The Disposition of Information LO29451

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 11/04/02

Replying to LO29439 --

Dear Orgamlearners,

Don Dwiggins <> writes:

>This touches to some extent on my confusion. Certainly, in
>communication between computers, we need this kind of
>reversibility. If the receiving computer creates a representation
>of the encoded information that's not isomorphic to that of the
>sending computer, bad effects will shortly occur.
>However, reversibility has never been part of my understanding
>of information passed among humans. In fact, there are many
>social institutions that devote considerable effot just to achieve
>a "sufficient degree of alignment" within a community over the
>meaning of certain repositories of information such as laws,
>religious texts, and literature.

Greetings dear Dwig,

Let us not take this lightly. The question of which is real or imaginary,
reversibility or irreversibility, is one of the great sagas of the
physical sciences. My own thinking is that both are real with
reversibility as the lower limit of irreversibility and bifurcations as
its upper limit.

As i now understand it, it is the irreversibility of the mind which begins
to create assoiciations between the bits of data of information and thus
gives seemingly irreversibility to information. As a result of a magnesium
deficiency and thus using less oxygen in the mitochondria of my cells to
convert fuel into energy, i feel acutely how the irreversibility of my
mind decreases as the day becomes older.

>In fact, I have to wonder about the truth (or possibly the
>usefulness) of saying "information is dead". Is the Bible
>dead, or the works of Ben Franklin, which have recently
>been transforming your knowledge, seemingly at all levels?
>And I can't escape the feeling that, through the information
>you and I are exchanging through this list, my knowledge is
>interacting with your knowledge, however asynchronously
>and awkwardly.

Perhaps my word "dead" is too harsh for even in molecules there is
fantastic motion. What i mean is that it is impossible for information to
give rise to new information. For that to happen, a knowing mind is

At our Bible study group we are deeply aware of this. When we begin with
our study (which takes an hour), we read the next verse. (We seldom manage
to study two verses.) We seemingly understand what that verse means. But
then we begin to relate it to the rest of the Bible (like with word
associations) as well as our experiences. As we do this, each speaking
freely, the contents of that verse seems to become alive to each of us,
getting a depth of meaning which is impossible with a superficial reading.
But i think what is actually happening, is that the knowledge of each of
us is making contact with that of the others. It is as if a "group
knowledge"emerges of which the Holy Spirit is leading it. But to say that
all which we had spoken in an evening, which is but information, came from
that verse itself, makes no sense to me. A verse is a verse and nothing

>Here's an analogy, as a next attempt to resolve my
>confusion: a piece of information is like an organic
>molecule -- not alive in itself, but capable of sustaining
>(or transforming) the life of a living entity that ingests it
>(a peculiar kind of ingestion, in which the molecule isn't
>destroyed, but remains available for another entity to
>ingest). These pieces can be small molecules, or very
>large and complex, such as the works of Polanyi on the
>tacit dimension.

I understand what you mean. But allow me to elaborate on your analogy.

The molecules which you speak of, have to be released by ensymes from the
food which you eat. Nothing larger can move trough the walls of the
intestines. Polanyi's work on the Tacit Dimension also have to be broken
down by "enzymes" to become assimilated mentally. These "enzymes" are
provided by the knowing mind and do not occur in Polanyi's book.

>On the other hand, I wouldn't classify the distinctive
>above-ground shape of a F angolensis as information in
>itself -- although the description above is certainly
>information, and well worth "ingesting" for those
>spending a serious amount of time in your deserts. (In
>Arizona, you'd need other information.)

I like your clear distinction between the form of the object and my
description of it -- the first is not information while the second is

In Arizona i would probably look for a cactus and then something to get
rid of its thorns ;-) A cactus without thorns like Lophophora willaimsii
(Mexican button) would spell disaster (the drug mescalin). This is
nature's way to protect its water, underground tuber, spines and poisons.
In South Africa we even have a succulent looking exactly like the
droppings of a baboon! You would not touch it.

>Weave and spin,weave and spin...

Exactly! Thank you very much.

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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