since understanding is the criteria for judging an act of integration as proper, it is clear that some integration should not be done.

Copyright 2001 by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands