The Disposition of Information LO29366

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 10/21/02

Replying to LO29343 --

Dear Organlearners,

Dileep Damle <> writes:

>You wrote -
>> because I often perceive information and its use as unnatural.
> - Why? Life depends on using information about food,
> predators, dangers, shelter, safety and so on. Without
> senses which make use of information around us life
> wouldn't be possible. Is life unnatural?

Greetings dear Dileep,

Perhaps i should have written "I often perceive information produced by
humans and its use as unnatural". But i decided against it because it
opens up some pretty rough questions. Such a qualification will entail
that there is also information not produced by humans.

We might accept that the barking of a dog is information produced by "dog
knowledge". But what is the difference between a dog barking, a snake
hissing, a cricket screeching and a waterfall splashing? Degrees of
knowledge in the making of the information? I am beginning to think that
by thinking of this barking, hissing, etc., as information that we are
anthropomorhising nature, i.e., giving nature some human form.

>.....(snip) and then on Tuesday Ralph Stacey of University
>of Hertfordshire in UK led a workshop on Complexity
>theory and KM. He insists that knowledge is only in the
>interactions between people, because people are modified
>during that interaction.

I do not think so. For example, i have explored many a desert and they
with their geology, climate, plants and animals have changed my knowledge
considerably. Stacey's definition would then entail that deserts also have

>- For example, if someone from Continental Europe came
>to Britain and was told that 'In Britain, cars are driven on
>the left hand side of the road'. Is this knowledge or information?
>Now Ralph says that until the person uses this there is no
>knowledge. I would accept that this information is stored
>in the mind/brain. But when the person uses it it is knowledge.

Firstly, the "until the person USES this...." hinders me. For example,
again i refer to my desert excursions. I have acquired a lot of knowledge
there which i never used there or even somewhere else. And it is
definitely not information because some of it followed after deep and hard

Secondly, i think that the moment when that person compared the "left-hand
drive" information to the knowledge of driving in his/her own country, it
is not information anymore, but has become knowledge.

> - And then there is trust . In Cyprus, Tobago and India
>they all drive on the left. In Cyprus this is mostly true. In
>Tobago this is sometime true. In India, you can never rely
>on it. So, there is an element of trust required here, isn't
>there. Now is it the information that requires it or the

Thank you for the laugh. You could have used South Africa rather than
India as example ;-) What fellow learners read here, is information. But
ten minutes on some of the notorious roads in Pretoria will afford them
knowledge -- being able to recognise reckless drivers.

>>Jan Smuts, the father of holism, would have said that the
>>plant (knowledge) is the whole and that the nutrients
>>(information) is its field. Wholeness, for him, consists of
>>any whole with its field. Holism, for him, is the increase
>>of that wholeness in both the whole and its field. The whole
>>(plant or knowledge) increases its tissue so that its roots
>>can be extended into the soil and its branches into the air.
>>The field (nutrients or information) increases by the plant
>>giving through its leaves nutrients back to the soil and
>>improving through its roots the permeability of the soil and
>>thus the solubility of nutrients.
> - Isn't that because, to Jan and yourself 'wholeness' is good
>and so is 'knowledge', and so the analogy links those two
>together? But Information (or rather data) is whole because
>all of it exists.

I do hope that i will never slip and say that wholeness is "good" ;-)

Wholeness is essential to life like my heart is essential to my living
body. When X is not essential to Z, it can be removed without destroying
the existence of Z. Now consider the sentence "When X is not essential to,
it can be removed without destroying the existence of". I have removed the
Z from the previous sentence and the remainder still exists. It is still
information, but now I cannot create a sure meaning out of it.

>You see a rose, smell it, touch it, perhaps even taste it and
>hear it being rubbed or something. That is the whole potential
>experience. Someone who is further away may only see it,
>a blind person may only smell it and so on. So, may be that
>is information (selective and not whole).

I would not want to call whatever comes from the rose to my five sense
organs as information. Nevertheless, when i close my eyes so that i can
only smell the rose and then think that the rose is less because of only
smelling it, i am decreasing the wholeness of my knowing.

>- Surely, our knowledge about many things is fragmented.
>As humankind, today we know a lot about our universe,
>but it made of parcels that are useful. A surgeon knows
>his piece and the astronomer his piece. And neither knows
>everything about their own field.

The point which i wanted to make is that information is organised into
"parcels" while knowledge ought to have wholeness. For example, in
cyberspace these "parcels" are known as files. I wrote "ought", but i know
how much even my own knowledge is still not whole enough.

I have a young friend which is a civil engineer. He is now doing research
on a bio-degrading sewage system having a zero bio-load on the
environment. Suddenly he has to learn how to fit chemistry, geology,
climate, microbiology, botany and ecology together with his knowledge on
civil engineering into one big whole. Last Saturday we inspected some
filters, exploring them from every possible thinking angle, when he
suddenly exclaimed "How fragmentary and thus dangerous is our knowledge

> - Surely, that is because we can and the animals can't. Only
>humans draw pictures or write text. Animals make noises
>and gestures, emit pheromones and humans do all these things.
>We sing, make music, dance to tell stories and so on. It's just
>that the ability to draw, write is more economical. Once done,
>used many times and over a long time period.

We have become so used to our way of living that once we go to a pristine
place where our cultural possesions are not available, we do not know what
to do with ourselves our how to explore that place with all five senses. I
know because i myself had "cold turkey" after the third day in my first
journey into a desert. I wanted to get back to home, never to do it again.

>- Sorry. I am a Hindu. Please check your facts about the
>Vedas. They were not written for many centuries, but
>passed through teaching and memory. In that they must
>have evolved. They do not prescribe or claim to be the
>ONLY source of knowledge.

Dileep, you have understood me wrongly. I did not write that these
documents prescribe or claim to be the ONLY source of knowledge, but that
certain people do so, insisting on their literal interpretation.

>I feel I am now in danger of carrying on with this when tired
>and doing it badly. I'll stop here, At. I hope this is useful.

I feel now the same. As for your
> - Please expand, this is too difficult to grasp.
with respect to the cultural environment also giving meaning to the
information of a document, i will leave it for another time when feeling

Thank you very much for your response. It made me think deep (and tired

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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