Information basics 1

Robin Faichney (
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 09:51:17 +0100

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 09:51:17 +0100
From: Robin Faichney <>
Subject: Information basics 1

Here's the "test message" I threatened, on info basics. No mention of
memes whatsoever (except there), but I hope the possibility of building
up to memetics from this base will be fairly obvious.

The concept of information is used in physics, for instance in
connection with entropy, but that often seems, to me at least, to
conflict somewhat with the more common sorts of use of the concept, for
instance in "management information systems". Having had some success
with the technique in other (but related) areas, I decided to analyse
information (the concept(s)) in terms of subjectivity and objectivity.

I now seem to be making real progress, having divided information into
two categories. Objective information is what physicists deal with.
While this is not central to my interests, and I'm not entirely clear
about it, I believe it is equivalent to "negentropy". But objective
information is not esoteric: it is, in fact, just the form of physical
reality. Every physical thing can be considered to carry the
information that is its own description. And this is equally true on
all levels of description/explanation, the difference between levels
being that of the scale of the patterns we're interested in.

Subjective information is the more commonly thought-of sort. It is
carried by telephone lines, radio waves, hard and floppy discs, etc. It
is always "about something" other than its carrier -- or at least, if it
does happen to be about its carrier, it is so in a fundamentally
different way than is objective information. Subjective information is
an interpretation of objective information: when analysed with maximal
objectivity, a floppy disc carries only its own objective information,
which happens to include magnetic charges. But those charges, when
interpreted in a particular way, provide additional information, which
could be about anything from naked women to floppy discs. This
additional information is not a supernatural entity, "the soul of the
floppy", or such, but is a function of the relationship between the
floppy's objective information, and the method of interpretation --
which is more information, in some sense "sent ahead", and can be
thought of as context. Thus subjective information conforms to
Wittgenstein's notion of meaning as use in a particular language game
(context). And it requires information processing, whether by computer
or brain (or both).

Of course, the concepts of subjective and objective information are
already in common use, but the difference is that there, they are
relative, while my usage is absolute. Say we have two descriptions of a
building, one made by an artist, and the other by a construction
engineer. It's quite likely that the former will be relatively
subjective, and the latter relatively objective, but both are, in my,
absolute terminology, subjective. Only the building itself can carry
its own objective information, it is necessarily the sole possessor of
its perfectly objective description. I contend that there is no
necessary conflict between these relative and absolute usages. The
intended meaning should be made clear by the context.

Any comments so far?

Robin Faichney
Visit The Conscious Machine at

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