• Wayfarer
    9.6k
    Not getting drawn into another one of your schoolyard brawls SLX.
  • StreetlightX
    5.4k
    No by all means, talk about information without talking about information, but maybe just call it 'Wayfarer's understanding of information for which the technical concept is apparently entirely irrelevant' or something.
  • Wayfarer
    9.6k
    What constitutes information in each particular case depends on what it means for us.SophistiCat

    Nicely illustrating the fact that the boundary between ‘information’ and ‘meaning’ is a rather porous one. Information, however, sounds more scientific, and so poses less of an apparent conceptual problem to the likes of Daniel Dennett, who would naturally tend to shy from any discussion of the inherent reality of ‘meaning’.
  • StreetlightX
    5.4k
    Nicely illustrating the fact that the boundary between ‘information’ and ‘meaning’ is a rather porous one.Wayfarer

    I don't know why you bother with philosophy or science when you just make stuff up like this.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.2k
    The point of falsifiability is to distinguish empirical statements from those that are not. But to then say that ‘only empirical statements are meaningful’ is to endorse positivism, which is another thing altogether.Wayfarer
    The latter sentence doesn't follow from the prior one.

    All statements are empirical. Statements are about a particular view from somewhere. We are visual creatures and our language represents that. Statements take empirical forms of ink scribbles on paper and sounds in the air, that represents other empirical forms (like other visuals, sounds, feelings, etc.)

    The point of falsifiability is to distinguish between provable from unprovable statements.

    Any claim that can't be proven is just as (in)valid as any other claim that can't be proven.

    What reasons do you have to choose one unfalsifiable claim over another? None. Evidence would be reasons why you choose to hold one claim over another, but you aren't providing any, so your claim gets ignored.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    7.1k
    Information can be entirely meaningless, utterly devoid of significance, sheer gibberish - it would nonetheless be information. The OP is no doubt trying to milk semantics from information. But it's a mostly dead end.StreetlightX

    Turning back to information, semantics doesn't matter for the mathematical theory of information, but it is what motivates its applications.SophistiCat

    I'd say it's very doubtful that a useful definition of "information" could be formulated which would not require that information has meaning, necessarily. If it were possible that some information had no meaning, then it would be necessary to have a principle to distinguish the information which has meaning from that which does not, or else any meaning derived from any information might be false because that information might not really have any meaning. Therefore it is much more likely that the definitions of information which are actually employed assume that all information has meaning.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.2k
    The space between atomic particles has never conveyed information to me in the same way as a cherry pie or a bag of rocks. I've heard rumors and theories about the space between particles but a bag of rocks or a cherry pie is different from a theory or a rumor.

    It would be hard to argue empty space is information.
    ZzzoneiroCosm
    How were humans informed of the Big Bang if not by observing space expanding? The expansion of space (the effect) is information because it was caused by the Big Bang. It is about the Big Bang. It informs us that the Big Bang happened.

    Space also informs us that we are separate entities, not one and the same.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.2k
    One possible source of confusion among posts here is the conflation of information with meaning. The two are not the same. Shannon was quite clear the information is an entirely syntactical issue, and has nothing to do with semantics:

    "The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point. Frequently the messages have meaning; that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities. These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem. The significant aspect is that the actual message is one selected from a set of possible messages" (my emphasis).

    Information can be entirely meaningless, utterly devoid of significance, sheer gibberish - it would nonetheless be information. The OP is no doubt trying to milk semantics from information. But it's a mostly dead end.
    StreetlightX
    So meaning is how useful some bit of information is?

    It seems to me that it is all useful to someone at some time, even when they don't know it, as in the case where someone is rejecting actual information in favor of their potential information. Some bit of potential information may be useful in keeping the truth (actual information) hidden from your emotional centers of your brain (delusions), but none of that is actual information.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    I've been reading more of Davies' book and just came across this example:

    In some species of deer, if you cut a notch in the antlers, next year’s regrown antlers come complete with an ectopic branch (tine) at that same location. Where, one wonders, is the ‘notch information’ stored in the deer? Obviously not in the antlers, which drop off. In the head? How does a deer’s head know its antler has a notch half a metre away from it, and how do cells at the scalp store a map of the branching structure so as to note exactly where the notch was? Weird!

    Davies, Paul. The Demon in the Machine (pp. 119-120). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

    This is in the context of other examples which posit electrical fields as possibly have an influence in epigenetics and therefore morphogenesis. I wonder if they’re related to the magnetic fields that purportedly allow pigeons to navigate and salmon to find their home creek. Nature sure seems to have memories.
    Wayfarer

    Not that weird. He’s implying more information or ‘knowledge’ than is necessary to form a tine. The brain doesn’t interact with the world directly, rather it maps sensory information according to the energy (potential) and attention (value) requirements of the organism over time and space. The relative position of the notch in relation to predictions for energy, attention and time isn’t all that complex. It isn’t ‘memory’ at the level of value differentiation (qualia and logic) that humans can have, but it works in basically the same way. Most animals with brains would have this level of capacity for integrating information into an interoceptive network, without conscious awareness of the information itself. It’s how most so-called ‘instinctual’ behaviour works.
  • Gnomon
    628
    But I think your philosophy is a little too idiosyncratic, and little on the pop-sci end of the spectrum, for my liking.Wayfarer
    The presentation of Enformationism is unapologetically idiosyncratic, and the website was inspired by the site of another far-out "peculiar" thinker, Gevin Girobran : http://everythingforever.com/.

    Since I am not an academic philosopher, and have a tendency to whimsy, rather than profundity and gravitas, the playful theme of the site is based on the movie The Matrix. That may seem "pop-sci", but the movie raised deep philosophical questions that sober philosophers have taken seriously. I don't take myself too seriously, but I am earnest about the validity of the general Enformationism thesis, and the BothAnd philosophy.

    The general worldview of Enformationism may sound superficially similar to the various New Age religion/philosophies. But where they tend to look backward to ancient religions (e.g. Hinduism), my intent is to look forward to a reintegration of science, philosophy, and religion. I personally have no religious practice, but I don't look down on those who do. :cool:

    BothAnd Philosophy : http://blog-glossary.enformationism.info/page2.html
  • Gnomon
    628
    So you want to employ information without reference to any of its specificity? Just a rhetorical crutch? Par for Wayfarer course.StreetlightX
    Yes, Wayfarer seems to be trying to turn the focus from the Reductive methods of Shannon Information Theory to a more Holistic approach. It's not a "rhetorical crutch". but a philosophical category shift : "These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem". If you can't understand why a philosopher would prefer to focus on human "meaning" than mathematical "specificity", you're on the wrong forum. :cool:
  • Janus
    8.9k
    If you say, well, everything is information - the space between every atomic particle, the composition of every object - then you're saying nothing meaningful. Someone already said that I'm sticking to a strict definition of 'information' - this is true. To define something is to say what it isn't - de-fine, delimit, mark out. So if you simply say 'well everything is information', it doesn't say anything, because it makes the term so broad as to be meaningless.Wayfarer

    It's not a matter of saying everything is information; but of saying that everything contains, or bears, or carries, or embodies, or manifests information.For us the world is our knowing of information, of our being in-formed. As Wittgenstein says (roughly): "The world is the totality of facts, not of things". Of course, that is from our point of view, which is not uniquely privileged.

    I don't know what you're trying to drill down to, to validate or prove to yourself, but in your thinking you seem all lost at sea, and swimming in circles, to me.
  • Theorem
    67
    So when Dennett says, 'oh yes, I'm a materialist, all that exists is matter and energy - and information' - then is he still a materialist?Wayfarer

    I'm not so sure. The closest Dennett has ever really come to laying all his metaphysical cards on the table (that I am aware of) was in his paper "Real Patterns". The metaphysics laid out in that paper is (perhaps unwittingly) much closer to Platonism than traditional atomistic materialism. In the paper he basically describes the world as a great mass of data in which various patterns can be found. For Dennett, patterns are just algorithmic compressions that can be used to reproduce the original data to some degree of accuracy. If you understand "data" as "sense data" and "real patterns" as "Ideas", then you're basically knocking at Plato's door.

    It's a bit of muddle, but you can read the paper here if you haven't already:

    https://ruccs.rutgers.edu/images/personal-zenon-pylyshyn/class-info/FP2012/FP2012_readings/Dennett_RealPatterns.pdf
  • Banno
    7.9k
    The myth is that Shannon did for information what Newton did for gravitation - made it all neat and mathematically predictable.

    That does not quite recognise the gravity of our situation.

    That's because meaning is left hanging.

    Now, if we forget about meaning, and instead look to the use to which the information is put... (who was it said that?)
  • Banno
    7.9k
    Information increases as order decreases.unenlightened

    What you offer as information is disinformation.unenlightened

    So information has two enemies: order and disinformation. In short, information is the opposite of Fascism.

    Sounds about right.
  • schopenhauer1
    4.2k
    Information can be entirely meaningless, utterly devoid of significance, sheer gibberish - it would nonetheless be information. The OP is no doubt trying to milk semantics from information. But it's a mostly dead end.StreetlightX

    Just a clarification question here: What would be the difference then between the definition of communication and information in this conception? I don't even necessarily disagree, but just wondering what your thought is on that.
  • StreetlightX
    5.4k
    I guess communication is the transmission of information from one point to another. As Shannon wrote - the next sentence after the one I quoted - the problem of communication "is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point... The system must be designed to operate for each possible selection, not just the one which will actually be chosen since this is unknown at the time of design".

    What is transmitted is information insofar as it is univocal from one end to the other: that it is the same message that gets from A to B, regardless if that message is total junk.
  • schopenhauer1
    4.2k
    I guess communication is the transmission of information from one point to another. As Shannon wrote - the next sentence after the one I quoted - the problem of communication "is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point... The system must be designed to operate for each possible selection, not just the one which will actually be chosen since this is unknown at the time of design".

    What is transmitted is information insofar as it is univocal from one end to the other: that it is the same message that gets from A to B, regardless if that message is total junk.
    StreetlightX

    That seems a bit redundant, like he is repeating what communication is with information. So information is then something like the success of communication? In other words, it's the fidelity of the message being received matching what was sent?
  • StreetlightX
    5.4k
    Yes. Information is to be distinguished from noise, which can be understood as infidelity, or better, randomness (=equiprobability). This is why it's a question of probabilities, which is why, as I said in my first post here, information is deviation from equiprobability: one can receive any message, but successful communication is a matter of receiving just this one, and not any other (it is not equally probable that you send, and I receive, any message whatsoever). It's a quantitative, syntactical matter through and through - no qualitative, semantic, or intensional element whatsoever.
  • Harry Hindu
    3.2k

    Seem to me that you need to know what a word means (what word refers to) to know how to use it. When looking up a word in the dictionary, we find the definition and then examples of the use of the word - two separate entries in the dictionary for the same word, so it seems to me that the definition (the meaning of the word) is separate from its use.

    Merriam-Webster's definition of meaning:
    1a: a statement of the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol
    dictionary definitions
    b: a statement expressing the essential nature of something
    c: a product of defining

    Merriam-Webster's definition of information:
    1a(1): knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction
    (2): INTELLIGENCE, NEWS
    (3): FACTS, DATA
    b: the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (such as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects
    c(1): a signal or character (as in a communication system or computer) representing data
    (2): something (such as a message, experimental data, or a picture) which justifies change in a construct (such as a plan or theory) that represents physical or mental experience or another construct
    d: a quantitative measure of the content of information
    specifically : a numerical quantity that measures the uncertainty in the outcome of an experiment to be performed

    From the bolded text, one can claim that noise is information. If you can't make a statement expressing the essential nature of noise, then how can you make the claim that it is different from information? And in making a statement expressing the nature of noise, you'd necessarily imply that noise has meaning.
  • tom111
    2
    As a physicist myself, this is a very important question, given the amount of emphasis the field places on ‘information’ right now. It seems to be treated as a real, tangible thing by most scientists, yet strangely its fundamental nature never seems to be questioned. If one examines multiple physical systems that contain ‘information’, I feel as though the definition seems to get pretty arbitrary quickly.

    One could perhaps with reasonable certainty say that the fundamental unit or ‘quanta’, of information are bytes. Bytes can be expressed in countless systems in countless different ways. One can assign the notion of ‘bytes’ to transistors, saying that there is a 1 when it is switched on and zero when off. Equally one could create a system in which we have a crowd of people interacting in a way such that when someones hand is raised, this represents a 1 and lowered represents a zero- computation can be achieved just as effectively, data can be stored; as far as things go, such a system would have the exact same properties of any computer with its information processing etc. The point here is that any physical object or system can have these ‘bytes’ and the bytes themselves can manifest themselves in innumerable physical ways. So if bytes/information are a real, physical thing, how can they express themselves in the same ways in completely different physical systems?

    Maybe information is this invisible, transcendental thing that can be seen to express itself in all manners of completely different systems in arbitrary ways or perhaps, information is simply an abstract concept we assign to things- surely it is one of the two. There is little reason to believe the former- to do so would be faith (there is no proof for information being some real, physical thing after all). It is more reasonable to assume that information is an abstract concept we assign to systems- there is no ‘physical’ aspect to it (as there is really no reason to believe it is). A physical thing would have limits to what it can be seen in and influence, whereas information does not. The physical reality is that the transistor has current flowing towards it or doesn’t, the individual has raised his\her hand or not- we then take the leap to label each of these binary states 1 or 0 and say that they transmit or store ‘information’. In reality these systems are completely different, there is no physical thing that is being stored/transmitted by both as there is really no common ground between them besides our labelling of certain aspects of them.

    So in the conventional sense at least id say that information is not ‘real’.

    How do we define this abstract concept? Well, if system A has a lot of ‘information’ on system B, then from system A’s state (from its fundamental quantities maybe, its position, momenta, temperature, order etc) we can deduce a lot about system B and the quantities associated with it. Again, the key is we can ‘deduce’. In reality these two systems are simply similar to one another or connected- we take the step to take certain qualities of A that are similar to B and label these ‘information’, disregarding the innumerable other qualities of the system that we can deduce less about B from. There is nothing physically special about these qualities apart from the fact that we can use them to find out more about the nature of B.
  • Gnomon
    628
    Maybe information is this invisible, transcendental thing that can be seen to express itself in all manners of completely different systems in arbitrary ways or perhaps, information is simply an abstract concept we assign to things- surely it is one of the two. There is little reason to believe the former- to do so would be faith (there is no proof for information being some real, physical thing after all).tom111
    Paul Davies is a physicist, whose focus has shifted from tiny particles to the universe as a whole system : the Cosmos. And he believes, not based on "faith" but on evidence, that Information is the essence of reality --- of both Matter and Mind; both "invisible transcendental" Energy, and visible tangible Matter. This notion is gaining traction among even atheist scientists in the 21st century. :nerd:

    The Demon In The Machine : Paul Davies interview, "Recognizing the power of information to dramatically transform material systems. . . . This is a more ambitious approach in which our work applies information theory to consciousness as well as life. There is a chapter in my book called ‘The Ghost in the Machine’ that addresses the consciousness puzzle.
    https://www.plusalliance.org/press-room/demon-machine-professor-paul-davies

    From Matter to Life : Information and Causality
    https://www.amazon.com/Matter-Life-Information-Causality-ebook/dp/B01N0Y8ECG/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=paul+davies+information&link_code=qs&qid=1588528200&sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-6

    Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics
    https://www.amazon.com/Information-Nature-Reality-Metaphysics-Classics-ebook/dp/B00J8LQJA2/ref=sr_1_7?dchild=1&keywords=paul+davies+information&link_code=qs&qid=1588528283&sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-7
  • I like sushi
    2.4k
    Is the thingness of thing measurable? If yes, then does ‘information’ lie on the scale you determine as determinate of ‘thingness’?

    There, you have your answer! :D

    Seriously, the question is more about to what degree we can all agree on different subjects. Funnily enough it depends on the common information we share and how we apply it.

    A particular use of philosophy is to formulate definitions that most people can agree on and then build from.
  • Possibility
    1.3k
    How do we define this abstract concept? Well, if system A has a lot of ‘information’ on system B, then from system A’s state (from its fundamental quantities maybe, its position, momenta, temperature, order etc) we can deduce a lot about system B and the quantities associated with it. Again, the key is we can ‘deduce’. In reality these two systems are simply similar to one another or connected- we take the step to take certain qualities of A that are similar to B and label these ‘information’, disregarding the innumerable other qualities of the system that we can deduce less about B from. There is nothing physically special about these qualities apart from the fact that we can use them to find out more about the nature of B.tom111

    Carlo Rovelli had this to say about quantum mechanics in relation to information theory, that sounds similar to, but not quite what you’re describing here. I’m wondering if you could shed some light on why Rovelli’s description makes more intuitive sense to me (given my limited understanding of physics):

    A physical system manifests itself only by interacting with another. The description of a physical system, then, is always given in relation to another physical system, the one with which it interacts. Any description of a system is therefore always a description of the information which a system has about another system, that is to say, the correlation between the two systems...

    The description of a system, in the end, is nothing other than a way of summarising all the past interactions with it, and using them to predict the effect of future interactions.

    The entire formal structure of quantum mechanics can in large be expressed in two simple postulates:
    1. The relevant information in any physical system is finite.
    2. You can always obtain new information on a physical system.

    Here, the ‘relevant information’ is the information that we have about a given system as a consequence of our past interactions with it: information allowing us to predict what will be the result for us of future interactions with this system.
    — Carlo Rovelli ‘Reality Is Not What It Seems’
  • bizso09
    49
    I believe information is fundamental element. It interacts with the physical. Example:

    > Tell someone to go to the door. They will listen and go there.

    In this case, there was an interaction between Object 1 and Object 2, a cause and effect. However, Object 1 didn't apply traditional force on Object 2, for example, didn't push them, or didn't use magnets, electro magnetic force, or even gravity. It's also fair to assume that sound waves do not have sufficient force to push someone aside.

    So what caused Object 2 to move? It is information. Object 2 has a topology of information landscape where they are being pushed around by mental forces of the universe. Information packets alter this topology which alters the force trajectories in the mental pane. This in turn, has an effect on the physical world, which manifests in Object 2 going to the door.

    Does this mean information requires a mental force field to work? Not necessary. Information can also encode the arrangement of stuff. The fact that our world is one of all possible worlds out there is determined by information.
  • EnPassant
    228
    And he believes, not based on "faith" but on evidence, that Information is the essence of reality --- of both Matter and Mind; both "invisible transcendental" Energy, and visible tangible Matter.Gnomon



    I don't think 'everything' is information because that would mean that all that exists is abstraction and I don't see how abstraction can exist without substance. If information exists it must have some kind of substance (mind?) to keep it in being. You can't have 0s and 1s by themselves. You have to store them on something, even if that something is a mind.
  • Marchesk
    3.4k
    As usual, all religious and spiritual implications are grammar mistakes.StreetlightX

    Which is analytic philosophy at its most absurd.
  • Marchesk
    3.4k
    We can reduce everything to two fundamentals, matter, atoms, or particles (however you want to call them), and the relations which these have with each other.Metaphysician Undercover

    Fields are just as fundamental, if not more so, than particles. Materialism is an incomplete understanding. The world is made up of more than particles.
  • 180 Proof
    1.1k
    Fields are just as fundamental, if not more so, than particles. Materialism is an incomplete understanding. The world is made up of more than particles.Marchesk
    Atomism - pre-Hobbes, Gassendi, La Mettrie, d'Holbach, Feuerbach ... "materialism" - includes 'void' as well as 'atoms'. Besides, the intractable incommensurability of QM and GR suggests that the current fundamental physics is "incomplete" (i.e. approximate) as well.
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