Knowledge is an idea, concept, or belief that can be communicated between at least two organisms. If one can first acquire and retain information in such a way that we can categorize it as knowledge, then that knowledge itself could be useless unless a clear thought path was evident, in such a way that the knowledge could be understood by the being itself, and then be understood by other beings or organisms that encounter the original being.
The key characteristic of knowledge is that it should be possible to share that knowledge with others in some way. The method of communication itself is rather unimportant, as long as there is a way to pass that information between two organisms one way or another. I purposefully didn’t say “conscious” organisms because I believe knowledge is in some ways shared by organisms that we might not consider “conscious”. For instance, although pine trees cannot directly share ideas, or discuss the best time to release their pinecones, they all participate in this action at the same time (if they are living in the same place of course). Or if a maple tree, is attacked by bugs, it will release a pheromone that will tell other surrounding trees to start creating chemicals and pheromones to help fight off, and repel the bugs.
One could argue that this communication between plant species is a form of knowledge, because it is shared with the other trees in its immediate surrounding community. Even though most people think only of humans when contemplating what or who can actually attain knowledge, but we must realize that knowledge is prevalent in all kingdoms of life. from plants, to animals, to humans, to the cells that they are composed of. I believe that an organism doesn’t have to be “conscious” to be able to pass on or attain “knowledge”. self awareness, and consciousness do make the sharing of knowledge substantially easier. such as with animals, wolves are taught how to hunt by the elder wolves who were in turn taught by their parents. or in the way that many birds migrate south at the same time every year, they contain the knowledge that it will soon be too cold to sustain their food source, and they will die if they do not migrate to places where food will be more abundant in the winter.
the key difference however lies in what different organisms use their acquired knowledge for. In the animal and plant kingdoms it would be accurate to say that the knowledge they acquire is used for survival purposes almost exclusively. Humans on the other hand do indeed use much of our knowledge for survival, but we also have the ability to debate and discuss ethical topics that aren’t necessities to survive. Humans just like other organisms are constantly looking for ways to make life easier, but at the same time we are one of the only species that constantly feels discontent with systems that are already working well, and don’t necessarily need change at all.