I would like to contribute to the current ongoing discussion regarding the 
relation between information and meaning. I agree with Dai Griffiths and others 
that the term information is a problematic construction. Since it is often used 
as an example of fitting the details of a specific worldly situation into a 
linguistic  form that can be processed by a computer, this fact in itself 
introduces various distortions from the reality that is being represented.  The 
degree of distortion might even be an example of the degree of uncertainty.

I believe that reference to the early work of Wittgenstein might be of use in 
this context, especially since his work in his Tractatus text on problems 
related to logical atomism influenced the design of the von Neumann computer, 
led to the creation of the Vienna Circle group and later inspired the 
philosophical movement of logical positivism. Alan Turing was also one of his 
students.

In this early work Wittgenstein had believed that a formal theory of language 
could be developed, capable of showing how propositions can succeed in 
representing real states of affairs and in serving the purposes of real life. 
He believed that language is like a picture which is laid against reality like 
a measuring rod and reaches right out to it. But in later years he eventually 
recognized that the possibility of relating propositions in language to facts 
concerning the world could not in itself be proved. Without proof, the house of 
cards collapses. Once the validity of using language to describe the world ini 
a rigorous and unambiguous way is questioned, not much is left. Although 
propositions are indeed capable of modeling and describing the world with a 
rigor not unlike that of mathematical representations of physical phenomena, 
they cannot themselves describe how they represent this world without becoming 
self-referential. Propositions are consequently essentially meaningless, since 
their meaning consists precisely in their ability to connect with the world 
outside of language. A perfect language mirrors a  perfect world, but  since 
the latter is nothing more than a chimera so is the former.

Here are some quotes (taken out of their original contexts) from Wittgenstein’s 
Tractatus that I believe are relevant to the discussion on information and 
meaning:

The facts in logical space are the world. What is the case — a fact— is the 
existence of states of affairs.  A state of affairs (a state of things) is a 
combination of objects (things). It is essential to things that they should be 
possible constituents of states of affairs. If I know an object I also know all 
its possible occurrences in states of affairs.  Objects contain the possibility 
of all situations. The configuration of objects produces states of affairs. The 
totality of existing states of affairs is the world. The existence and 
non-existence of states of affairs is reality. States of affairs are 
independent of one another.  A picture is a model of reality. A picture is a 
fact.  Logical pictures can depict the world. A picture depicts reality by 
representing a possibility of existence and non-existence of states of affairs. 
Situations can be described but not given names. (Names are like points; 
propositions like arrows — they have sense.)  Only propositions have sense; 
only in the nexus of a proposition does  a name have meaning.

Finally, with regards to the problems about information, I would add that 
Alfred Korzybski (and later Marshall McLuhan) once wrote that “the map is not 
the territory.” The map is merely a picture of something that it represents. 
Increasing the amount of information may reduce the granularity of the picture, 
but it remains a picture. This means that accumulation greater and greater 
amounts of information can never completely replace or represent the infinite 
complexity of any real-lilfe situation — and this is an insight that 
Wittgenstein realized only in his later philosophical work.

Steve Bindeman


> On Dec 22, 2016, at 7:37 AM, fis-requ...@listas.unizar.es wrote:
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> Today's Topics:
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>   1. Re: What is information? and What is life? (Dai Griffiths)
> 
> 
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> 
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2016 12:44:59 +0000
> From: Dai Griffiths <dai.griffith...@gmail.com>
> To: fis@listas.unizar.es
> Subject: Re: [Fis] What is information? and What is life?
> Message-ID: <dbbfa511-b4e1-79b5-f800-bad1c231b...@gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"; Format="flowed"
> 
>> 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.
> 
> Dai
> 
> 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
>> 
>> Best,
>> 
>> Loet
>> 
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> 
>> 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;
>> 
>> http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ych9gNYAAAAJ&hl=en
>> 
>> *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?
>> 
>> List,
>> 
>> 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.
>> 
>> Dick
>> 
>> 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.
>> 
>> Best,
>> 
>> Loet
>> 
>> PS. Pedro: Let me assume that this is my second posting in the week 
>> which ends tonight. L.
>> 
>> 
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>> 
>> -- 
>> 
>> 
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> 
> -- 
> -----------------------------------------
> 
> Professor David (Dai) Griffiths
> Professor of Education
> School of Education and Psychology
> The University of Bolton
> Deane Road
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> Office: T3 02
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