Hi FISers,

Reading the recent posts on "information" and related issues by Terry, Joseph, 
Pedro, Mark,  Krassimir, Loet, and others suggested to me the following 
possible definition of information (see Table 1) that may be consistent with 
those proposed by Terry, Shannon, Volkenstein,  Saussure, and Peirce (as I 
understand him), to varying degrees.

Table 1.  A unified definition of information based on the  Mechanism of 
Irreversible Triadic Relation (MITR):

“Information is something that is transferred from A (e.g., the sender) to C 
(e.g., the receiver) mediated by B (e.g., sound signal) in such a manner that A 
and C become coupled, correlated, or coordinated.”

                                                             f              g
                                                    A -------> B -------> C




























Natural process

Differentiation (?)





Mental process








I have the feeling that that number of columns in Table 1 can be increased to 
the right significantly, as we extend the MITR-based definition of information 
to various fields of inquires in natural and human sciences.

Any suggestions, comments or corrections would be welcome.


From: Terrence W. DEACON <dea...@berkeley.edu>
Sent: Sunday, October 8, 2017 8:30 PM
To: Sungchul Ji
Cc: KrassimirMarkov; foundationofinformationscience; 钟义信
Subject: Re: [Fis] Data - Reflection - Information

Against "meaning"

I think that there is a danger of allowing our anthropocentrism to bias the 
discussion. I worry that the term 'meaning' carries too much of a linguistic 
By this I mean that it is too attractive to use language as our archtypical 
model when we talk about information.
Language is rather the special case, the most unusual communicative adaptation 
to ever have evolved, and one that grows out of and depends on 
informationa/semiotic capacities shared with other species and with biology in 
So I am happy to see efforts to bring in topics like music or natural signs 
like thunderstorms and would also want to cast the net well beyond humans to 
include animal calls, scent trails, and molecular signaling by hormones. And it 
is why I am more attracted to Peirce and worried about the use of Saussurean 
Words and sentences can indeed provide meanings (as in Frege's Sinn - "sense" - 
"intension") and may also provide reference (Frege's Bedeutung - "reference" - 
"extension"), but I think that it is important to recognize that not all signs 
fit this model. Moreover,

A sneeze is often interpreted as evidence about someone's state of health, and 
a clap of thunder may indicate an approaching storm.
These can also be interpreted differently by my dog, but it is still 
information about something, even though I would not say that they mean 
something to that interpreter. Both of these phenomena can be said to provide 
reference to something other than that sound itself, but when we use such 
phrases as "it means you have a cold" or "that means that a storm is 
approaching" we are using the term "means" somewhat metaphorically (most often 
in place of the more accurate term "indicates").

And it is even more of a stretch to use this term with respect to pictures or 
So no one would say the a specific feature like the ears in a caricatured face 
mean something.
Though if the drawing is employed in a political cartoon e.g. with exaggerated 
ears and the whole cartoon is assigned a meaning then perhaps the exaggeration 
of this feature may become meaningful. And yet we would probably agree that 
every line of the drawing provides information contributing to that meaning.

So basically, I am advocating an effort to broaden our discussions and 
recognize that the term information applies in diverse ways to many different 
contexts. And because of this it is important to indicate the framing, whether 
physical, formal, biological, phenomenological, linguistic, etc.
For this reason, as I have suggested before, I would love to have a 
conversation in which we try to agree about which different uses of the 
information concept are appropriate for which contexts. The classic 
syntax-semantics-pragmatics distinction introduced by Charles Morris has often 
been cited in this respect, though it too is in my opinion too limited to the 
linguistic paradigm, and may be misleading when applied more broadly. I have 
suggested a parallel, less linguistic (and nested in Stan's subsumption sense) 
way of making the division: i.e. into intrinsic, referential, and normative 
analyses/properties of information.

Thus you can analyze intrinsic properties of an informing medium [e.g. Shannon 
etc etc] irrespective of these other properties, but can't make sense of 
referential properties [e.g. what something is about, conveys] without 
considering intrinsic sign vehicle properties, and can't deal with normative 
properties [e.g. use value, contribution to function, significance, accuracy, 
truth] without also considering referential properties [e.g. what it is about].

In this respect, I am also in agreement with those who have pointed out that 
whenever we consider referential and normative properties we must also 
recognize that these are not intrinsic and are interpretation-relative. 
Nevertheless, these are legitimate and not merely subjective or nonscientific 
properties, just not physically intrinsic. I am sympathetic with those among us 
who want to restrict analysis to intrinsic properties alone, and who defend the 
unimpeachable value that we have derived from the formal foundations that 
Shannon's original analysis initiated, but this should not be used to deny the 
legitimacy of attempting to develop a more general theory of information that 
also attempts to discover formal principles underlying these higher level 
properties implicit in the concept.

I take this to be the intent behind Pedro's list. And I think it would be worth 
asking for each of his points: Which information paradigm within this 
hoierarchy does it assume?

― Terry

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