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The Nature Of Information!

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Posted by Richard D. Stafford, Ph.D. on March 25, 2002 18:02:41 UTC

Hi Harv,

I started this at the top because the other thread is beginning to get relatively far away.

After due consideration of what you have said, I am of the opinion that you are utterly and completely wrong. Prior to this particular discussion, it has never even occurred to me, in my whole life, that meaning was necessary to the concept "information". It has always seemed to me that meaning was something individuals had personally attached to it (most of those meanings being in fact erroneous certainly implies the characteristic is not required). I would go so far as to say that attachment of meaning to anything is the single most detrimental step in any logical process. So far, on this forum, I have seen almost no agreement whatsoever to any meaning of anything so far suggested. In fact, it appears to me that the single biggest source of miscommunication in the world is the obvious fact that different people attach different meaning to exactly the same information.

Now, the very fact that meanings can be changed without altering the information at all implies that the two things are very different concepts!

Almost everyone seems to believe that the meaning they personally attached to any piece of information is the only possible meaning which can be attached. Furthermore, in my opinion, almost every advance in human thought can be traced to a change in the meaning attached to information available to everyone. To presume that the meaning is part and parcel of the information is to block from view the greatest part of what that information has to tell us. It seems to me that you confuse the meanings you attach to information with the information itself. But far be it from me to confuse what everyone else seems to think is a clear issue.

All I can say is that trying to explain an original idea (which is what this is by the way) to you guys is very much like trying to pick up a piece of slick wet soap in a heavy shower. I have read both of your references and am very confident that the concept I have in my head has practically no connection to what they are talking about: i.e., I found nothing in them applicable to the concept I am trying to communicate. None the less, the exchange on this forum has been very valuable to me as I begin to see the difficulty you all face in trying to understand me.

I have said many times that all I have done is to solve a very simple problem and that having solved that problem I see things that others have overlooked. All of you keep telling me what you think I am trying to do and then either support or reject my presentation depending on whether or not you think I have done what you think I am trying to do. My biggest problem is that I have never correctly communicated the original problem (probably because, to me, the existence of the problem was so obvious). How can I expect you to judge the validity of my solution when I cannot even get you to comprehend the problem.

What I am talking about is at the very basic level of the problem of "solving a problem". It is a problem which no one ever considers; in fact, I suspect that I may be the first person to even think about considering it. It is the forgone conclusion of everyone that absolutely nothing can be done towards the solving of a problem prior to knowing what the problem is (everyone postpones thinking about solving a problem until they have some idea what the problem is: i.e., they presume nothing can be done if "what the problem is" is unknown). I hold that presumption to be false! You will never be able to understand my thoughts if you cannot consider such a problem.

Harv, all of your arguments can be reduced to the statement that, in your opinion, I do not know what the problem is, which, as a matter of fact, is 100% correct. You make those statements because you think that I am trying to solve some problem you have in your head. I can't really blame you because you have been swayed by my comments concerning some of your beliefs (which you will discover, if you follow me, are totally unsupported). You see, by having solved the problem of solving problems, I have indeed solved some of the problems in your head in spite of the fact that you think such cannot be done, but that is a side issue which must be postponed until you understand the nature of my solution. And Paul, you think what I have done is some theorem because you can follow the math and understand the correctness of the procedure but I suspect that, when it comes down to actual fact, you also miss the nature of the original problem. Finally, Yanniru is impressed with the derivation of the Physics equations but thinks I have made the standard assumptions of symmetry, again, because he does not understand the nature of the problem I have solved.

Most of what I did I did over 40 years ago and because I was the only person present, as the original simple solution evolved into the full blown entity it has become, I am aware of aspects of the problem which elude all of you. I will try to do better at explaining exactly what the underlying problem is. But before I can do that, we must come to an understanding of my concept of what I am working with.

The issue is, starting from the initial position, that of being just an ordinary thinking person sitting at my desk, knowing what I know, having all the facilities for problem solving which I have developed over my life, can I come up with a rational attack on a problem which has not yet been presented to me? Is there any specific analytical approach which is universally applicable to any problem which can be presented? Is there anything I can do if I have absolutely no idea what the problem is? That is, is the problem of solving problems solvable?

Clearly we cannot know that, without at least trying to solve the problem. So, working with your concept or information (fundamentally that information cannot exist without meaning), I can still be quite confident that, if I am going to solve this problem (some problem which I will be given somehow, someday), information will exis (at least the information as to what the problem is will eventually be available and one would expect also the information necessary to solve the problem). At this point, knowing that information will be available is of little value; however, even though I know absolutely nothing about that information I would still like to discuss it (that is, all information has certain qualities in common and I would like to discuss that issue itself).

Since, from your perspective, what I want to discuss does not exist (information without meaning), when it comes to communicating my thoughts, I have a problem (a problem I never thought existed). That is, when I go to refer to that thing I call information, no one will allow me to use the word "information" as they say the word implies I know something. So I have now introduced the word "tiggle". Tiggle is that thing I want to talk about. When I am confronted (or discover) the actual problem, tiggle will become information. So, whatever tiggle is, when meaning is attached to it, it becomes information. At the moment, I have utterly no idea what tiggle is; it is constrained in no way other that it can be transformed into information through the addition of meaning and nothing else.

By the way, it certainly is not "infon" (a basic unit of information) which disposes of the holistic nature of the information (which I wish to retain in tiggle) while at the same time retains the aspect of meaning (which is exactly the characteristic I wish to dispense with). Neither is it "sense data" as "sense data" implies the existence of some concept of senses which I also wish to dispense with. I want no preconceived concepts here at all! There is nothing here but "tiggle". And tiggle transforms into "information" the moment meaning is attached: i.e., any characteristics information can have (other than meaning) tiggle has!

Now since all communicable information (at least until further notice) can be mapped into a set of numbers, it follows that it is entirely reasonable to conclude that that particular characteristic (that it can be mapped into a set of numbers) must be a characteristic of tiggle also. This is fundamentally no constraint at all as, if the problem cannot be communicated to me, I am certainly not going to worry about whether or not I can solve it or explain it.

If anyone is aware of any word which denotes exactly the concept expressed above, I am willing to use it. I personally would prefer the word "information" itself as it fulfills all the requirements with the exception of your need to attach *meanings* to the concept. Personally I can not fathom this compulsion as it seems to me that my unwillingness to attach meaning to some information does not appear to change it to something else at all, especially in view of the fact that none of you can assure me that the meanings you attach are correct anyway.

In actual fact, your attachment of meaning serves only one purpose: it allows you to think about this information in ways which you think of as rational. I am going to show you a new way to think about this information sans meaning and defend the fact that we can think about it without attaching meaning.

What is important is that the concept that a set of numbers represent the most basic concept of all is the starting point of my analysis. If that concept is beyond your ability to comprehend, then my work is beyond your ability to comprehend.

"I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of Science, whatever the matter may be."
William Thomson, Lord Kelvin

What name you give to the concept is of no significance at all; but being able to comprehend the concept is absolutely necessary. For the moment, do not consider this as a solution to the problem of explaining the universe, consider it to be no more than an analytical attack on some specific unknown problem which is to be revealed later. Don't worry about whether or not what I do is worthwhile; worry only about whether what I conclude is true or false.

Have fun -- Dick

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