Dear Pedro and List,

I've really enjoyed leading the session on "scientific communication"
- it was an opportunity, for which I am very grateful, to explore the
nature and purpose of scientific communication, and to experiment with
different ways of communicating. It's been a fascinating couple of
months - and now we have President Trump. Who'd have thought it?!

It wasn't so clear to me before the session, but during it I have
learnt that the arguments about constraint and redundancy relate
directly to the process of communicating through different media. When
we teach, much of what we do is add redundancy, or multiple
descriptions of things. Powerful forms of communication like music
tend to be the most redundant, and even in the prosody of language
where meaning is most powerfully conveyed, there are levels of
redundant descriptions in the tone, timbre, rhythm and pitch of the
human voice.

It was great to see the Searle-Floridi video that Marcus shared.
Searle is very entertaining and whilst his philosophy of "status
functions" is a way of explaining how meaning is constructed in
society, I've always felt that he only looks at the positive
"information" part of a declaration; but every declaration that "this
is a $5 bill" is also a declaration that something else is only a
worthless piece of paper. The $5 bill is worth $5 because it is
declared to be scarce - so a "status declaration" is a "scarcity

Our academic world, including the publishing world, operates by
declaring of status of those who are deemed to have the authority to
make status declarations about knowledge. To put it crudely, we
academics love our titles and our status, and our universities have
built giant businesses out of it. Thorstein Veblen referred to it as
"atavistic" arguing "the standing of the savant in the mind of the
altogether unlettered is in great measure rated in terms of intimacy
with the occult forces" (Theory of the Leisure Class, final chapter).
He's right, isn't he?

But today we have a science of information - a science of uncertainty
revealed to us through the computer's lens. Yet we remain committed to
establishing findings on the pages of journals for ontological
foundations of the universe, biology, ecology, economics, etc as
"certain"; we write as if we have little doubt, that our methods are
sound, that we are an 'authority'. One has to really get to know a
professor in order to understand how they are not certain about things
- and then the learning really begins. This failure to express
uncertainty has to do with both status and the way we communicate.

So why does this matter? We turn to Trump: from an information
perspective, Trump's victory was a disaster for the pollsters. This is
a serious problem - not just for losing or winning elections - but for
auditing the effects of policies during government. The pollsters told
the government that on balance, using the appropriate measures, their
policies were working and things were getting better. But in reality,
people were really hurting and getting angry: what Stafford Beer calls
the "Algedonic loop" didn't work - there was a failure to analyse
anything to do with real feelings and experience. That this has
serious political consequences is now obvious.

So thank you all for participating and for a whole load of references
which I will explore. I hope that some of you will experiment in
adding redundancies to your scientific descriptions in new ways with
the amazing technical resources we now have at our disposal.

Best wishes,


On 17 November 2016 at 13:09, Pedro C. Marijuan
<> wrote:
> Dear FIS Colleagues,
> Herewith the dropbox link to the Chengdu's presentation on Intelligence and
> the Information Flow (as kindly requested by Christophe and Gordana).
> About the ongoing exchanges on language and meaning, there could be some
> additional arguments to consider:
> 1. Evolutionary origins of language (Terry can say quite a bit about that).
> It is difficult to establish a clear stage into which well formed oral
> language would have emerged. That the basis was both gestural (Susan Goldin
> Meadow) and emotional utterances seems to be more and more accepted. Alarm
> calls for instance in some monkeys contain distinct sound codes that clearly
> imply an associated meaning on what is the specific predator to take care of
> (aerial, felines, snakes) with differentiated behavioral escape responses in
> each case. Pretty more complex in human protolanguages.
> 2. Nervous Systems functioning. The action-perception cycle in advanced
> mammals would be the engine of information processing and meaning
> generation. The advancement of the life cycle would be the source and sink
> of the communicative exchanges and the ultimate reference for meaning. (This
> connects with the info flows and intelligence of my presentation).
> 3. Human "sociotype" maintenance. As the natural social groups of humans
> grew out of proportion regarding other Anthropoidea (see Dunbar's number), a
> new form of "grooming" and group consensus was established around language
> and other emotional utterances (importance of laughter). Paradoxically,
> language's meaning becomes downsized to the level of small talk, just
> chattering to keep social bonds afloat.  The "social brain hypothesis" on
> the origins of language developed by Robin Dunbar and other scholars points
> in this direction.
> In my opinion, points 1 and 3 have already appeared in this list. But point
> 2 has been very rarely discussed among us (how the brain fabricates
> meaning). So, tentatively, the next discussion session will deal with some
> of this neurodynamic stuff (in preparation yet: "The Topological Brain"). In
> the meantime, Maybe Mark would like to make some concluding comments in
> order to close the present session... Thanks are due to him both for his
> preparation-work and for his patience regarding all the tangents in this
> session!
> Best wishes
> --Pedro
> El 16/11/2016 a las 15:51, Dai Griffiths escribiĆ³:
>> Many (most?) linguistic interactions are not propositional in the sense
>> that you imply.
>> There is no verifiable equivalent to opening the fridge door for
>> utterances like "Cool", "Give us a hand won't you", "You're welcome",
>> "Justin Bieber is wonderful", "You go and sneak in round the back while I
>> distract them at the front door", and so on.
>> So I doubt your 'usually', and the application to natural language.
>> Dai
>> On 15/11/16 15:05, Bruno Marchal wrote:
>>> A model is a mathematical structure making a sentence (proposition) true
>>> or false, and this, in my opinion applies to meaning in the natural
>>> language, where usually some notion of reality is involved:  the proposition
>>> "there is two beers in the fridge" is judged meaningful because we believe
>>> in a reality with fridge containing, or not, beers.
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Dr. Mark William Johnson
Institute of Learning and Teaching
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
University of Liverpool

Visiting Professor
Far Eastern Federal University, Russia

Phone: 07786 064505

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