On communication:

"Communication" needs to be more carefully distinguished from mere
transfer of physical differences from location to location and time to
time. Indeed, any physical transfer of physical differences in this
respect can be utilized to communicate, and all communication requires
this physical foundation. But there is an important hierarchic
distinction that we need to consider. Simply collapsing our concept of
'communication' to its physical substrate (and ignoring the process of
interpretation) has the consequence of treating nearly all physical
processes as communication and failing to distinguish those that
additionally convey something we might call representational content.

Thus while internet communication and signals transferred between
computers do indeed play an essential role in human communication, we
only have to imagine a science fiction story in which all human
interpreters suddenly disappear but our computers nevertheless
continue to exchange signals, to realize that those signals are not
"communicating" anything. At that point they would only be physically
modifying one another, not communicating, except in a sort of
metaphoric sense. This sort of process would not be fundamentally
different from solar radiation modifying atoms in the upper atmosphere
or any other similar causal process. It would be odd to say that the
sun is thereby communicating anything to the atmosphere.

So, while I recognize that there are many methodological contexts in
which it makes little difference whether or not we ignore this
semiotic aspect, as many others have also hinted, this is merely to
bracket from consideration what really distinguishes physical transfer
of causal influence from communication. Remember that this was a
methodological strategy that even Shannon was quick to acknowledge in
the first lines of his classic paper. We should endeavor to always be
as careful.

— Terry

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