What information does not have LO30714

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 10/16/03

Dear Organlearners,

Greetings to you all.

The ongoing dialogue on the topic "Knowledge and Information" triggered
this essay. I think that many fellow learners will claim that information
has knowledge in it. I would have done the same many years ago, but not
any more. In this essay i will explore some things which information does
not have in it. My purpose is to accentuate the difference between
information and knowledge.

Knowledge is for me something which lives in the mind of a person. With
such knowledge information can be created which exists primarily outside
the mind. Another person may memorise some information without integrating
it with his/her knowledge. Thus information can also exist in the mind,
but this is a secondary effect.

The knowledge system definitely operates as an irreversible
self-organising system. That is why I say that it LIVES in the mind of a
person. But what about the information system? Up to now it depends on
knowledge for its creation, existence and preservation. It has no
irreversible self-organisation such as knowledge has. Achieving this
irreversible self-organisation in information is perhaps the greatest
drive today in AI (Artificial Intelligence).

The first thing about information is that it lacks wholeness. It is
fragmented into millions of printed documents like books and journals and
now also in computer files on Internet in millions of computers. This lack
of wholeness is one of the main reasons why irreversible self-organisation
in information (AI) is still a dream. This is in stark contrast to
knowledge for which an increase in wholeness is requisite to its

The second thing about information is that does not have a tacit
dimension. It is always formulated in some or other code or language. It
can be a natural language like English or German. It can be in a technical
language like that of chemistry or biology. It can be a symbolic language
like that of mathematics or road signs. Knowledge of the information's
language is imperative to its interpretation. This language can also be
used to speculate on what the information failed to articulate. This is in
stark contrast to knowledge which also has a tacit dimension as Michael
Polanyi first pointed out -- "we know more than we can tell". When trying
to articulate some of this tacit knowing, we do it by questioning rather
than speculating.

The third thing about information is that lacks the capacity for
self-reflection. It is always intended to communicate some knowledge
between humans -- trans-reflection. Although information does not have
knowledge in it, the idea is to reflect some knowledge of the person who
has created it. In this sense it is a restricted image rather than perfect
image of some knowledge. It requires a minimum of knowledge from the
receiver to understand reasonably what the sender meant. The longer the
time and cultural differences between the sender and receiver, the more
difficult this understanding becomes. This is in stark contrast to
knowledge in which one part of it is used to understand another part of it

The fourth thing about information is that it lacks the dynamics of the
faculties of character like truth, beauty and ethics. It has a mere
symbolical value for these faculties. For example, there is no beauty in a
musical composition. The beauty manifests itself in a performance of it or
the imagination of a performance. There is no truth in the proof of a
logical argument. The truth manifests itself when the inferences are
checked step by step with the mind. This is in stark contrast to knowledge
which acts in unison with character, letting itself be guided by the
faculties of character and giving back further growth to these faculties.

A fifth thing about information is that is has no consciousness. The more
research is done on consciousness, the more difficult it becomes to say
what it really entails. In times long ago consciousness was identified
with the word soul. Information has no soul. Everybody talked about the
soul, but nobody ventured to say more than that the soul is aware of
itself and God. This is in stark contrast to knowledge which is conscious
not only of the soul, but also how much it does not know.

The sixth thing about information is that it cannot love. It can only
inform about love. All the books in all the libraries and all the computer
files on Internet cannot love any person. A person can love some books or
some files, but the reverse is not possible. A person can explore the
depths of love to know it better, but information can merely tell about
such explorations. Consider a rather crude example. Who will ever say that
the Bible loves humans? Yet the Bible is rich in information that God
loves humankind, information which often gets screwed up for opportunistic
gains. This absence of love in information is in stark contrast with
knowledge. How often do we wish that we know better to choose for love
rather than hate or for peace rather than war.

A seventh thing about information is that it lacks in authenticity. It is
like a second hand car. It can give you many thousands of miles of good
service, but it can also break down around the next corner, perhaps too
expensively to repair. By this i mean that information always has to be
viewed with suspicion. There is such a phenomenon as disinformation. There
is also such a phenomenon as subversive information. These phenomena are
in stark contrast to knowledge guided by character. A person with
character will not disclose any information to the detriment of fellow

I have not discussed the properties which information usually has. Many of
these properties tend to blur the difference between information and
knowledge. I have rather discussed seven of many things which lack in
information. Only one of those things is knowledge. Should we consider
only knowledge, it is easy to argue indefinitely whether information has
knowledge in it or not. But considering six other things which information
also does not have, can we still argue that information may have knowledge
in it?

I have some hesistation in mailing this essay. By accentuating the difference
between information and knowledge, using the essentiality
   otherness ("quality-diversity")
i have set up perhaps too great an entropic force. In the ensueing dialogue
(entropic flux of thoughts) the entropy production may become too much for
us to cope with it. Yet is necessary to have high entropy production for the
emergent learning on the nature of information and knowledge. This
emergent learning is necessary to become immune to the pathology of the
information explosion.

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <amdelange@postino.up.ac.za> 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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