what is information?10 Aug 2009
Listed as one of the of five deep questions in computing , this questions stands out to me as the one question we have to answer before we can answer questions like "what is computable" and "(how) can we build complex systems simply".
To me the concept of "information" only makes sense if it can be extracted or related using wellknown techniques. In this sense "information" is put in the context of a "subject" and a "object" , e.g. the information identifies facts about the "object" in a manner that is understandable for the "subject". When information allways should occur "in context", then it should be clear that the information should be codified in a manner that is understandable by the "subject".
This "codification process" is successfull when the information about the "object" is conveyed to the "subject" in a manner that is easily understood - so in my interpretation "information" can be expressed in many ways , and still be intended as the same information about the the same "object".
In most concrete circumstances involving human communication "codification" will mean "telling" somebody "else". E.g saying "I am hungry" .. or "do you mind passing me the water". Information is revealed through use of language in a sentence and placed in the context of the situation where the sentence is spoken.
In most traditional computing software information is stored to examine facts about phenomena or physical items. The wealth of information in context has been lost in the process of gathering these facts. Take a traditional supply store. It is not very common for the desk clerk to capture the facial expression of the customers while entering the items bought in the cash register. So in this way, the information from the facial expression is available to the desk clerk but not the store manager.
In our current computing systems, then it is not easy to compute "the mood of the customers" - but if we understand the wealth of information lost in the "codification process" then we can exploit this for a better understand of the market siutation . But we will still not be able the compute the "mood of the customers".
So - to me information can only be understood as "information in context". I will try to design complex systems from this where it makes sense.