Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reply to Comments

Jim Putnam and one of his commenters, Mac, were kind enough to offer comments on the last installment of the Information thread

Mr. Putnam states:
But I have a small point of disagreement:

What he describes here, in this specific essay, isn't information. It doesn't become information until it is recognized by the brain. It's merely a carrier, not matter how intricate or beautifully it has evolved to give us sight. ….. A map of that highway may be information, but the highway itself is not information.

Light wave/particles aren't information until they reach a means of converting and using them, in this case a brain. Until that point, it seems to me they're physical objects with no inherent informational qualities.
Later he says about recording thoughts:
…..The mind seems to conceive faster than words. I believe I think in words, in those cases where I actually do think as opposed to simply processing what's arriving through the senses, but recording thoughts is slow and laborious.
And Mac states:
While I'll admit to more than a bit of confusion on the subject, you (Putnam, drc) seem to be saying that 'information' comes into being only when acted on by the human brain. Although you do not use the term, it seems that to you, what exists prior to that human activity may be data, but is not information.
If nothing else, between you and Dr. C. there needs to be some agreement as to what this 'information' is that you are writing about.
Reply: Mr. Putnam’s point is entirely valid and it is a deficiency of my explanation that I did not make it more clear that what we were describing was only the manipulation and transfer of information from the perception in the eye to the brain. Please remember that this thread started from the observations of the Growlery about the evolution of robots and how they were not self contained but had to refer information back to the central processor and that this struck us as exactly what was happening in the human brain.

In the next installment, when we get information to the brain, I hope to discuss various ways in which the information can be recognized for what it is. At that point, we should commence a discussion of exactly what constitutes information as opposed to data. For the moment please accept my apology for being obscure.

The second blurb, on recording thoughts, I would also agree with. Many a time I have thought of something earth shaking to say in a post (or, at least, it seemed earth shaking at the time) only to get to the keyboard and find that it had floated off into the land where such thoughts go (imagine that country if you will; all the great ideas that were never recorded floating around like lost ghosts. A little spooky I would say.) As for the “speed of thought”, that is a very intriguing question. Because, much like a computer, the faster the thinking the more information that can be processed. This should be compared to the size of the brain. Of course this is similar to the clock speed of a computer and the built in RAM. It brings up questions as to why our brain doesn’t overheat when it is really thinking (yuk, yuk), or if that thinking is going on all the time, and how much is outside of "consciousness" (since Freud, there has been the idea that consciousness is only the tip of the iceberg. Some would say that all true decision making is below the surface and we only get the final “decision.” One can see that we need a new vocabulary to describe thinking since I hate putting words in quotes!)

In answer to Mac, we promise to try harder making distinctions.

We hope to have the final installment out in the next few days.

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