The Disposition of Information LO29453

From: Damle, Dileep (
Date: 11/04/02

Replying to LO29439 --


A wonderful set of statements that make a lot of sense. What I might
store in my equivalent of the Fockea plant is something like:-

 1. Information can be active or dormant.
 2. When used, information goes through a non-reversible process in that
the transformation that occurred in the recipient cannot be decoded to
reveal the cause of that transformation accurately and unambiguously.
 3. In nature, information isn't being broadcast or advertised, but it is
the activity of sentient beings (Bees dancing or humans talking) that
creates active information.
 4. Such information may become worthless to the recipient who has
transformed it, but reusable by other recipients.

Some thoughts on this -

Firstly, you say that the reversibility is needed by computers, but you
say - 'reversibility has not been part of my understanding of information
passed among humans'. But surely, humans have evolved languages and
scripts as well as grammatical and syntactical rules for that very reason.
Isn't that why we have specialist notations in many scientific fields?
If 'natural languages' are imprecise (which they are if your goal is
error-free, reversible transmission), then isn't that because the scope of
experience and ideas that natural languages must deal with is so huge and
we have not reached perfection in this area. And, computer communication
is essentially limited because they can only use reversible
encoding/decoding and we don't know how to program them to deal with this
huge challenge that humans using natural languages deal with, with varying
degrees of success?

Now, it is possible to argue that the irreversibility (I'd prefer
low-fidelity transmission) is what makes life interesting, rewarding and
is the basis of our free will, creativity, humanity whatever. But, if our
intention is to communicate better, or to store information and knowledge
in a reusable way, then perhaps we need to go for improving reversibility,
do we not?

I particularly value your point that information is essentially language
oriented. And I would argue that the 'passive information' you talk about
is 'facts'. When someone thinks something, like a pattern is worth
communicating, it becomes information and the medium they must use to
communicate it is some kind of language (speech, text, gestural, etc.).

Going back to computers, I think that it will be very useful for some people
to concentrate on teaching computers to understand natural languages. This
I believe, can have two effects
 1. Computing might make great advances in their ability to fit with us
humans rather than the other way round and become partners (Many people
today want to see them as servants, or fear them as potential masters).
 2. In teaching computers about natural languages, we learn about natural
languages and about ourselves. This could lead to improvements there.
(Children are transforming the way we write Roman script based languages
and overthrowing the tyranny of archaic baggage of spelling idiosyncrasies
due to text messaging. This is where great proponents of simple spelling
such as Shaw have failed).


Dileep Damle MSc, MBA
Knowledge Technology Manager
Abbey National plc
01908 345438


"Damle, Dileep" <>

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