[Fis] Hello IS4SI?

Pedro C. Marijuan pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es
Wed Mar 4 12:33:39 CET 2020

Dear List Colleagues,

Let me remind the desirable seasonal contribution of IS4SI Board members 
to the vitality of this list. It is not so difficult: any comments on 
relevant papers or books recently read, any discussion on the problems 
of the own research, or any reflection on the amazing evolution of our 
societies... does still exist the aspiration of being a 
thought-collective?  Below I reproduce a very interesting message from 
Yixin, say his "seasonal contribution" to this winter. It passed 
undiscussed except by Gordana and by Joseph in his Summary. Part of the 
problem was that it was sent as an attachment. In any case I think it 
deserves further discussion as it implies a very holistic view on 
information (that one can share or not) very useful for our common 
foundational info purposes.

Best wishes



Dear Joseph, Dear Pedro, Dear All,

The discussions on the topics of information, disinformation and 
misinformation have been carried on for a couple of weeks from which I 
learnt a lot. Let me also share some of my views with friends and 
colleagues within our society, IS4SI.

*1, Why Is The Discussion Important?*

The current discussion is important simply because of the fact that, 
together with matter and energy, information is the most valuable 
resource for human society as well as for the living world. 
Particularly, in the stage of information age, the role information 
plays is even more fundamental. As to the members of International 
Society for the Study of Information, we are bearing on the special 
responsibility for making as clear as possible the concepts, properties, 
utilities, risks, and policies related to information.

*2, What Is Information On Earth Then?*

For making clear the policies related to information, the first thing we 
should do (and also cannot be avoided) is to precisely understand what 
information is – the definition of information. It IS, no doubt, the 
very foundation for distinguishing the concepts of information, 
disinformation, misinformation, and etc.Shannon, Wiener, Ashby, Bateson 
and many others have made contributions to the issue, the definition of 
information. Negative entropy, variety, and difference that make 
difference are the mutually linked, and yet different, answers.

But, all the ‘definitions’ mentioned above have certain demerits. 
Firstly, for example, the concept of entropy in Shannon Information 
Theory and Wiener’s Cybernetics is based on the probability theory 
whereas information is not limited to statistical category. Secondly, 
the concept of ‘variety’ seems much too simple and it cannot distinguish 
two events having same number of elements and different weights 
associated to each of the elements. Thirdly, the concept of ‘difference 
that make difference’ is also not perfect because of the fact that ‘no 
difference’ does not mean ‘no information’. As a matter of fact, ‘no 
difference’ itself does give information.To my understanding, there have 
been two categories of information, rather than one, existed and related 
to each other in the real world.

The first category of information is the one produced and presented from 
all things in the real world, which may suitably be termed *ontological 
information*(or *object information*) and the second category is the one 
perceived and utilized by humans, which may accordingly be termed 
*epistemological information*(or *subject information*). Detailed 
explanations concerning these concepts can be found below in section 3, 
or from the book <Principles of Information Science> (Yixin Zhong, BUPT 
Press, 1988, 1^st edition; 1996, 2^nd edition; 2002, 3^rd edition; 2005, 
4^th edition; and 2013, 5^th edition; all in Chinese).Up to now, 
unfortunately, people have paid little attentions to the understanding 
of the two categories of information and the mutual relation between 
them. Some concerned only with the first category while some others with 
the second. More often, people just use the same term of ‘information’ 
to referred to the two. This makes the concept of information extremely 
chaotic. This is really the root producing variety of the misconceptions 
related to information.

*3, How To Define Different Categories of Information?*

The definitions of the two category of information can briefly be given 
as follows.

*The ontological information*of any object(including the living and 
non-living thins)is the object’s _formal state and the pattern of the 
state varying_ that are produced and presented by the objects in the 
real world.*

*The epistemological information*perceived by any subject about any 
object consists of three components: (1)_the syntactic information_ 
which is the one perceived by the subject directly from the object’s 
ontological information, (2) _the pragmatic information_ which is the 
utility of the object’s ontological information towards the subject’s 
goal, and (3) _the semantic information_ which is the meaning that the 
subject understand about the object and which is jointly defined by (1) 
and (2) through the mapping of the Cartesian product of syntactic and 
pragmatic information into the space of semantic information and then 
naming it.

The key words in the definition of ontological information are “_the 
formal state and the pattern of the state varying_”, neither “negative 
entropy”, “variety”, nor “difference that make difference”. In fact, 
when someone received a piece of (ontological) information about a 
thing, this means that the person knew t_he thing’s formal state and the 
pattern of the state varying_.It is very clear that _the concept of 
*information in Shannon Theory* is a special case of epistemological 
information having only the syntactic information and completely 
ignoring both the pragmatic and the semantic information_. Yet, Shannon 
information is practically useful because it meets the needs of 
communication engineering – whenever there is message appeared at the 
sending terminal of the communication system, just transmit it without 
asking what meaning and value embedded in the message, as long as there 
is sufficient channel capacity.

*4, How To Classify and Handle the Various Kinds of Information?*

According to the definitions of ontological information, epistemological 
information and the information in Shannon Theory stated above, it is 
reasonable to have the following points.

(1) *Ontological Information: *If the term of information is referred to 
the one only related to objects themselves, either living things or 
non-living things, without touching the processes of human perception 
and any processing, it is the concept of ontological information.

(2) *Epistemological Information: *If the term of information is 
referred to the one only related to the results of perception and 
processing, either by humans, living things or machines, it is the 
epistemological information.

(3) *Shannon Information:* If the term of information is referred to the 
one only related to communication process, it is then the Shannon 

(4) *Disinformation:* It is a kind of epistemological information 
produced by someone who is with immoral goal (its pragmatic information 
is negative to human society).

(5) *Misinformation:* It is also a kind of epistemological information 
produced by someone who may not be with immoral goal but have made 
mistakes in operation.

(6) *It is almost impossible* to classify the various kinds of 
information mentioned above merely by analyzing their formal structures 
(syntactic information). As mentioned above, the major differences among 
normal epistemological information, disinformation, and misinformation 
lie on the pragmatic information.

(7) *The technology* most suitable for handling the disinformation and 
misinformation is artificial intelligence (AI) based on the natural 
language understanding (NLU). However, the current state of the art of 
NLU in AI is still in its stage of infancy due to the fact that the 
‘information concept’ applied in AI is limited to Shannon Theory.

(8) *The Better solution* for dealing with disinformation must rely on 
the power of advanced artificial intelligence that we have been dealing 
with for many years and have made good progress (See <Principles of 
Advanced Artificial Intelligence> by Yixin Zhong, Science Press, 2014, 
in Chinese)

(9) *The Ultimate Solution* for successfully dealing with such kind of 
problem like disinformation would rely heavily on the collectively human 
efforts worldwide in the fields of honesty, responsibility, ethics, and 

Best wishes,

Yixin Zhong, 2020-01-24, Beijing, China

Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group

pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es

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