[Fis] An Important Dialog

Loet Leydesdorff loet at leydesdorff.net
Sun Jan 20 08:17:20 CET 2019

Dear colleagues,

It sounds a bit as a continuation of the discussions among the 
"scavants" at the Univerrsity of Coimbra about whether we live in the 
best of all possible worlds; see Voltaire's Candide.

Did the snake talk to Eve or should we take this metaphorically? Does 
GTI/Sinterclaus/God exist or not? In my opinion, one were advised to 
proceed to empirical research. Some questions are then more fruitful 
than others. Shannon's theory of information can, for example, be used 
as entropy statistics. It thus offers to combine a theoretical 
perspective and a methodology. Without developing the latter, however, 
the discussion becomes very abstract and philosophical.

The linking pin, in my opinion, is the notion of probability. A 
probability distribution contains an uncertainty which can be measured 
in bits. A one-dimensional probability distribution can be represented 
as a vector (or a set of relations); a two-dimensional as a matrix. The 
second dimension can be used for the decomposition in terms of principal 
components (eigenvectors). A three-dimensional probability 
distribution--a cube of information--can contain local minima and 
trajectories in an Euclidean space. A four-dimensional one represents a 
hyper-geometry containing next-order regimes as structures of 
(globalized instead of stabilized) expectations.

While instantiations can be described in three dimensions, 
self-organization (autopoiesis, nisus) requires this extension to four 
dimenisons of the probability distribution. The Shannon formula set no 
limits on the number of dimensions and thus one obtains a rich 
researchable domain. As some of you know, my interest nowadays is 
particularly in the measurement and calculus of redundancy (new 
options). But that is only one of the options for empirical research.


PS. Sinterklaas is a Dutch fest on the evening of December 5, when a 
bishop arrives from Spain with presents for the children. Most children 
lose their belief in his existence at the age of six or seven.  L.

Loet Leydesdorff

Professor emeritus, University of Amsterdam
Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)

loet en leydesdorff.net <mailto:loet en leydesdorff.net>; 
Associate Faculty, SPRU, <http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/>University of 

Guest Professor Zhejiang Univ. <http://www.zju.edu.cn/english/>, 
Hangzhou; Visiting Professor, ISTIC, 

Visiting Fellow, Birkbeck <http://www.bbk.ac.uk/>, University of London;


------ Original Message ------
From: "Xueshan Yan" <yxs en pku.edu.cn>
To: "FIS Group" <fis en listas.unizar.es>
Cc: "Annette Grathoff" <annette.grathoff en is4si.org>; "Søren Brier" 
<sb.ikk en cbs.dk>; "Mark Burgin" <markburg en cs.ucla.edu>; "Pedro C. 
Marijuán" <pcmarijuan.iacs en aragon.es>; "Terrence Deacon" 
<deacon en berkeley.edu>; "Joseph Brenner" <joe.brenner en bluewin.ch>
Sent: 1/20/2019 4:17:39 AM
Subject: [Fis] An Important Dialog

>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 
>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 including ethical 
>information or semantic information, for which meaning 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 information.
>11. And Mark’s GTI will become a Meta-Theory of Information, a theory 
>of Theories of Information.
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