Dear Hector,

Whenever I read an email or hear a response that begins with the phrase
"With all due respect" I fear that what follows will indeed be
disrespectful and self-promoting. Scholarly respect is particularly
important when the diversity of backgrounds of the contributors is so broad
and their level of erudition in these different fields is likewise broad.
Best to begin with the assumption that all are well-read expert scholars
rather than complaining about others' ignorance of what you refer to—an
assumption that is often mistaken.

In our short email notes one cannot expect each author to provide a list of
all current mathematical and non-mathematical formal definitions of
information, or to provide an evidentiary list of their own papers on the
topic as a proof of competence, in order to make a point. Since we are
inevitably forced to use short-hand terms to qualify our particular usages,
my only suggestion is that we need to find mutially understandable
qualifiers for these different uses, to avoid pointless bickering about
what 'information' is or how it should be used.

The term "information" is not "fixed" to a particular technical definition
currently standard to only one or two fields like mathematics, physics, or
computation theory. Nor can we assume that technical approaches in one
field will be relevant to problems outside that field. I would hope that we
are collectively attempting to expand our mutual understanding of this
concept, recognizing its diversity, and the value of the many very
different approaches in different fields. I would like us to stop making
claims that one or another approach has exclusive priority and remain open
to dialogue and constructive argument. So although we should credit Wiener,
Fano, Solomonoff, Kolmogorov, Chaitin, Bennett, Landauer, and many many
others with greatly extending the field beyond Shannon's initial
contribution, even a full bibliography of mathematical and physical
contributions to the understanding of this concept would only scratch the
surface. Information concepts are critical to molecular and evolutionary
biology, cognitive neuroscience, semiotics and linguistics, and social
theory—to name but a few more divergent fields. Each of these fields has
their own list of luminaries and important discoveries.

The challenge is always to find a common set of terms and assumptions to
ground such ambitious multidisciplinary explorations.
To those who are convinced that the past 65 years of research HAS dealt
with all the relevant issues I beg your patience with those of us who
remain less convinced.

— Terry




On Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 11:12 AM, John Collier <colli...@ukzn.ac.za> wrote:

> Dear Hector,
>
>
>
> Personally I agree that algorithmic information theory and the related
> concepts of randomness and Bennett’s logical depth are the best way to go.
> I have used them in many of my own works. When I met Chaitin a few years
> back we talked mostly about how unrewarding and controversial our work on
> information theory has been. When I did an article on information for the
> Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy it was rejected in part becausewe of
> fierce divisions between supporters of Chaitin and supporters of
> Kolmogorov!  The stuff I put in on Spencer Brown was criticized because “he
> was some sort of Buddhist, wasn’t he?” It sounds like you have run into
> similar problems.
>
>
>
> That is why I suggested a realignment of what this group should be aiming
> for. I think the end result would justify our thinking, and your work
> certainly furthers it. But it does need to be worked out. Personally, I
> don’t have the patience for it.
>
>
>
> John Collier
>
> Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Associate
>
> Philosophy, University of KwaZulu-Natal
>
> http://web.ncf.ca/collier
>
>
>
> *From:* Hector Zenil [mailto:hzen...@gmail.com]
> *Sent:* Thursday, 30 March 2017 10:48 AM
> *To:* John Collier <colli...@ukzn.ac.za>; fis <fis@listas.unizar.es>
> *Subject:* Re: [Fis] Causation is transfer of information
>
>
>
> Dear John et al. Some comments below:
>
> On Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 9:47 AM, John Collier <colli...@ukzn.ac.za> wrote:
>
> I think we should try to categorize and relate information concepts rather
> than trying to decide which is the “right one”. I have tried to do this by
> looking at various uses of information in science, and argue that the main
> uses show progressive containment: Kinds of Information in Scientific Use
> <http://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/article/view/278/269>.
> 2011. cognition, communication, co-operation. Vol 9, No 2
> <http://www.triple-c.at/index.php/tripleC/issue/view/22>
>
>
>
> There are various mathematical formulations of information as well, and I
> think the same strategy is required here. Sometimes they are equivalent,
> sometimes close to equivalent, and sometimes quite different in form and
> motivation. Work on the foundations of information science needs to make
> these relations clear. A few years back (more than a decade) a
> mathematician on a list (newsgroup) argued that there were dozens of
> different mathematical definitions of information. I thought this was a bit
> excessive, and argued with him about convergences, but he was right that
> they were mathematically different. We need to look at information theory
> structures and their models to see where they are equivalent and where (and
> if) they overlap. Different mathematical forms can have models in common,
> sometimes all of them.
>
>
>
> The agreement among professional mathematicians is that the correct
> definition of randomness as opposed to information is the Martin Loef
> definition for the infinite asymptotic case, and Kolmogorov-Chaitin for the
> finite case. Algorithmic probability (Solomonoff, Levin) is the theory of
> optimal induction and thus provides a formal universal meaning to the value
> of information. Then the general agreement is also that Bennett's logical
> depth separates the concept of randomness from information structure. No
> much controversy in in there on the nature of classical information as
> algorithmic information. Notice that 'algorithmic information' is not just
> one more definiton of information, IS the definition of mathematical
> information (again, by way of defining algorithmic randomness). So adding
> 'algorithmic' to information is not to talk about a special case that can
> then be ignored by philosophy of information.
>
>
>
> All the above builds on (and well beyond) Shannon Entropy, which is not
> even very properly discussed in philosophy of information beyond its most
> basic definition (we rarely, if ever, see discussions around mutual
> information, conditional information, Judea Pearl's interventionist
> approach and counterfactuals, etc), let alone anything of the more advanced
> areas mentioned above, or a discussion on the now well established area of
> quantum information that is also comletely ignored.
>
>
>
> This is like trying to do philosophy of cosmology discussing Gamow and
> Hubble but ignoring relativity, or trying to do philosophy of language
> today discussing Locke and Hume but not Chomsky, or doing philosophy of
> mind discussing the findings of Ramon y Cajal and claiming that his
> theories are not enough to explain the brain. It is some sort of strawman
> fallacy contructing an opponent living in the 40s to claim in 2017 that it
> fails at explaining everything about information. Shannon Entropy is a
> counting-symbol function, with interesting applications, Shannon himself
> knew it. It makes no sense to expect a counting-symbol function to tell
> anything interesting about information after 60 years. I refer again to my
> Entropy deceiving paper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1608.05972
>
> I do not blame philosophers on this one, phycisists seem to assign Shannon
> Entropy some mystical power, this is why I wrote a paper proving how it
> cannot be used in graph complexity as some phycists have recently suggested
> (e.g. Bianconi via Barabasi). But this is the kind of discussion that we
> should have having, telling phycisists not to go back to the 40s when it
> comes to characterizing new objects. If Shannon Entropy fails at
> characterizing sequences it will not work for other objects (graphs!).
>
>
>
> I think the field of philosophy of information cannot get serious until
> serious discussion on topics above starts to take place. Right now the
> field is small and carried out by a few mathematicians and phycisists.
> Philosophers are left behind because they are choosing to ignore all the
> theory developed in the last 50 to 60 years. I hope this is taken
> constructively. I think we philosophers need to step up, if we are not be
> leading the discussion at least we should not be 50 or 60 years behind. I
> have tried to to close that gap but usually I also get convenently ignored
> =)
>
>
>
>
>
> I have argued that information originates in symmetry breaking (making a
> difference, if you like, but I see it as a dynamic process rather than
> merely as a representation) Information Originates in Symmetry Breaking
> <http://web.ncf.ca/collier/papers/infsym.pdf> (*Symmetry* 1996).
>
>
>
> Very nice paper. I agree on symmetry breaking, I have similar ideas:
>
> https://arxiv.org/abs/1210.1572
>
> (published in the journal of Natural Computing)
>
> On how symmetric rules can produce assymetric information.
>
>
>
> Best,
>
>
>
> Hector Zenil
>
> http://www.hectorzenil.net/
>
>
>
> I adopt what I call dynamical realism, that anything that is real is
> either dynamical or interpretable in dynamical terms. Not everyone will
> agree.
>
>
>
> John Collier
>
> Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Associate
>
> Philosophy, University of KwaZulu-Natal
>
> http://web.ncf.ca/collier
>
>
>
> *From:* Guy A Hoelzer [mailto:hoel...@unr.edu]
> *Sent:* Wednesday, 29 March 2017 1:44 AM
> *To:* Sungchul Ji <s...@pharmacy.rutgers.edu>; Terry Deacon <
> dea...@berkeley.edu>; John Collier <colli...@ukzn.ac.za>; Foundations of
> Information Science Information Science <fis@listas.unizar.es>
>
>
> *Subject:* Re: [Fis] Causation is transfer of information
>
>
>
> Greetings all,
>
>
>
> It seems that the indigestion from competing definitions of ‘information’
> is hard to resolve, and I agree with Terry and others that a broad
> definition is preferable.  I also think it is not a problem to allow
> multiple definitions that can be operationally adopted in appropriate
> contexts.  In some respects, apparently competing definitions are actually
> reinforcing.  For example, I prefer to use ‘information’ to describe any
> difference (a distinction or contrast), and it is also true that a subset
> of all differences are ones that ‘make a difference’ to an observer.  When
> we restrict ‘information’ to differences that make a difference it becomes
> inherently subjective.  That is certainly not a problem if you are
> interested in subjectivity, but it would eliminate the rationality of
> studying objective ‘information’, which I think holds great promise for
> understanding dynamical systems.  I don’t see any conflict between
> ‘information’ as negentropy and ‘information’ as a basis for decision
> making.  On the other hand, semantics and semiotics involve the attachment
> of meaning to information, which strikes me as a separate and complementary
> idea.  Therefore, I think it is important to sustain this distinction
> explicitly in what we write.  Maybe there is a context in which
> ‘information’ and ‘meaning’ are so intertwined that they cannot be
> isolated, but I can’t think of one.  I’m sure there are plenty of contexts
> in which the important thing is ‘meaning’, and where the (more general,
> IMHO) term ‘information’ is used instead.  I think it is fair to say that
> you can have information without meaning, but you can’t have meaning
> without information.  Can anybody think of a way in which it might be
> misleading if this distinction was generally accepted?
>
>
>
> Regards,
>
>
>
> Guy
>
>
>
>
>
> On Mar 28, 2017, at 3:26 PM, Sungchul Ji <s...@pharmacy.rutgers.edu> wrote:
>
>
>
> Hi Fisers,
>
>
>
> I agree with Terry that "information" has three irreducible aspects ---
> *amount*, *meaning*, and *value*.  These somehow may be related to
> another triadic relation called the ITR as depicted below, although I don't
> know the exact rule of mapping between the two triads.  Perhaps, 'amount' =
> f, 'meaning' = g, and 'value' = h ? .
>
>
>
>                                       f                               g
>
>                Object --------------->  Sign -------------->  Interpretant
>
>                     |
>                   ^
>                     |
>                    |
>                     |
>                    |
>                     |
>                    |
>                     |_________________________________|
>
>                                                         h
>
>
>
> *Figure 1.*  The *Irreducible Triadic Relation* (ITR) of seimosis (also
> called sign process or communication) first clearly articulated by Peirce
> to the best of my knowledge. *Warning*: Peirce often replaces Sign with
> Representamen and represents the whole triad, i.e., Figure 1
> itself (although he did not use such a figure in his writings) as the Sign.
> Not distinguishing between these two very different uses of the same word
> "Sign" can lead to semiotic confusions.   The three processes are defined
> as follows: f = sign production, g = sign interpretation, h = information
> flow (other ways of labeling the arrows are not excluded).   Each process
> or arrow reads "determines", "leads", "is presupposed by", etc., and
> the three arrows constitute a *commutative triangle* of category theory,
> i.e., f x g = h, meaning f followed by g ledes to the same result as h.
>
>
>
> I started using  the so-called  ITR template, *Figure 1*,  about 5 years
> ago, and the main reason I am bringing it up here is to ask your critical
> opinion on my suggestion published in 2012 (Molecular Theory of the Living
>  Cell: Concepts, Molecular Mechanisms, and Biomedical Applications,
> Springer New York, p ~100 ?) that there are two kinds of causality -- (i)
> the energy-dependent causality (identified with *Processes f *and *g* in 
> *Figure
> 1*) and (ii) the information (and hence code)-dependent causality
> (identified with *Process h*).  For convenience, I coined the term '
> codality' to refer to the latter to contrast it with the traditional term 
> causality.
>
>
>
>
> I wonder if we can  view John's idea of the relation between 'information'
> and 'cause' as being  an alternative way of expressing the same ideas as
> the "energy-dependent causality" or the "codality" defined in F*igure 1.*
>
>
>
>
> All the best.
>
>
>
> Sung
>
>
>
>
> ------------------------------
>
> *From:* Fis <fis-boun...@listas.unizar.es> on behalf of Terrence W.
> DEACON <dea...@berkeley.edu>
> *Sent:* Tuesday, March 28, 2017 4:23:14 PM
> *To:* John Collier
> *Cc:* fis
> *Subject:* Re: [Fis] Causation is transfer of information
>
>
>
> Corrected typos (in case the intrinsic redundancy didn't compensate for
> these minor corruptions of the text):
>
>
>
>  information-beqaring medium =  information-bearing medium
>
>
>
> appliction = application
>
>
>
>  conceptiont =  conception
>
>
>
> On Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 10:14 PM, Terrence W. DEACON <dea...@berkeley.edu>
>  wrote:
>
> Dear FIS colleagues,
>
>
>
> I agree with John Collier that we should not assume to restrict the
> concept of information to only one subset of its potential applications.
> But to work with this breadth of usage we need to recognize that
> 'information' can refer to intrinsic statistical properties of a physical
> medium, extrinsic referential properties of that medium (i.e. content), and
> the significance or use value of that content, depending on the context.  A
> problem arises when we demand that only one of these uses should be given
> legitimacy. As I have repeatedly suggested on this listserve, it will be a
> source of constant useless argument to make the assertion that someone is
> wrong in their understanding of information if they use it in one of these
> non-formal ways. But to fail to mark which conception of information is
> being considered, or worse, to use equivocal conceptions of the term in the
> same argument, will ultimately undermine our efforts to understand one
> another and develop a complete general theory of information.
>
>
>
> This nominalization of 'inform' has been in use for hundreds of years in
> legal and literary contexts, in all of these variant forms. But there has
> been a slowly increasing tendency to use it to refer to the
> information-beqaring medium itself, in substantial terms. This reached its
> greatest extreme with the restricted technical usage formalized by Claude
> Shannon. Remember, however, that this was only introduced a little over a
> half century ago. When one of his mentors (Hartley) initially introduced a
> logarithmic measure of signal capacity he called it 'intelligence' — as in
> the gathering of intelligence by a spy organization. So had Shannon chose
> to stay with that usage the confusions could have been worse (think about
> how confusing it would have been to talk about the entropy of
> intelligence). Even so, Shannon himself was to later caution against
> assuming that his use of the term 'information' applied beyond its
> technical domain.
>
>
>
> So despite the precision and breadth of appliction that was achieved by
> setting aside the extrinsic relational features that characterize the more
> colloquial uses of the term, this does not mean that these other uses are
> in some sense non-scientific. And I am not alone in the belief that these
> non-intrinsic properties can also (eventually) be strictly formalized and
> thereby contribute insights to such technical fields as molecular biology
> and cognitive neuroscience.
>
>
>
> As a result I think that it is legitimate to argue that information (in
> the referential sense) is only in use among living forms, that an alert
> signal sent by the computer in an automobile engine is information (in both
> senses, depending on whether we include a human interpreter in the loop),
> or that information (in the intrinsic sense of a medium property) is lost
> within a black hole or that it can be used  to provide a more precise
> conceptiont of physical cause (as in Collier's sense). These different uses
> aren't unrelated to each other. They are just asymmetrically dependent on
> one another, such that medium-intrinsic properties can be investigated
> without considering referential properties, but not vice versa.
>
>
>
> It's time we move beyond terminological chauvenism so that we can further
> our dialogue about the entire domain in which the concept of information is
> important. To succeed at this, we only need to be clear about which
> conception of information we are using in any given context.
>
>
>
> — Terry
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
> On Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 8:32 PM, John Collier <colli...@ukzn.ac.za> wrote:
>
> I wrote a paper some time ago arguing that causal processes are the
> transfer of information. Therefore I think that physical processes can and
> do convey information. Cause can be dispensed with.
>
>
>
>    - There is a copy at Causation is the Transfer of Information
>    
> <https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fweb.ncf.ca%2Fcollier%2Fpapers%2Fcausinf.pdf&data=01%7C01%7Choelzer%40unr.edu%7C2cfdcd34699449bb000c08d47629a4c0%7C523b4bfc0ebd4c03b2b96f6a17fd31d8%7C1&sdata=y5LYga7SnUhkgN8ZBtkSTW6%2F0PqRFrwvXXO%2FvMYdl%2Fc%3D&reserved=0>
>     In Howard Sankey (ed) *Causation, Natural Laws and Explanation* 
> (Dordrecht:
>    Kluwer, 1999)
>
>
>
> Information is a very powerful concept. It is a shame to restrict oneself
> to only a part of its possible applications.
>
>
>
> John Collier
>
> Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Associate
>
> Philosophy, University of KwaZulu-Natal
>
> http://web.ncf.ca/collier
> <https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fweb.ncf.ca%2Fcollier&data=01%7C01%7Choelzer%40unr.edu%7C2cfdcd34699449bb000c08d47629a4c0%7C523b4bfc0ebd4c03b2b96f6a17fd31d8%7C1&sdata=%2Btv6lCO6ofLs245tO0VmMZlu%2Fw2GKrNEzbE8jZ%2F6DyA%3D&reserved=0>
>
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing list
> Fis@listas.unizar.es
> http://listas.unizar.es/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fis
> <https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Flistas.unizar.es%2Fcgi-bin%2Fmailman%2Flistinfo%2Ffis&data=01%7C01%7Choelzer%40unr.edu%7C2cfdcd34699449bb000c08d47629a4c0%7C523b4bfc0ebd4c03b2b96f6a17fd31d8%7C1&sdata=%2B1A3FcfGK8mpiH1bKqckx3gsU5n9Yb%2F6UbvPHFjvxMQ%3D&reserved=0>
>
>
>
>
>
> --
>
> Professor Terrence W. Deacon
> University of California, Berkeley
>
>
>
>
>
> --
>
> Professor Terrence W. Deacon
> University of California, Berkeley
>
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing list
> Fis@listas.unizar.es
> https://na01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=
> http%3A%2F%2Flistas.unizar.es%2Fcgi-bin%2Fmailman%
> 2Flistinfo%2Ffis&data=01%7C01%7Choelzer%40unr.edu%
> 7C2cfdcd34699449bb000c08d47629a4c0%7C523b4bfc0ebd4c03b2b96f6a17fd
> 31d8%7C1&sdata=%2B1A3FcfGK8mpiH1bKqckx3gsU5n9Y
> b%2F6UbvPHFjvxMQ%3D&reserved=0
>
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing list
> Fis@listas.unizar.es
> http://listas.unizar.es/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fis
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing list
> Fis@listas.unizar.es
> http://listas.unizar.es/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fis
>
>


-- 
Professor Terrence W. Deacon
University of California, Berkeley
_______________________________________________
Fis mailing list
Fis@listas.unizar.es
http://listas.unizar.es/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fis

Reply via email to