Re: RS

From: Robin Faichney (
Date: Tue 16 May 2006 - 09:57:07 GMT

  • Next message: Robin Faichney: "Re: RS"

    Monday, May 15, 2006, 7:55:08 PM, Ted wrote:

    > Robin writes:

    >> Physical information is basically just any and all form/structure, and it
    >> is a very powerful concept. The usual concept of information is actually
    >> intentional information, and all intentional info is encoded in physical
    > info.

    > The problem with equating information with structure is that the word
    > "information" no longer has meaning, i.e., it carries no information. Why
    > not simply drop this term and refer to structure instead?

    What you consider to be essential to the concept of information is missing from physical information, but what others consider to be extremely important is present. In particular, physicists NEED (and I do mean "need") to apply concepts and techniques from information theory to physical entities and processes. As an example there's the issue of conservation of physical information inside black holes. Stephen Hawking made a bet with John Preskill, another physicist. I don't claim to fully understand the matter, but Hawking conceded he'd lost a year or two ago when he accepted that all of the information that enters a black hole eventually escapes again. Of course, structure, generally speaking, is destroyed on entering a black hole, so the information that escapes is not the same as that which entered, but it is the outcome of a lawful transformation, so that the black hole behaves like a computer in the sense that it's an information processor. We could say that the input information is ENCODED in the output information. And this isn't just woolly conceptualisation -- physicists actually apply mathematical techniques that originated in communications theory to such problems. And the concept of conservation of information is arguably as important as conservation of matter and energy.

    Similarly, it makes sense to say that intentional information is ENCODED in physical information, because physical and information processes are the same thing, viewed differently, and this can change the way we view the mind/brain. I believe that this understanding of the relationship between intentional and physical information -- or as you'd no doubt prefer to say, between the traditional concept of information and matter -- is a major step towards a proper understanding of the relationship between mind and matter. Of course we still have to deal with the "viewed differently" bit, which requires a better understanding of subjectivity, objectivity and intersubjectivity.

    > The traditional meaning of information includes representation. Yet there's
    > no representation within a physical structure itself but only in the mind's
    > interpretation of that structure. We can say representational information
    > is encoded in a structure, but the structure doesn't know that. A structure
    > is simply a structure, no more and no less. Only in the mind of the
    > interpreter does it encode information.

    That's true of any en/decoding scenario. The encoded information only exists if the appropriate decoder is available (at least in principle, and physics and philosophy both deal with principles).

    > "Meaning" is not a physically meaningful concept. At no point has anyone
    > ever located meaning in a physical system, nestled among matter, energy,
    > space, field, force, pressure, momentum, etc. No meaning or representation.
    > Yet these concepts become attached to physics when we use the term
    > "information" in regard to physical processes. Because we traditionally
    > associate information with representation, we assume that physical
    > information contains representation as well. The physical existence of
    > representation never has to be demonstrated, instead being smuggled in
    > through the back door. This isn't so much science as a trick of the mind.

    Absolutely not. That's all in your mind. You project your own confusion onto everyone else. No physicist, nor anyone with a serious interest in it, would see representation in physical information. Those like yourself, first coming across the concept, are understandably confused, but you have a choice: (a) put some time and effort into actually understanding it, (b) just forget about it, or
    (c) pretend that, due to some special insight, you already have a better understanding of it than those who have been working with it for years, and send off messages about how everyone else has got it wrong every time the subject comes up. It's up to you.

    Best regards,
    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue 16 May 2006 - 10:25:46 GMT