Entities and attributes in science

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by James R, Mar 23, 2023.

  1. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    More accurately that is just data, not information.
    Information is data that is organised, processed, and contextualised etc, or similarly considered.
    Without much context it is just a string of 1s and 0s.
    Any data or information in such form would be the same, even if copied, say, to another screen
    The data/information will only be different if there is sufficient degradation in the transmission such that the data is corrupted/different.
    Okay, excepting that this, in isolation, is data not information.
    Other than being only 1s and 0s, out of context there is no pattern.
    Hence it is just data.
    An observation.
    Nothing more.
    Ergo data.
    The substrate is required to carry the data/information.
    But the information is not the substrate, it is the meaningful pattern within.
    That makes it a concept, "meaningful pattern in a substrate", for example.
    Any time you recognise something as being as conceptualised, you recognise information, do you not?
    Ergo information is a concept.
    Specific examples in reality are instances thereof.
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. Guestfornow Registered Member

    That distinction you're making is artificial though. Most people say what you're saying there about information, that it's meaningful to humans because it's been processed.
    Yes, that's the problem with classical information, you can make copies of it that are "the same" but that must only be the case because we don't notice any differences. All copies of classical information are different at microscopic scales. And all classical information is subject to loss or degradation.
    No. I think the string of 1s and 0s has gotten that one already. The pattern in the string is not regular, you don't recognize anything meaningful, right? It is still information as defined in Information Theory, it ticks all the boxes.

    I don't have to know what it is beyond a binary string to classify it as information. I can call it data too, if I decide to, without any loss of generality. Meaning hasn't even appeared on the horizon yet.

    Suppose your job is to transmit information. You don't need to know what it means. Likewise if you want to store some, or copy some, or erase some. Meaning (of the subject) isn't inherent in any of those verbs.
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Semantics generally is, is it not?
    So as to distinguish it from mere data.
    It depends what you're considering to be the information, whether the info that was intended to be transmitted, or every part of it.
    E.g. if I write "hello" on a piece of paper, and that is carried to someone else, they read it and see the information that was intended (the "hello").
    This can be copied exactly.
    No ifs, no buts.
    But, the piece of paper technically contains vast amounts of "data" (number of molecules, creases, folds, colouration, tears etc, and these will change.
    If I copy the "hello" on a computer screen I have changed that data entirely, other than for the intended element.
    And it is the intended element I think we are mostly referring to here, not all the data.
    You're talking specifically Information Theory, though.
    That's a rather specific context compared to philosophy.
    So you do have context, at least of it being binary.
    Sure, but the context of being binary has allowed it to become information, i.e. you have processed it (as being binary).
    But I agree, meaning has yet to follow, but the fact that it has meaning, even if not yet established, is important.
    But you also miss my point: whatever you conceptualise information as being, if you recognise something as fulfilling that concept, you have information.
    You clearly have a concept.
    Information is this concept, and examples are instances of it.
    Linguistically we refer to the instances as the concept, but the concept gives the instances meaning to us.
    I didn't say one needed to understand the meaning, only that it (information) had to be meaningful (to someone).
    i.e. the capacity for someone to take meaning from it.
    Information without meaning is just a string of data.
    The person in that job can refer to what he is transmitting as information presumably because he knows that someone is understanding it.
    But as far as he is concerned, in isolation, it is just a string of data, and not information.

    But, as before, if you're talking specifically Information Theory then ymmv.
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Yes that's fair enough, in that the term"ink" assigns a human purpose to a physical substance, i.e. is not merely descriptive of it.
    Baldeee likes this.
  8. Guestfornow Registered Member

    Right. It has to have the capacity to be meaningful. Assuming it doesn't get degraded such that the original meaning is lost.
    Right, so arbitrarily reading a binary string from somewhere in a computer, so the string is "taken out" of context, gives you a meaningless string of 1s and 0s. As in my earlier post. Right?

    If a message is delivered but nobody reads it, is it still meaningful? Oh snap, that's philosophy.
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Not sure it even rises to the level of philosophy. The use of the word "meaning" requires a mind by definition.
    Last edited: May 25, 2023
  10. Guestfornow Registered Member

    What does philosophy require?
  11. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Well, philosophy requires a mind to ponder it, is that what you're asking?
  12. Guestfornow Registered Member

    Ok. A requirement of information is a physical substrate, and a way to make patterns appear in the substrate.
    . . .
  13. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Ehh... I'm not sure either of those is strictly required.

    I'm not sure information requires a physical substrate, but I'll have to think about that.
    And there's plenty of natural sources of information, such as the frequency of light from stars.
  14. Guestfornow Registered Member

    I'd like to know if you can think of a source of information that isn't a pattern in a physical substrate.
    That would be interesting.
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    In particular, I was questioning the phrase "... a way to make a pattern appear ..." which seems to suggest a deliberate artificial act. Information can have a natural provenance. It is we who decide a mere inert rock is a source of information.

    As for physical, that's a bit trickier. I have information in my head, and were I to tell it to you, you would have the same information. I'm not sure that it is accurate to say that information is a pattern in the physical substrate of my neurons, because there's more to it than simply static symbols. For example a mind is as much process as it is device, and no mere substrate can embody the kinds of information I can conceive of.

    Now, yes, this is getting into metaphysics. Does it matter how abstracted the information is from my physical neurons? Does it matter that the information is not necessarily dependent on what the substrate is made of? If the information in my head is the same information on a piece of paper, does that not imply that the information is independent of its medium? Who knows?

    I know one thing though: such discussion will always come down to semantics, and the fuzzy, varied meaning of the words we use to debate it (eg. physicality, interpretation, pattern, mind).
  16. Guestfornow Registered Member

    As you say in the next sentence, information can have a natural provenance. Actually, naturally occuring information probably far outweighs what humans can do or will ever do artificially.

    Wind makes patterns appear; a hurricane is a wind-pattern. Ocean waves are "made" by wind.
    "A way to make a pattern appear" is meant to mean natural causes as well as artificial ones.
  17. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    Sure, but I didn't feel that could go by without comment. The initial phrase seems a little too general and ambiguous.
  18. Guestfornow Registered Member

    Alrighty. So, patterns in a substrate become some kind of information. What the patterns mean depends on the context.

    Meaningfulness is something found in animal brains--animal behaviour depends on attaching meaning to the light, sound, and other sensory data. Turning that back around, what kind of information is brain activity in a scan?

    In information theory you define information in terms of what you can do with it. Interpreting it is one of the things.
    If you can read and write it you can copy it. You can store it and erase it. You can transmit it.

    Why binary? It's a convenient way to encode information.
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Based on your most recent replies to me, I have formed the opinion that you don't actually want to discuss this topic in good faith.

    Your obtuse conflation of a message with a satchel, and the rest of that nonsense, seems like a strained effort on your part to pretend not to understand what I put to you.

    It seems to me that either (a) you're too stupid to understand the content of this discussion; or (b) you're simply a troll who is trying to string along a conversation in the dishonest way that trolls do.

    Being charitable as I am, I'm inclined to come down on the side of (b) rather than (a), but (a) remains a theoretical possibility. (b) becomes more likely because you are posting under the strange name of "Guestfornow", almost as if you're a sock puppet of some member who was previously banned and who doesn't want to reveal his previous identity; whatever the reason, it suggests you're only planning on being here temporarily under this name.

    Whether it's (a) or (b) doesn't really matter, in the end. If you're incapable to engaging with me in good faith, then I'm done wasting my time on you.

    I'll wait for arfa brane to come back from his ban and see if, perhaps, he has learned anything from what I've written, in good faith, to you.
  20. Guestfornow Registered Member

    I am discussing the topic. Information is either an attribute of something physical or its an entity. But I don't know that I need to specify which it is, so I can remain ignorant of the answer, and still discuss the topic of information. As I've been doing in this thread.
    What are you saying here? It seems that you haven't understood what a message is, and that the transmission of a message can itself be information. This is for instance the case in the war in Ukraine. Both sides are collecting--information about the other.

    If you want to discuss this with me in good faith, at least admit that the conflation you mention is something military personnel do as part of their job.
    You're being pretty stupid there.
    Charitable. Are you trying to make me laugh?
    How strange. You are a strange person. If I ever met you I would probably regret saying anything to you. I'd probably feel like I'd wasted my time.
  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    You don't seem to have got the message. I'm done talking with you about this. There are lots of other things I'd rather be doing than playing a spot-the-troll guessing game.
  22. Guestfornow Registered Member

    Ok. Bye then.
  23. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    The capacity to be meaningful is independent of whether or not that meaning is ever extracted.

    I note how you have taken the thread away from the entity/attribute distinction, though, to simply discussing information.
    To bring it back on topic: do you consider information to be an entity or an attribute?
    As an entity it would clearly be abstract, and not an entity in the way James R would define such (i.e. can you put information in a bottle?).
    But how do you view it?

Share This Page