Re: (Reply to Benzon)

From: Dace (
Date: Wed 28 May 2003 - 17:55:59 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: (Reply to Benzon) I"

    > From:
    > > > From: "Wade T. Smith" <>
    > > >
    > > > On Sunday, May 25, 2003, at 02:58 PM, Gudmundur wrote:
    > > >
    > > > > But if it weren't for an existing interpretative context
    > > > > (scientists' minds and other paraphernalia) published genes would
    > > > > not mean anything to anyone. Similarly, for DNA to convey any
    > > > > information there has to be the interpretative environment of the
    > > > > cell. So, a more accurate view of information is to see it as
    > > > > emerging when some system (scientist, cell, etc.) interprets a
    > > > > series of signifiers/signs (DNA, letters, etc.).
    > > >
    > > > And there it is.
    > >
    > > This is why the term "information storage" is incoherent.
    > >
    > Yeah, such things as minds and movies and books and records and
    > cd's and tapes and computers and maps and schematics just don't
    > make sense, do they?

    Right. Except for "minds," which doesn't belong in this list, these things don't make sense unless someone is there to interpret them. One might say there's all sorts of information in a 30,000 year old human skull fragment, but only if a paleoanthropologist examines it. The information arises solely in the mind of the investigator. It doesn't pre-exist in the bone. The bone is nothing more than a physical structure. Shannon's theory of information was really just a theory of structure that becomes information in the mind of a human interpreter. To use "information" in place of physical structure is no different than using "meme" in place of cultural information. If you've already got a perfectly good term, why bring in another one? Why complicate things and pretend you've created a new science when you're really just switching an old term with a newfangled one?

    Incidentally, this also applies to the notion that memories are recorded in the brain. The idea here is to understand memory without having to resort to vague notions of mind and enduring self-identity. We can thus understand memory entirely according to neurons and synapses. But if information doesn't exist in strictly physical form and requires interpretation in the context of a larger system, then there's still no memory encoded in brains. The larger system, of course, is the mind. Try as you might, you just can't get around it.


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