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New information!

I’ve been having a look at some ‘information’ about ‘information’ - sourced mainly from here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/information/ . It’s all interesting, but it hasn’t really helped me pin-down exactly what ‘information’ is.

Like consciousness, it seems to be a very difficult concept to define, and there’s no consensus on a unified theory. Perhaps one of the reasons it’s so difficult to define is that we don’t yet have a clear definition of consciousness, and information is generally closely associated with the mind. Oh. I actually didn't know that. I mostly know about information theory in the context of computing and cryptography — Shannon information and Fisher information and stuff like that. Which is excellent stuff but not related to philosophy of mind at all, as far as I can see. Jason

It reminds me a little of the hazy distinction between ‘seeing’ something and ‘observing’ it. When electromagnetic radiation hits my eyes, I am bombarded with sensory data - some of this data I ‘observe’ consciously (i.e. process cognitively), the rest seems to fade into the background. RIGHT. ALL mental terms have this kind of ambiguity. It's one of the problems I mentioned that leads to Dennettism, where people take words that quite rightly have no experiential component in one of their ambiguous meanings, and claim (or assume) that that's their only meaning. Jason

How do we separate the sensory data that our minds take in as input (“I see an arrangement of coloured pixels”), with data obtained via processing of that sensory input (“I see a red chair.”)? Both, I suppose, would be classified as information, but it’s interesting that they seem to be quite different types of data. Right. Although there's an important historical complication, which is that philosophers used to think that we literally see little patches of colour, rouhly like pixels (although less uniform), and then that turned out not to be true and there was this absolute deluge of other philosophers dumping on them. The result of which is that you have to be very very careful about how you talk about perceptual input, which is a real pain in the bum. Best to just say something very vague about it unless it's going to be your main project topic. :-/ Jason

‘Sensory data’ is also a very vague term - at what point do electromagnetic waves cease to be ‘physical’ things and turn into more-abstract ‘sensory data’?

My general feeling at the moment is that information has something to do with the transition hinted at above. The mind interacts with the physical world and sensory organs (e.g. eyes, tastebuds, noses) or similar are able to process these interactions and turn them into what we define very vaguely as ‘information’. In other words, information is data that is produced when a mind interacts with its external physical environment. But then saying that information is the product of some process isn't really a very satisfactory explanation of what it actually is. It also looks like I’ve run into another tricky question...what is data?

Since I seem to have gone around in a circle, I think I’ll re-read these ideas tomorrow and see if I can make them make more sense. Probably not, but I will certainly try!

Good for you for trying! I actually doubt that this is going to be a good project topic BUT if it's what you're interested in then give it a go and see what happens. You could end up with something nicely original. Jason