Information refers to changes in patterns of energy flow, some slow (frozen), 
some fast, some quantitative and measurable, some qualitative and 
non-measurable, some meaningful and some meaningless, partly causally effective 
and partly inert, partly present and partly absent, all at the same time.

Best wishes,


>----Message d'origine----
>De :
>Date : 25/04/2018 - 08:14 (PDT)
>À :
>Cc :
>Objet : Re: [Fis] Is information physical?
>Dear Mark,
>I share your inclination, albeit from a different perspective.
>Consider the two statements:
>1. Information is impossible without a physical carrier.
>2. Information is impossible without the influence of that which does not 
>There is significant truth in both statements.
>I know that Claude Shannon is not a popular personality on FIS, but I
>admire how he first approached the subject. He began by quantifying,
>not information in the intuitive, positivist  sense, but rather the
>*lack* of information, or "uncertainty", as he put it. Positivist
>information thereby becomes a double negative -- any decrease in
>In short, the quantification of information begins by quantifying
>something that does not exist, but nonetheless is related to that
>which does. Terry calls this lack the "absential", I call it the
>"apophatic" and it is a major player in living systems!
>Karl Popper finished his last book with the exhortation that we need
>to develop a "calculus of conditional probabilities". Well, that
>effort was already underway in information theory. Using conditional
>probabilities allows one to parse Shannon's formula for diversity into
>two terms -- on being positivist information (average mutual
>information) and the other apophasis (conditional entropy).
>This duality in nature is evident but often unnoticed in the study of
>networks. Most look at networks and immediately see the constraints
>between nodes. And so it is. But there is also indeterminacy in almost
>all real networks, and this often is disregarded. The proportions
>between constraint and indeterminacy can readily be calculated.
>What is important in living systems (and I usually think of the more
>indeterminate ecosystems, rather than organisms [but the point applies
>there as well]) is that some degree of conditional entropy is
>absolutely necessary for systems sustainability, as it provides the
>flexibility required to construct new responses to novel challenges.
>While system constraint usually abets system performance, systems that
>become too efficient do so by decreasing their (mutually exclusive)
>flexibility and become progressively vulnerable to collapse.
>The lesson for evolutionary theory is clear. Survival is not always a
>min/max (fitt*est*) issue. It is about a balance between adaptation
>and adaptability. Ecosystems do not attain maximum efficiency. To do
>so would doom them.
><> The balance also
>puts the lie to a major maxim of economics, which is that nothing
>should hinder the efficiency of the market. That's a recipe for "boom
>and bust". <>
>Mark, I do disagree with your opinion that information cannot be
>measured. The wider application of information theory extends beyond
>communication and covers the information inherent in structure, or
>what John Collier calls "enformation". Measurement is extremely
>important there. Perhaps you are disquieted by the relative nature of
>information measurements. Such relativity is inevitable. Information
>can only be measured with respect to some (arbitrary) reference
>distribution (which is also known in the wider realm of thermodynamics
>as "the third law".)
>Remember how Bateson pointed to the overwhelmingly positivist nature
>of physics. Classical physics is deficient in its lack of recognition
>of the apophatic. Information theory cures that.
>Yes, information requires a material carrier. It also is intimately
>affected by and requires nonmaterial apophasis.
>Best wishes,
>On 4/24/18, Burgin, Mark <> wrote:
>> Dear Colleagues,
>> I would like to suggest the new topic for discussion
>>                                        Is information physical?
>> My opinion is presented below:
>> Why some people erroneously think that information is physical
>> The main reason to think that information is physical is the strong
>> belief of many people, especially, scientists that there is only
>> physical reality, which is studied by science. At the same time, people
>> encounter something that they call information.
>> When people receive a letter, they comprehend that it is information
>> because with the letter they receive information. The letter is
>> physical, i.e., a physical object. As a result, people start thinking
>> that information is physical. When people receive an e-mail, they
>> comprehend that it is information because with the e-mail they receive
>> information. The e-mail comes to the computer in the form of
>> electromagnetic waves, which are physical. As a result, people start
>> thinking even more that information is physical.
>> However, letters, electromagnetic waves and actually all physical
>> objects are only carriers or containers of information.
>> To understand this better, let us consider a textbook. Is possible to
>> say that this book is knowledge? Any reasonable person will tell that
>> the textbook contains knowledge but is not knowledge itself. In the same
>> way, the textbook contains information but is not information itself.
>> The same is true for letters, e-mails, electromagnetic waves and other
>> physical objects because all of them only contain information but are
>> not information. For instance, as we know, different letters can contain
>> the same information. Even if we make an identical copy of a letter or
>> any other text, then the letter and its copy will be different physical
>> objects (physical things) but they will contain the same information.
>> Information belongs to a different (non-physical) world of knowledge,
>> data and similar essences. In spite of this, information can act on
>> physical objects (physical bodies) and this action also misleads people
>> who think that information is physical.
>> One more misleading property of information is that people can measure
>> it. This brings an erroneous assumption that it is possible to measure
>> only physical essences. Naturally, this brings people to the erroneous
>> conclusion that information is physical. However, measuring information
>> is essentially different than measuring physical quantities, i.e.,
>> weight. There are no “scales” that measure information. Only human
>> intellect can do this.
>> It is possible to find more explanations that information is not
>> physical in the general theory of information.
>> Sincerely,
>> Mark Burgin
>> On 4/24/2018 10:46 AM, Pedro C. Marijuan wrote:
>>> Dear FIS Colleagues,
>>> A very interesting discussion theme has been proposed by Mark Burgin
>>> --he will post at his early convenience.
>>> Thanks are due to Alberto for his "dataism" piece. Quite probably we
>>> will need to revisit that theme, as it is gaining increasing momentum
>>> in present "information societies", in science as well as in everyday
>>> life...
>>> Thanks also to Sung for his interesting viewpoint and references.
>>> Best wishes to all,
>>> --Pedro
>>> -------------------------------------------------
>>> Pedro C. Marijuán
>>> Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
>>> -------------------------------------------------
>>> <>
>>>     Libre de virus.
>>> <>
>>> <#DAB4FAD8-2DD7-40BB-A1B8-4E2AA1F9FDF2>
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Fis mailing list
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