[Fis] IS4SI Meeting--Advancing a New Dialog

Pedro C. Marijuan pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es
Mon Feb 18 20:17:51 CET 2019

Dear FISers,

The Berkeley IS4SI 2019 event is approaching fast. I am re-sending the 
announcement in a separate mail so that everybody, in the extent of 
his/her possibilities, may help to disseminate it.
One of the subjects that some presenters will discuss, no doubt about 
that, is the pertinence or plausibility of general or unifying theories 
of information. I am copying below the message from Xueshan, some weeks 
ago, summarizing some discussions between Mark and Joseph on that subject.
Of course, many other voices can be heard, and that is the gist of the 
present message. To ad some piquancy, I cannot help but reminding the 
quip attributed to von Neumann on Prigogine's general theory of 
non-equilibrium systems, for him: "the non-elephant theory." Per Bak 
picked the quip as follows:

/“…On the other hand, no general theory for large non-equilibrium 
systems exists.  The legendary Hungarian mathematician John Von Neuman 
once referred to the theory of non-equilibrium systems as the “theory of 
non-elephants” meaning there could be no unique theory of such a vast 
area of science.” /(Per Bak, How Nature Works)

Best wishes


*[Fis] An Important Dialog*

Xueshan Yan

yxs at pku.edu.cn

Dear FIS Colleagues,

A few days ago, among some of active IS4SI Board members, we have a very 
constructive discussion about Mark Burgin’s General Theory of 
Information (GTI, based on his book /Theory of Information: 
Fundamentality, Diversity and Unification/, 2010), the discussion was in 
progress mainly between Joseph and Mark and focused on the following 
three points:

1. Is information a phenomena or a reality?

2. Are the mathematical methods Mark developed useful?

3. Where is the position of a GTI?

I have made a commitment that I will summarize the main arguments of the 
discussion then. The following are the gist of them and please give 
enough attention to.

Best wishes,


*The main points of the arguments*


Mark’s gist

1. (My) GTI consists of two parts - ontology of information and axiology 
of information. The mathematical component of this theory is mainly 
ontological based on mathematical models of information as operators and 
functors. The system of ontological and axiological principles of the 
GTI provides unified foundations for information studies, though it is 
difficult to understand.

2. Information is a phenomenon. It's neither quantitative nor 
qualitative. It's people (and sometimes machines) who ascribe 
qualitative or quantitative measures to information. My GTI does 
acknowledge qualitative information but only existence of qualitative 
and quantitative measures.

3. My GTI does not define Information in term of bit, bit is a unit of a 
particular measure of information only in some special information theory.

4. My GTI defines information as a real essence. Although many think 
that there are only one reality – physical things, actually there are 
different realities.

5. My GTI allows specification to all existing information theories. It 
provides constructive tools for doing such specifications and building 
special information theories without including these theories into its 

6. The theories of Shannon, Fisher or Bar-Hillel, etc. are the varieties 
of GTI, together all these theories form information science.

7. My GTI forms a unified foundation of information science and can be 
used for studies of actually any kind of information includingethical 
information or semantic information, for whichmeaning is the defining 


Joseph’s gist

1. There is no role for the information what Mark stated, including 
qualitative, non-measurable and/or non-quantitative one. It is a lower 
ontological level.

2. A GTI should not define information in terms of bit.

3. The question of “What information is” implies a substance rather than 
dynamic process ontology.

4. If information is only a phenomenon, I cannot imagine a ‘measure’ 
operating on an appearance.

5. Mark’s GTI tries to explain “*What Information Is”* but without a 

6. If information by Mark’s GTI consideration cannot be a process or 
have processual characteristics, it cannot be ‘general’.

7. What Mark have defined is a THEORY OF GENERAL INFORMATION but not a 

8. Mark’s GTI extracts the general characteristics of information 
processes independently of their substratum of physical (energetic) 
properties, all of the mathematical aspects of what he has called a GTI 
then apply to that abstraction, and a ‘meaning’ of those aspects exists, 
it is tautological.

9. What is ontologically primary, then, are the phenomena that have 
meaning – the information necessary for the survival of living beings 
and for their reproduction.

10. According to Mark, Meaning will be the foundation of all theories of 

11. And Mark’s GTI will become a Meta-Theory of Information, a theory of 
Theories of Information.


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