> Information is not “something out there” which “exists” otherwise than as our construct.

I agree with this. And I wonder to what extent our problems in discussing information come from our desire to shoe-horn many different phenomena into the same construct. It would be possible to disaggregate the construct. It be possible to discuss the topics which we address on this list without using the word 'information'. We could discuss redundancy, variety, constraint, meaning, structural coupling, coordination, expectation, language, etc.

In what ways would our explanations be weakened?

In what ways might we gain in clarity?

If we were to go down this road, we would face the danger that our discussions might become (even more) remote from everyday human experience. But many scientific discussions are remote from everyday human experience.


On 20/12/16 08:26, Loet Leydesdorff wrote:

Dear colleagues,

A distribution contains uncertainty that can be measured in terms of bits of information.

Alternatively: the expected information content /H /of a probability distribution is .

/H/is further defined as probabilistic entropy using Gibb’s formulation of the entropy .

This definition of information is an operational definition. In my opinion, we do not need an essentialistic definition by answering the question of “what is information?” As the discussion on this list demonstrates, one does not easily agree on an essential answer; one can answer the question “how is information defined?” Information is not “something out there” which “exists” otherwise than as our construct.

Using essentialistic definitions, the discussion tends not to move forward. For example, Stuart Kauffman’s and Bob Logan’s (2007) definition of information “as natural selection assembling the very constraints on the release of energy that then constitutes work and the propagation of organization.” I asked several times what this means and how one can measure this information. Hitherto, I only obtained the answer that colleagues who disagree with me will be cited. JAnother answer was that “counting” may lead to populism. J




Loet Leydesdorff

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

l...@leydesdorff.net <mailto:l...@leydesdorff.net>; http://www.leydesdorff.net/ Associate Faculty, SPRU, <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/>University of Sussex;

Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ. <http://www.zju.edu.cn/english/>, Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC, <http://www.istic.ac.cn/Eng/brief_en.html>Beijing;

Visiting Professor, Birkbeck <http://www.bbk.ac.uk/>, University of London;


*From:*Dick Stoute [mailto:dick.sto...@gmail.com]
*Sent:* Monday, December 19, 2016 12:48 PM
*To:* l...@leydesdorff.net
*Cc:* James Peters; u...@umces.edu; Alex Hankey; FIS Webinar
*Subject:* Re: [Fis] What is information? and What is life?


Please allow me to respond to Loet about the definition of information stated below.

1. the definition of information as uncertainty is counter-intuitive ("bizarre"); (p. 27)

I agree. I struggled with this definition for a long time before realising that Shannon was really discussing "amount of information" or the number of bits needed to convey a message. He was looking for a formula that would provide an accurate estimate of the number of bits needed to convey a message and realised that the amount of information (number of bits) needed to convey a message was dependent on the "amount" of uncertainty that had to be eliminated and so he equated these.

It makes sense to do this, but we must distinguish between "amount of information" and "information". For example, we can measure amount of water in liters, but this does not tell us what water is and likewise the measure we use for "amount of information" does not tell us what information is. We can, for example equate the amount of water needed to fill a container with the volume of the container, but we should not think that water is therefore identical to an empty volume. Similarly we should not think that information is identical to uncertainty.

By equating the number of bits needed to convey a message with the "amount of uncertainty" that has to be eliminated Shannon, in effect, equated opposites so that he could get an estimate of the number of bits needed to eliminate the uncertainty. We should not therefore consider that this equation establishes what information is.


On 18 December 2016 at 15:05, Loet Leydesdorff <l...@leydesdorff.net <mailto:l...@leydesdorff.net>> wrote:

Dear James and colleagues,

Weaver (1949) made two major remarks about his coauthor (Shannon)'s contribution:

1. the definition of information as uncertainty is counter-intuitive ("bizarre"); (p. 27)

2. "In particular, information must not be confused with meaning." (p. 8)

The definition of information as relevant for a system of reference confuses information with "meaningful information" and thus sacrifices the surplus value of Shannon's counter-intuitive definition.

information observer

that integrates interactive processes such as

physical interactions such photons stimulating the retina of the eye, human-machine interactions (this is the level that Shannon lives on), biological interaction such body temperature relative to touch ice or heat source, social interaction such as this forum started by Pedro, economic interaction such as the stock market, ... [Lerner, page 1].

We are in need of a theory of meaning. Otherwise, one cannot measure meaningful information. In a previous series of communications we discussed redundancy from this perspective.

Lerner introduces mathematical expectation E[Sap] (difference between of a priory entropy [sic] and a posteriori entropy), which is distinguished from the notion of relative information Iap (Learner, page 7).

) expresses in bits of information the information generated when the a priori distribution is turned into the a posteriori one . This follows within the Shannon framework without needing an observer. I use this equation, for example, in my 1995-book /The Challenge of Scientometrics/ (Chapters 8 and 9), with a reference to Theil (1972). The relative information is defined as the /H///H/(max).

I agree that the intuitive notion of information is derived from the Latin “in-formare” (Varela, 1979). But most of us do no longer use “force” and “mass” in the intuitive (Aristotelian) sense. JThe proliferation of the meanings of information if confused with “meaningful information” is indicative for an “index sui et falsi”, in my opinion. The repetitive discussion lames the progression at this list. It is “like asking whether a glass is half empty or half full” (Hayles, 1990, p. 59).

This act of forming forming an information process results in the construction of an observer that is the owner [holder] of information.

The system of reference is then no longer the message, but the observer who provides meaning to the information (uncertainty). I agree that this is a selection process, but the variation first has to be specified independently (before it can be selected.

And Lerner introduces the threshold between objective and subjective observes (page 27). This leads to a consideration selection and cooperation that includes entanglement.

I don’t see a direct relation between information and entanglement. An observer can be entangled.



PS. Pedro: Let me assume that this is my second posting in the week which ends tonight. L.

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