The Disposition of Information LO29464

From: leo minnigh (
Date: 11/05/02

Replying to LO29433 --

Dear LO'ers, dear At,

I have worked for many years in a large university library. That period
was in the middle of the 'information revolution' - the upcoming of
electronically transferred information ofwhich Internet is a part. In the
beginning of that period there was sympathetic sound (who remembers that
sound yet?) of type writers and the little bell when the end of the line
was reached. Then, the first PC's were introduced and the avalanche
started. Now, that library is more a cable ware house than a book and
journal ware house; even the personel seems to loose contact with
information on paper. Their grins became smily's, their words bits and
bytes. During meetings the people communicated with beamers and Power
Point. I left that strange environment in the beginning of this year.

At has stipulated that information is something else than knowledge. He
also put our attention to information from nature, information from
humans. I like to add some of my thoughts to this dialogue.

Maybe it is wise to start with the word *information* : something that in
- forms, reshaping the inner. It creates or forms something inside us.
Sometimes it will become knowledge. What is this *something*? In my mind
it all starts with a sign. A sign which possibly is recognised as a
signal. And a signal that probably becomes information. Science is nothing
else than the recognition of signals. These signals become information as
soon as they generate thoughts. Usually these thoughts are in the form of
questions such as "how comes?", "why?", "what?", or "what does it mean?".
This chain of reactions (sign - signal - information - questions/thoughts)
is so smooth that one easily think that signs are the final link of the
chain, knowledge. But if we consider each of these links, we immediately
realise how rediculous this conclusion is. Nobody will argue that traffic
lights are knowledge. These signs - signals - information - "what does it
mean?" genarate some thoughts and hopefully a reaction when the light
jumps to red (these days this means accelerating :-). The possible
confusion starts when human signs are recognised as information created
through the mind work of another human. However, a written text, the page
full of characters could also seen as a work of pictural art. Poems have a
little bit this effect, because of the possible balanced decorative
composition of the page. Differences between cheap printed books and
expensive ones are clearly observable from the lay-out. Is lay-out
information? Yes it is, because it triggers the thoughts about the quality
of the book.

Nature is one huge cinema of signs. For At and many others these signs are
signals and information. But also for nature itself. I just finished a
short walk with the dog and I was looking for signs (and thus in this case
signals). It is autumn in Holland and thus there are a lot of coulored
leaves on the ground and still in the trees. What is the meaning of this
signal? Yes, it means that it is autumn which thought is further sustained
by the low position of the sun, the temperature, humidity, etc. All signs
became signals, information and thoughts. I was wondering what the signals
were for nature to change itself to autumn. What was the signal for the
chlorophyl in the leaves to retreat into the trunk, waiting for another
signal in the spring. What was the signal for the birds not to start
building a nest, but migrate to other areas? What are the signals for
those animals which start their wintersleep? Was it the 'rain' of leaves
the fell off the trees (to use these leaves to build their winter home;
law temperatures without a heap of leaves is deadly for a lot of these
animals). Most of the time it are several signals which are mentally
combined - and thus in - formation.

Does the chlorophyl has knowledge??

Our most important information is language, or better formulated -
language is a mean to transport information. And since our brains is an
efficient machinary, they will be lasy if they could. Therefore written
language is developed. As soon as something is written, we may forget this
information, because we could regenerate this information at any moment
that we read it. Diaries were not necessary if our memory is endless.
Written information is in some way an external store of our memory. This
is maybe another reason why some people think that information is
knowledge. But again, written information is strictly spoke nothing else
than a bunch of signs. These signs are called characters, as if these
patches of ink have a hidden character.

A last remark. The evolution of our characters is very intriguing. As At
told us, characters only work between different humans if these humans know
to the code and know how to decode these signs.
Dwig has explained some time ago how the computer language MS DOS evolved
and why this inefficient language still is in use. What surprises me is how
and why in the past humans were strong enough to throw inefficient language
signs away and starteed with a complete new set of characters. Why and how
did the Mesopotamic cuneiform vanished and replaced by another set of signs?
Why started the Romans with another set of signs than the Greek used,
despite the intense communication between them? Why are the very intelligent
Egyptian hieroglyphs replaced by something else? And why is MS DOS still in

Leo Minnigh

>From: "AM de Lange" <>
> Thank you Dwig for taking up this intrigueing point. The more we explore
> it with dialogue, the more we will learn about knowledge and information
> Allow me to first make a comment on my concepts of knowledge and
> information.
> I cannot remember when I became aware that "knowledge dwells within" while
> "information exists outside". But after a couple of years employed by the
> present university I wrote an article for its journal on lecturing issues.
> I think that in i first in it articulated this tressing the liveness of
> knowledge which information does not have. I assumed that many other
> people also made this distinction. But in 1995 I subscribed to a
> listserver in the Netherlands which mails weekly information on every
> major event in the world of artificial intelligence and informatics. The
> increasing flood of announcements on Knowledge Management and the hundreds
> of top academical brass from universities all over the world refered to in
> them, showed me the fallacy of my assumption. Far too many highly
> qualified people for my comfort think that information can have knowledge
> in it. It is then when I began to observe how many ordinary people also
> confuse knowledge with information.
[..snip by your host...]


leo minnigh <>

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