|INFORMATION: The meaning in a message about the form of some thing or situation|
In the general circumstances of everyday living... of eating and drinking and sex and gardening and sleeping...
one builds a survival model of existence by interpreting sensory and symbolic messages
for the 'meanings' they contain,
and then using those decoded awarenesses to fabricate a network of associations according as to how significantly
the 'meanings' appeal.
One awareness eats a portion of a ripe apple... experiences pleasurable taste sensations... and 'stores' the experience decoded from the taste sensors, in such a way that it forms part of an existence survival model that reconstructs the eating of apples as a positive option. If another awareness had an allergic reaction to the sampling of the same ripe apple, then by contrast, its existence survival model would reconstruct the eating of apples as something to be avoided.
If a gardener wants to find out what species 'name' has been given to an apple tree, then he or she will interrogate a symbolic archive of some form... a dictionary, a botanical reference, the internet, etc,... and eventually discover that the alphabetic symbol sequence 'apple' will sometimes be associated with the symbol sequence 'Malus domestica'. If the gardener has an already established botanical knowledge model that includes flora classifications, then the message conveyed to the gardener is that the scientific community have given the name 'domestica' to the breeding population of all edible apples, and included them under a broader 'genus' classification 'Malus', which encompasses a collection of many other genetically similar 'species'. If the same gardener was curious about the 'names' that had been chosen, a little further investigation would discover that in the ancient language of Latin, 'Malus' was the name for 'apple tree' and 'domestica' meant 'belonging to the house or family', but that the reason they had then been then written in italics would require even further research.
When the consultant horticultural scientist needs to discover what pathogens are effecting all the apple trees in the orchard, he or she will select a range of biological and soil samples, take them back to a laboratory situation, and use such technological devices as microscopes and mass spectrographs to search for possible 'clues'. The messages from the instruments will then be decoded and evaluated as to their relevance... as elements in a knowledge model about the apple trees in the orchard being investigated... and the possibilities of remedial action be considered.
The sensory, archive referencing, and investigative activities outlined above are typical of the endless multitude of events that participate in the process of decoding symbolic messages in order to try and fabricate a knowledge model of existence. A gardener would probably not object using the word 'information' to describe the useful meaning of any of the decoded messages... and may not even quibble if words like 'data' and 'facts' and 'content' were casually used in the same context... and for the most part, a life of communication and learning and knowledge acquisition can proceed in a most satisfactory and pragmatic fashion. Biased epistemological considerations however, can very quickly introduce dilemmas and uncertainty.
The process... whereby an awareness builds an existential knowledge model... is so intrinsic
that the different focus groups will end up promoting and espousing their own biased perspectives by natural evolution.
A physical science suggestion that... 'the universe itself is made up of information'... seems to be just a renaming exercise. If my apple itself is now to be 'information'... what then am I to call the ideas and awareness I have about the apple?
A computer science approach that 'information'... 'is an ordered sequence of symbols' or ' is any sort of pattern that influences the transformation of another pattern'... does not appear to address the intrinsic presence of decoding and translation to get the 'meaning' of the symbolic message into an awareness.
Various 'philosophical' or 'epistemological' approaches... including this one... end up espousing statement-definitions which purport to encapsulate the entire information phenomena-process under a single linguistic umbrella.
As well as the one that heads this little essay, other contenders that are often proposed for what 'information' is. It is... 'another word for data'... the content of a message'... 'the answer to a question'... 'a collection of facts'... 'any propagation of cause and effect in a system'... and so on...
All of the above attempts taken together, present a mélange of conformities and logical contradictions, which, given the chaotic nature of language and the universe, will forever resist universal agreement. As happens in all other areas of human endeavour, the diverse focus groups will pragmatically choose and incorporate into their communal knowledge models, exactly what best serves their individual agendas.
If it ever came to pass, that a conference was proposed to negotiate an agreement as to what what 'information' was,
a gardening lobby would probably want to include the following factors and considerations as non-negotiable...
‣ It must include all forms of direct sensory reception.
‣ Its etymological origins imply that is must shape, instruct, educate and enform a knowledge model.
‣ It needs to be seen as the meaning of the content of a message, rather than the symbolic message itself.
‣ It must arrive or be delivered by some transmission process.
‣ In most cases... if not all... it will need to be viewed as the answer to a question.
‣ It must be seen to be different from the existential configuration that it is about.
‣ That it can be encrypted.
‣ That it involves probability, chaos and uncertainty.
‣ The question as to whether it can exist in the absence of a sensory awareness is irrelevant. Firstly, because it makes no practical difference whatever view is espoused. Who cares? Secondly, it is a question that is imbued with the arrogance human perspective, that only they are truly 'aware'. Only humans... is the claim... are rational and spiritual and can communicate with language and will live for evermore in a special holding pen...etc...etc... ad absurdum... DNA molecules can interact because they are 'aware' of one another. The configuration of one is the message to another. One molecule/strand will become 'aware' of another by a successful decoding of the information. Could it not even be argued that most of the universe is 'aware' of the rest by gravitational influence?
Since all information has a level of uncertainty, some procedures need to be put in place
to 'validate' it.
At the everyday level of survival, 'repeatability' is the prime strategy of course.
If only one apple had ever come loose from the tree and ended upon the ground we would still be
uncertain and arguing about it, but the innumerable repetitions of observing with our senses
innumerable apples ending up on the ground, we build the the information repetitions into
a knowledge model that is expressed by the sentence... 'all apples fall to the ground'...
If we want to validate the information of a password for an internet site, only one repetition is usually demanded.
If we want to validate the complex claim that... 'apples contain complex anti-oxidants that benefit human health'... we must conduct credible and repeatable scientific studies to support it.
Repeatability and the scientific method are the only pragmatic procedures for decreasing the uncertainty of information