Saturday, February 19, 2011

Meaning vs. information ...

I have bumped this post because I only skimmed the review before I posted it. I have now read it fairly carefully, and plan on reading it yet again. It has much bearing on life as we now live it. It seems, for instance, pertinent to the WikiLeaks business. Talk about the separation of information and knowledge. WikiLeaks provides information. Determining the meaning of that information is something altogether different, and those who think they know more about what is going on in the world simply from the information provided by WikiLeaks are, I believe, deluding themselves.

... Freeman Dyson on How We Know. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Even physics, the most exact and most firmly established branch of science, is still full of mysteries. We do not know how much of Shannon’s theory of information will remain valid when quantum devices replace classical electric circuits as the carriers of information. Quantum devices may be made of single atoms or microscopic magnetic circuits. All that we know for sure is that they can theoretically do certain jobs that are beyond the reach of classical devices. Quantum computing is still an unexplored mystery on the frontier of information theory. Science is the sum total of a great multitude of mysteries. It is an unending argument between a great multitude of voices. It resembles Wikipedia much more than it resembles the Encyclopaedia Britannica.


  1. To simplify: context is everything.

  2. I was writing a column that had some bearing on this question, and coming upon Dyson's review forced me to go back to the drawing boards. Context certainly figures, but there is a good deal more to it than that, I think. I'll know better when I finish the column.