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Consciousness and the Paranormal — Part 12

Merchandise that’s just out of this world!

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
@marduk
I think your understanding of the concept of information is narrow. I recommend The Concept of Information especially the section titled "information as an interdisciplinary concept" Also he cites Schrader who has studied 700 definitions of 'information science'.
By that reasoning, wouldn't any particular definition used to support any particular position e.g. that "information doesn't exist" also be narrow?
 

Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
By that reasoning, wouldn't any particular definition used to support any particular position e.g. that "information doesn't exist" also be narrow?
possibly. But if you are to say that info does exist you then have to say what it is that is exists. You can't say info exists in virtue of what it is not or what it is potentially. And if you say that info is not linked to meaning, then that concept itself threatens to become meaningless, that is, physically irrelevant, unless you are to say that physicality can exist without meaning, which I don't think is a viable position. If info requires meaning to exist then its key is in the action of meaning-making, which is to say it only exists when meaning makes it so ie it doesn't exist in reality or as a concept on its own.
In other words, taking a skeptical view on info is a much easier stance to defend because one is not in the position of having to explain what it is. The accusation of being narrow only can apply really to those info realists who say info is such and such and only such and such.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Very relevant to the concepts I was asking Jerry to clarify during the last show when he introduced the idea of "experience anomalies" and "event anomalies". I've since been scolded for calling one of the esteemed Mr Clark's assumptions impossible based on the sheer unforgiving logic of the situation.
I think the crux of the problem with the concept of 'information' as variously formulated in the hard sciences is that presuppositional deterministic thinking remains at the root of the effort by materialists/physicalists/objectivists to reduce 'information' to something entirely given, mechanistically, in the world without recognizing that anything 'comprehensible' cannot exist without a mind to comprehend it, or attempt to comprehend it. This seems to be at the core of your very interesting conversation with Jerome Clark over the last two hours of the recent Paracast interview in which he explores the difference between experience anomalies and event anomalies. He opens the door to the enormous relevance of 'para-normal' experiences of various types, recorded throughout human history, to the investigation of consciousness. I want to finish listening to the program before commenting further.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
I think the crux of the problem with the concept of 'information' as variously formulated in the hard sciences is that presuppositional deterministic thinking remains at the root of the effort by materialists/physicalists/objectivists to reduce 'information' to something entirely given, mechanistically, in the world without recognizing that anything 'comprehensible' cannot exist without a mind to comprehend it, or attempt to comprehend it. This seems to be at the core of your very interesting conversation with Jerome Clark over the last two hours of the recent Paracast interview in which he explores the difference between experience anomalies and event anomalies. He opens the door to the enormous relevance of 'para-normal' experiences of various types, recorded throughout human history, to the investigation of consciousness. I want to finish listening to the program before commenting further.
Glad you're enjoying the episode. I comment further on the idea of what Jerry calls "binary thinking" as it relates to what he calls "experience anomalies" and attempting to think of them as something between A ( the objective) and B ( the subjective ). November 18, 2018 — Jerome Clark
 
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USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
possibly. But if you are to say that info does exist you then have to say what it is that is exists. You can't say info exists in virtue of what it is not or what it is potentially.
Well, I would suggest that you could do both depending on the situation. For example we could say that the alien symbols on the Roswell wreckage are alien information by virtue of them not being human information, and that there is potentially a lot more information in them than we know because we don't know how to interpret them.
And if you say that info is not linked to meaning, then that concept itself threatens to become meaningless, that is, physically irrelevant, unless you are to say that physicality can exist without meaning, which I don't think is a viable position.
Why can't physicality exist without meaning? For example the existence of that which we would call physical but remains undiscovered. To say that such a situation cannot happen would seem to contradict most of the history of the physical universe before humans came into the picture. You're not advocating subjective idealism ( I hope ).
If info requires meaning to exist then its key is in the action of meaning-making, which is to say it only exists when meaning makes it so ie it doesn't exist in reality or as a concept on its own.
That seems to make sense. But then what about the situation where information is created and used by intelligence alone? That is to say, an AI without the faculty to give "meaning" to anything? Hypothetically such an AI could create "useful data", but is "useful data" the same as "meaningful data".
In other words, taking a skeptical view on info is a much easier stance to defend because one is not in the position of having to explain what it is. The accusation of being narrow only can apply really to those info realists who say info is such and such and only such and such.
Again it seems to me that sometimes specific situations require specific ( rather than broad ) parameters in order to work. Therefore a "narrow" definition for a particular situation might be perfectly valid, even better than a broad one. What does seem relevant is getting the differences in context so that we know which definitions are applicable to whatever situation we find ourselves dealing with. In simplest terms, it doesn't seem like the answer is a "one size fits all" type situation.
 
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Constance

Paranormal Adept
1.
By that reasoning, wouldn't any particular definition used to support any particular position e.g. that "information doesn't exist" also be narrow?
My impression is that what @Pharoah is saying concerns the impossibility of limiting, thus reducing, what 'information' is -- as it arises in lived understanding/partial comprehension of 'what-is' for us and other animals -- to purely objective and mechanical processes in nature that could be discovered without the prerequisites of lived experience, awareness, consciousness, and mind.


2.
Your link has a typo, this seems to work:

The Concept of Information
Excellent, Steve [@smcder], and very helpful. Out of the linked articles highlighted there I plucked this one:
DEFINING INFORMATION: THE SITE OF STRUGGLE at Defining information: the site of struggle

I think that as a librarian and a deep thinker you will be impressed with what the author has to offer in this dissertation. Following the front matter, read Chapter One, also entitled "Defining information: the site of struggle," beginning on page 11.


3. I also want to foreground and underscore this essential and ramifying statement made by @Pharoah in recent exchanges with Randall:

"If info requires meaning to exist then its key is in the action of meaning-making, which is to say it only exists when meaning makes it so ie it doesn't exist in reality or as a concept on its own."
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Recapitulating the most recent exchange here:

"Today at 2:02 AM
New #165

Pharoah said:
. . . possibly. But if you are to say that info does exist you then have to say what it is that is exists. You can't say info exists in virtue of what it is not or what it is potentially.

Randall: Well, I would suggest that you could do both depending on the situation. For example we could say that the alien symbols on the Roswell wreckage are alien information by virtue of them not being human information, and that there is potentially a lot more information in them than we know because we don't know how to interpret them.

Pharoah: And if you say that info is not linked to meaning, then that concept itself threatens to become meaningless, that is, physically irrelevant, unless you are to say that physicality can exist without meaning, which I don't think is a viable position.

Randall: Why can't physicality exist without meaning? For example the existence of that which we would call physical but remains undiscovered. To say that such a situation cannot happen would seem to contradict most of the history of the physical universe before humans came into the picture. You're not advocating subjective idealism ( I hope ).

Pharoah: If info requires meaning to exist then its key is in the action of meaning-making, which is to say it only exists when meaning makes it so ie it doesn't exist in reality or as a concept on its own.

Randall: That seems to make sense. But then what about the situation where information is created and used by intelligence alone? That is to say, an AI without the faculty to give "meaning" to anything? Hypothetically such an AI could create "useful data", but is "useful data" the same as "meaningful data".

Pharoah: In other words, taking a skeptical view on info is a much easier stance to defend because one is not in the position of having to explain what it is. The accusation of being narrow only can apply really to those info realists who say info is such and such and only such and such.

Randall: Again it seems to me that sometimes specific situations require specific ( rather than broad ) parameters in order to work. Therefore a "narrow" definition for a particular situation might be perfectly valid, even better than a broad one. What does seem relevant is getting the differences in context so that we know which definitions are applicable to whatever situation we find ourselves dealing with. In simplest terms, it doesn't seem like the answer is a "one size fits all" type situation."


I reproduce the above exchange so that others of us can come to grips with the differences between Pharoah's and Randall's approaches to the very large question of what 'information' as increasingly conceptualized in our present technologically interpreted world culture actually means in terms of our understanding of the history of our species and the development of our thinking, especially as criticized in the discipline of philosophy and especially in its key subdiscipline of ontology.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Extract from the above-referenced Australian dissertation by Susan Myburgh entitled DEFINING INFORMATION: THE SITE OF STRUGGLE. Here is an extract from Myburgh's introductory chapter:

"Chapter 1. Defining information: the site of struggle

Librarians and other traditional information professionals, such as records managers, archivists and museum curators, have long been the almost invisible, but nonetheless omnipresent and indispensable, guardians of the records of human thought, creation, discovery and invention. Through the embodiment of their professions in collections of selected and managed documents, these information professions (IPs) have established a long-standing leitmotif of expert service, based on providing access to documents on a socially and institutionally co-operative and non-profit basis, for the purpose of individual and social development.

However, change is a key and ongoing feature of contemporary life due to a combination of social, economic, technological and educational trends, which bring with them individual, organisational, institutional and cultural challenges. The past three decades have been particularly eventful for the information discipline and its practices, with increasing interest in postmodernism, as well as the growth of digital documents, increasing globalisation, social networking and interactive document creation, leading to the growing involvement of technologists in information work.

The discipline and profession of Library and Information Science (LIS) now faces a number of challenges: it suffers from a generally poor public image, based on a lack of understanding of what information professionals do; the development of new, rival, information professions; disparity between existing aims and changing information needs and problems resulting in an inadequate and out of date sense of social mission; modifications to the practices of information work; direct competition with libraries from various media as sources of information and entertainment; the constraints of the LIS habitus; the orthogonal nature of the study of information which cuts across other disciplinary formations centred on specific subject content; and a lack of conceptual clarity concerning the chief object of their knowledge domain, „information‟.

The predicament is compounded by the already complex problems created by the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the concomitant changing social and economic context. The literature of LIS is replete with suggestions, whether at the level of fully-developed research report or illustrative anecdote (e.g. Birdsall, 1994; Harris and Hannah, 1993; Herring, 2001; Akerman, 2006; Hambrick, 2005; Hirschey, 2006; Stephens, 2006) that the IPs, including the practitioners, the collections of documents they manage, and the programs that educate them, are obsolete, or at the very least will become increasingly redundant because of ICTs[1,2]. Libraries and information centres are having their funding cut, or being closed down completely [3,4].

. . . The changes that have occurred in information work over time – notably specialisation and divergence – have created discontinuities in the meaning of „information‟ within the IPs, disregarding the use of the term in any other context. In particular, there was a time when „information‟ and „document‟ were, to all intents and purposes, synonymous. Unless one was able to communicate directly with the creator of ideas, they were accessible only if they had been recorded. Those who managed documents effectively managed information by providing physical and intellectual access to recorded ideas.

The research problem for this work stems from the lack of acknowledgement of the difference between these two concepts, which is increasingly obvious with the development of ICTs. „Data‟, now often understood to be a synonym for „information‟, assumes that „information‟ is related exclusively to computer technologies. The shifts in these terms alone indicate that there is an urgent need for a reconceptualisation of the IPs, and the development of a theoretical framework which identifies both the core and the boundaries of information work. . . ."

Defining information: the site of struggle

{note: chapter 1 begins on page 11 at the link}
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
@marduk
I think your understanding of the concept of information is narrow. I recommend [site offline] especially the section titled "information as an interdisciplinary concept" Also he cites Schrader who has studied 700 definitions of 'information science'.
I got a 404 on that link, sorry.

I'm a math guy, and 'information' has a very specific meaning to me. One that I think leads to confusion if it's not formally defined, especially when linking to such topics as being discussed here.
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
Extract from the above-referenced Australian dissertation by Susan Myburgh entitled DEFINING INFORMATION: THE SITE OF STRUGGLE. Here is an extract from Myburgh's introductory chapter:

"Chapter 1. Defining information: the site of struggle

Librarians and other traditional information professionals, such as records managers, archivists and museum curators, have long been the almost invisible, but nonetheless omnipresent and indispensable, guardians of the records of human thought, creation, discovery and invention. Through the embodiment of their professions in collections of selected and managed documents, these information professions (IPs) have established a long-standing leitmotif of expert service, based on providing access to documents on a socially and institutionally co-operative and non-profit basis, for the purpose of individual and social development.

However, change is a key and ongoing feature of contemporary life due to a combination of social, economic, technological and educational trends, which bring with them individual, organisational, institutional and cultural challenges. The past three decades have been particularly eventful for the information discipline and its practices, with increasing interest in postmodernism, as well as the growth of digital documents, increasing globalisation, social networking and interactive document creation, leading to the growing involvement of technologists in information work.

The discipline and profession of Library and Information Science (LIS) now faces a number of challenges: it suffers from a generally poor public image, based on a lack of understanding of what information professionals do; the development of new, rival, information professions; disparity between existing aims and changing information needs and problems resulting in an inadequate and out of date sense of social mission; modifications to the practices of information work; direct competition with libraries from various media as sources of information and entertainment; the constraints of the LIS habitus; the orthogonal nature of the study of information which cuts across other disciplinary formations centred on specific subject content; and a lack of conceptual clarity concerning the chief object of their knowledge domain, „information‟.

The predicament is compounded by the already complex problems created by the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the concomitant changing social and economic context. The literature of LIS is replete with suggestions, whether at the level of fully-developed research report or illustrative anecdote (e.g. Birdsall, 1994; Harris and Hannah, 1993; Herring, 2001; Akerman, 2006; Hambrick, 2005; Hirschey, 2006; Stephens, 2006) that the IPs, including the practitioners, the collections of documents they manage, and the programs that educate them, are obsolete, or at the very least will become increasingly redundant because of ICTs[1,2]. Libraries and information centres are having their funding cut, or being closed down completely [3,4].

. . . The changes that have occurred in information work over time – notably specialisation and divergence – have created discontinuities in the meaning of „information‟ within the IPs, disregarding the use of the term in any other context. In particular, there was a time when „information‟ and „document‟ were, to all intents and purposes, synonymous. Unless one was able to communicate directly with the creator of ideas, they were accessible only if they had been recorded. Those who managed documents effectively managed information by providing physical and intellectual access to recorded ideas.

The research problem for this work stems from the lack of acknowledgement of the difference between these two concepts, which is increasingly obvious with the development of ICTs. „Data‟, now often understood to be a synonym for „information‟, assumes that „information‟ is related exclusively to computer technologies. The shifts in these terms alone indicate that there is an urgent need for a reconceptualisation of the IPs, and the development of a theoretical framework which identifies both the core and the boundaries of information work. . . ."

Defining information: the site of struggle

{note: chapter 1 begins on page 11 at the link}
I believe the definition of data is simply facts and figures. For example, the following is a set of data: {1,1,2,3,5,8}. Without context it actually has no meaning. It's just data.

The following is information: 'the following set is the first six elements of the fibonacci sequence: {1,1,2,3,5,8}.' Which can be compressed by saying 'fibonacci sequence n:1->6'.
 

smcder

Paranormal Adept
I got a 404 on that link, sorry.

I'm a math guy, and 'information' has a very specific meaning to me. One that I think leads to confusion if it's not formally defined, especially when linking to such topics as being discussed here.
I changed the link, there was a typo, see my post.

What's your math background?
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
Analysis, algebra, geometry? Grad/undergrad?
BSc in comp sci with a focus in AI and VLSI, then some post-grad in pure math before I gave my head a shake and got a real job.
Double minor in philosophy and math.

My math focus was number theory, discrete math, that sort of thing. It got really weird, I'd do math all day long and fill up several lecture hall chalkboards with math, and yet used no numbers at all.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
I believe the definition of data is simply facts and figures. For example, the following is a set of data: {1,1,2,3,5,8}. Without context it actually has no meaning. It's just data.

The following is information: 'the following set is the first six elements of the fibonacci sequence: {1,1,2,3,5,8}.' Which can be compressed by saying 'fibonacci sequence n:1->6'.
I think that to comprehend the 'site of struggle' referred to in the dissertation I linked we likely need to follow up in reading many sections of the site Steve linked, as I recall titled "The Concept of Information." I still have to explore that site myself.
 

Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
I got a 404 on that link, sorry.

I'm a math guy, and 'information' has a very specific meaning to me. One that I think leads to confusion if it's not formally defined, especially when linking to such topics as being discussed here.
I appreciate that... I don’t have an issue with mathematicians using a concept (like information) to develop models about the world. But from a philosophical approach there are issues with the conclusions those individuals then draw one of which is that such concepts (like information and numbers) actually exist.
 

Pharoah

Paranormal Adept
Well, I would suggest that you could do both depending on the situation. For example we could say that the alien symbols on the Roswell wreckage are alien information by virtue of them not being human information, and that there is potentially a lot more information in them than we know because we don't know how to interpret them.

Why can't physicality exist without meaning? For example the existence of that which we would call physical but remains undiscovered. To say that such a situation cannot happen would seem to contradict most of the history of the physical universe before humans came into the picture. You're not advocating subjective idealism ( I hope ).

That seems to make sense. But then what about the situation where information is created and used by intelligence alone? That is to say, an AI without the faculty to give "meaning" to anything? Hypothetically such an AI could create "useful data", but is "useful data" the same as "meaningful data".

Again it seems to me that sometimes specific situations require specific ( rather than broad ) parameters in order to work. Therefore a "narrow" definition for a particular situation might be perfectly valid, even better than a broad one. What does seem relevant is getting the differences in context so that we know which definitions are applicable to whatever situation we find ourselves dealing with. In simplest terms, it doesn't seem like the answer is a "one size fits all" type situation.
Your last point relates to my previous post. By all means have your narrow definitions and applications. But don’t then make statements of a broader nature based on that narrow stance...
I’m finding this a bit tricking on a mobile. I’ll have to get to a computer...
 

marduk

quelling chaos since 2352BC
I appreciate that... I don’t have an issue with mathematicians using a concept (like information) to develop models about the world. But from a philosophical approach there are issues with the conclusions those individuals then draw one of which is that such concepts (like information and numbers) actually exist.
I get it, although that’s the whole point of pure math - the assertion that such ideas can be generalized across multiple domains.

This is a thorny topic between pure math guys and physicists for sure.

The problem can roughly be stated as this: do concepts like i actually exist? A pure math person would likely say yes. A cosmologist would likely say maybe. An astronomer would likely say no (in my opinion).

Whatever your position might be, I think language and the meanings of words are very important. Once you start to re-define precise terms, you’re just hand waiving as far as I’m concerned.

This is also why people that argue about “dimensions” drive me up the wall.
 

Constance

Paranormal Adept
Something for your Christmas Stocking:

https://www.amazon.com/Plato-Googleplex-Philosophy-Wont-Away-ebook/dp/B00F1W0D90/ref=pd_cp_351_2?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_p=ef4dc990-a9ca-4945-ae0b-f8d549198ed6&pf_rd_r=21A4HDVFQ81EWJCN45F2&pd_rd_wg=2hMmS&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&pd_rd_w=Njchs&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pd_rd_r=eb617f1d-f279-11e8-964f-c758f514dd56&pd_rd_i=B00F1W0D90&psc=1&refRID=21A4HDVFQ81EWJCN45F2

At the amazon link, click to open the text sample and read the Prologue.


Goldstein was married (perhaps still is) to Daniel Dennett. She has published a number of books concerning philosophy, science, and mathematics that might be of interest to those visiting this thread. More about her background and her books, along with a bibliography at wikipedia:

Rebecca Goldstein - Wikipedia
 
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