What is Information, Exactly?
recent history there has been an interesting trend toward the reification of
information - information presented as a third fundamental reality:
- and the newcomer:
Some talk about information
being exchangeable with matter and energy, much as matter and energy are
related in Einsteins famous E=mc2.
While its certainly true that
the concept of information is central to quantum mechanics and other
established theories in physics and mathematics (and that quantum mechanics, in
turn, is intimately related to microelectronic circuit design), does it deserve
this much emphasis? A few go so far as to see computers as somehow special (or
even holy) since they deal exclusively with this fundamental aspect of
reality that we call information. Similarly cyberspace - the internet - is a
holy space where we might expect to find God, because it deals in the currency
of pure information.
I find this quite
unconvincing. Why the confusion? I believe
the main source is the varied ways in which we use the word information.
Here are a couple of rough
A] Information: Human-consciousness-level
symbols needing a context to give them meaning. For example, the price of an
airline ticket or a book.
the degree of order or complexity of a system.
Definition B] is one that
figures in discussions about mathematics, quantum mechanics, signal to noise
ratios in data-sets etc.
These are very different. In
fact its possible to represent information (type A) in ways that are more or
less complex, i.e. in ways
with more or less information (type B)!
My point is that information
as defined in A] (e.g. a $200 airline tickets to San Jose from Seattle) does
not belong in discussions about fundamental aspects of reality.
Therefore, inasmuch as
cyber-technologies and the Internet deal with airline tickets or books, this is
information as defined in A] and not B]. So, it does not follow that the
Internet is necessarily accessing a fundamental level of reality even though it
deals with information.
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| Contributed by: Adrian