[Fis] An Important Dialog

Joseph Brenner joe.brenner at bluewin.ch
Sun Jan 20 08:49:53 CET 2019

Dear Xueshan,


Thank you for facilitating this dialog. It should be mentioned that Mark’s
GTI is set out in a 600+ page book, and that nothing comparable on
information exists for my critique. That should not in and of itself
invalidate specific points I am trying to make, in my opinion.


I cannot accept, however, Loet’s trivialization of the discussion, as it
shows among other things that he has not read my book on Logic in Reality.
He does not have a ‘monopoly’ on probability. There is a substantial
discussion of my system in terms of a non-Kolmogorovian probability
distribution of evolving complex processes, such as information generation
and exchange. It is a serious question to ask whether all probability
distributions and uncertainties can be or need to be measured in bits.


Finally, my position is consistent with Terry’s conception of information,
which includes considerations from Boltzmann and Darwin as well as Shannon.
If Mark could indicate his position on this point, it might be useful to add
it to Xueshan’s side-by-side comparison.


Best wishes,





From: Fis [mailto:fis-bounces at listas.unizar.es] On Behalf Of Loet
Sent: dimanche, 20 janvier 2019 08:17
To: yxs at pku.edu.cn; FIS Group
Cc: Annette Grathoff; Søren Brier; Mark Burgin; Pedro C. Marijuán; Terrence
Deacon; Joseph Brenner
Subject: Re: [Fis] An Important Dialog


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)


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)

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

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

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

<http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ych9gNYAAAAJ&hl=en> &hl=en


------ Original Message ------

From: "Xueshan Yan" <yxs at pku.edu.cn>

To: "FIS Group" <fis at listas.unizar.es>

Cc: "Annette Grathoff" <annette.grathoff at is4si.org>; "Søren Brier"
<sb.ikk at cbs.dk>; "Mark Burgin" <markburg at cs.ucla.edu>; "Pedro C. Marijuán"
<pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es>; "Terrence Deacon" <deacon at berkeley.edu>;
"Joseph Brenner" <joe.brenner at 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 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

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

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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