-------- Mensaje reenviado --------

Asunto:         Re: [Fis] Scientific communication (from Mark)
Fecha:  Fri, 14 Oct 2016 13:04:06 +0100
De:     Mark Johnson <johnsonm...@gmail.com>
Para: fis <fis@listas.unizar.es>, Pedro C. Marijuan <pcmarijuan.i...@aragon.es>

Dear Karl, Loet and Bruno,

On reflection, I had been thinking this discussion about scientific
communication had been a bit 'quiet'... now it is less quiet: there's
nothing like throwing 'god' into the equation to liven up discussions!

More seriously (and sorry, this is a long post) there are three
fundamental distinctions and an example which I want to draw in the
light of your comments. They are:
1. The distinction between IS and OUGHT in arguments about scientific
2. The distinction between an EXPLANATION and a DESCRIPTION
3. Issues about ONTOLOGY and INFORMATION
4. A musical example

There are critical worries in Bruno's comments about making "theology,
the science, vulnerable, as reason is no more allowed in, and that
leaves the place for emotion and wishful thinking, which are quickly
exploited by manipulators, usually to steal our money, or control us
in some ways". Clearly, we ought not allow this to happen. In my
second video, I used the example of the swindler whose speech acts are
chosen in full knowledge of the constraints of the victim. Of course
there are unscrupulous religious people who do this; but there are
equally (and possibly more so) unscrupulous scientists (particularly,
I'm afraid, psychologists and economists (if they are to be considered
scientists - as they would like)). I like Bruno's theology of the
machine - it looks very similar to Ashby's concept of variety (the set
of propositions true about the machine = the set of possible states
the machine can exist in)... which brings us back to information,
Shannon, etc.

I agree with Karl in his suggestion "to focus on the dichotomy
creating the foreground, lifting it off from the background. Patterns
connect the two: it is reasonable, in my view, to work on the subject
of patterns.". But it is easy to say that we "ought" to do this. I'd
prefer to see the pathologies that we see in education and publishing
are a direct consequence of our not doing this, and to describe the
ontological mechanisms. It is the business of arguing how our
scientific communication should be conducted in the light of what we
know about our science.

Hume's famous passage in dealing with the dichotomy of "is" and
"ought" is worth reflecting on:

"In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have
always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the
ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or
makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am
surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of
propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not
connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is
imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this
ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis
necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same
time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether
inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others,
which are entirely different from it."

His complaint is about slippage from "is" to "ought" (he does not deny
the possibility of deriving an ought from an is - the logical
positivists misrepresented him).

In my argument about scientific publishing I have tried to be careful
in avoiding 'oughts' and ground an argument for a richer embrace of
technological expression on the basis of describing how today's
science is. I'm arguing (not much differently from David Bohm whose
work on communication is new to me) that the nature of the science
entails the need for new practices of communication.

There is a critical dimension (which I don't think is an Ought - it's
just a warning): if we continue to communicate in the way that we did
in the 17th century, then our communication won't work because it
works against the scientific ontology. I'm speculating that this
pathology feeds into financialisation processes which produce social
crisis. In Hume's argument, communication between scientists and an
ontology of regularity were tied together; now we have have to admit
multiple contingencies in our scientific practices, the communication
cannot be unchanged - can it?

In the posts of Bruno and Karl, there is reference to science's search
for universal explanation. This is clearly a very deep issue, but it
fundamentally concerns our conception of causation. What is causation?
What is causal explanation? For Hume, causal explanations are
constructs produced in discourse (i.e. communication) between
scientists in the light of regular successions of events produced in
experiments. However, it is also worth considering that Hume was
deeply sceptical about the articulation of any rational foundation
which could underpin the production of regularities in nature. That
cast doubt on assumptions about inductive reasoning (and for anyone
who would champion Peirce's 'abduction', I think it suffers from the
same problem at a different level)

Scientists certainly produce totalising explanations, cosmologies,
etc, and these can be very useful to organise discourse and scientific
activity, and also creating a sense of hubristic excitement which
moves things on. But whilst universalist claims will be made, all we
can safely say is that it is a "description of understanding".
Scientific communication occurs when different scientist's
"descriptions of understanding" coincide. I prefer to think of this as
a recognition between scientists that they operate within related or
shared constraints. We should inquire into the conditions when this

To describe phenomena, and one's understanding of phenomena is to
reveal one's constraints. Describing doubt is a very important part of
this. Explanation is to attempt to remove doubt - not just of the
explainer, but of those they wish to convince.

Loet spotted a constraint in my understanding about redundancy and
made an intervention which has (this time - sorry for not getting it
until now!) really clarified things, and also opened up a connection
between ontology, information and redundancy.

Essentially, to calculate the redundancy one must have the maximum
entropy, and the maximum entropy can only be gained from what Loet
calls the "specification of the system": that, in my understanding, is
an agreed ontology of what the system IS.

I think this makes the relationship between Shannon information and
redundancy recursive. In order to agree the ontology of the system,
one must communicate; in order to communicate we must agree the
constraints; in order to apprehend constraints, we must identify the
redundancy... which can be identified through the maximum entropy,
which entails agreeing an ontology. And so on. This makes me think my
intuition about the importance of Lou Kauffmann's work isn't wide of
the mark.

Information appears like a recursive version of Wittgenstein's
duck-rabbit, where there is a smaller duck-rabbit inside the larger
duck-rabbit. In Karl's terms, the dynamic of dichotomy between
foreground and background operates at all levels of recursion:
identify it at one level is an unavoidable constraint imposed on it.

Of course, it is impractical to go to these recursive depths.
Shannon's equations constrain us to a simple empirically observable
domain. But I think it is important to recognise that the recursion is
there, and that we are effectively 'cutting into it' (or constraining

It may be that the point hangs on the identification of analogy, or
identity: of what is counted as "the same as" or "another one".

I'm preparing a video to explore this which uses a musical example.
I'll try and explain in text what I want the video to explain (you
will at least have two descriptions!):

Music analysts identify those features in a score or some other record
of performance which are "the same" and "another" and produce their
analyses which show how different combinations of categories change
over time. But when we listen to a piece of music for the first time,
we know little of what is about to come, except that our expectations
are shaped as the music unfolds. What emerges over time is a
multiplicity of what might be called "descriptions" (although they
need not be verbalised, they can be expressed analytically to some
extent). These concern many different dimensions of what we hear,
1. the rhythmic patterns
2. melodic patterns
3. timbral patterns
4. dynamics (loud and soft)
5. phrasing
6. pitch
7. intervals... and so forth.

Each description exists within constraints which are partly produced
by the other descriptions, and by other factors (like, for example,
one's familiarity with the style). As the music unfolds, new
descriptions (about form, climactic moments, harmonic progressions,
etc) emerge and whose constraints will interact with (and transform)
existing constraints - even (most powerfully in music) our emotional

I mention music because it is a form of communication which is
extremely powerful and which does not make any external reference. Yet
it tells us something about how we communicate, but there is an
analytical puzzle here. The specification of the system is beyond
reach, yet we sense the patterns, the repetition, the redundancy
without having a sophisticated way of calculating it. We also identify
that what we might consider to be "the same" at one moment in one
context, we might later count as being fundamentally "different" in
another (e.g. perhaps the same melody with a different harmony).
Moreover, I suggest that at these moments of seeing something to be
different that we once thought to be "the same" are moments of gaining
deeper insight into the meaning being conveyed. My deepened
understanding of the relationship between redundancy and the
"specification of the system" explained by Loet is an example.

This, it seems to me, is the essence of what happens when we really
communicate. The process, I suggest, is an emergent interaction of
constraints. It requires multiple descriptions. As long as we attempt
to convey singular descriptions in academic papers alone,
communication in this sense is going to be very difficult - if not

Best wishes,


On 13 October 2016 at 10:32, Karl Javorszky <karl.javors...@gmail.com> wrote:
Theology and Information

Once again, Bruno has put his finger on the central point of interest: it is
irrelevant, what we call the problem, the subject-matter remains the same
over the generations. In times long gone, thinkers have called the same
problems THEOLOGICAL questions, because it was usual to discriminate the
known from the unknown by saying: what we know belongs to the realm of
humans, what we don’t know is the domain of God.

Irrespective of the name given to the target of research, it remains in a
contrast to the knowledge accessible (presently) to us humans. It builds the
BACKGROUND to that what we can understand, and therefore talk reasonably

The background of perception, of understanding, of knowledge, of opinions,
or even the background as such, as an epistemological construct, is a
central theme in psychology. There, one treats it as a necessary correlate
to the foreground and the trade has looked into the processes of
dichotomisation which he human brain uses to perceive the foreground. The
flip-flop technique – exchanging the background with the foreground – allows
research into the mechanisms of recognition.

The main point is to overcome the dichotomies which distinguish the
foreground from the background. One such approach is to recognise that
“contemporary” and “successive” are man-made (perception-induced)
categories. This approach has allowed understanding, how the succession of
the DNA’s elements relate to the contemporary properties of the temporally
identical elements of the organism. This riddle has been solved.

The task presently before us is to understand the meaning of the term
PATTERNS. Once we understand patterns, we can explain how the recurring is
related to the expected and the unexpected. Causality itself appears to be a
corollary of patterns.

Let me conclude by asserting that that we in the 21st century still labour
on the same basic questions e.g. Giordano Bruno has raised, namely: what is
the ultimate, unifying principle which drives the world. In today’s
parlance, we do not discuss the same problems in terms of theology, (“what
are the properties of God and how does He organise us and the world”) but in
terms of quanta, energy and information (“what are the properties of
information and how does it organise us and the world”), yet the approach is
the same: we try to understand the properties of that what is the background
to that what we can understand well.

My suggestion is to focus on the dichotomy creating the foreground, lifting
it off from the background. Patterns connect the two: it is reasonable, in
my view, to work on the subject of patterns. Do patterns contain


2016-10-11 19:58 GMT+02:00 Loet Leydesdorff <l...@leydesdorff.net>:

Dear Mark and colleagues,

Loet, clearly the redundancy is apophatic, although one has to be cautious
in saying this: the domain of the apophatic is bigger than the domain of
Shannon redundancy. At some point in the future we may do better in
developing measurement techniques for 'surprise' in communication (I wonder
if Lou Kauffman's Recursive Distinguishing is a way forwards...).

The extension of the redundancy is not primarily a matter of measurement
techniques, but of theorizing. The redundancy depends on the specification
of the system. The Shannon-type information is empirical, but only the
specification of the system enables us to specify the H(max) and therefore
the redundancy.

As the system grows, it may develop new dimensions which are manifest as
bifurcations. (Reaction-diffusion dynamics; Rashevsky, Turing.) When one
goes from one dimension n to a two-dimensional system [n,m], the number of
options [H(max)] goes from log(n) to log(n * m), and thus the redundancy
increases rapidly.

For example: as long as transport over the Alps is limited to passes like
the Brenner, the capacity can become exhausted. Digging tunnels or flying
over the Alps adds degrees of freedom to the transport system. The number of
options (n * m * k * ….) can “explode” by cultural and technological
developments.  The transitions come as surprises (e.g., the demise of the
Soviet-Union). Suddenly, the relevant systems definitions have to be

The systems definitions have the status of hypotheses. Hypotheses can be
considered as theoretically informed expectations. The world of expectations
proliferates with a dynamic different from the actualizations. The two
realms are coupled since the actualizations can be considered as
instantiations of the order of expectations; but only if the latter is
specified as different from the empirical order of realizations.




Loet Leydesdorff

Professor, University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)

l...@leydesdorff.net ; http://www.leydesdorff.net/
Associate Faculty, SPRU, University of Sussex;

Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ., Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC,

Visiting Professor, Birkbeck, University of London;


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Dr. Mark William Johnson
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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
University of Liverpool

Phone: 07786 064505
Email: johnsonm...@gmail.com
Blog: http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.com

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