Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Wed, 07 Nov 2001 13:13:15 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Alain Picard <>
| So, you are saying that because "meaning" only has meaning within the
| human mind, which is _necessarily_ made of matter, that it is incorrect
| to view the world as a duality between matter and information?

  Now, "physical" and "made of matter" are not quite the same thing.  A
  force is physical, yet not made of matter.  It has to be carried _by_
  matter, but it does not become matter itself just because it is real and

| Well, no.  Culturally, we (or, rather, many of us) view software as
| literature, and programmers as authors, i.e. very special, talented
| people who can conjure wonderful things from within their brains.
| Shakespeare wasn't a magician, he was a genius.

  Well, we already understand pretty well how literature works and what it
  is and how this impacts how the law must deal with it.  There is still a
  lack of understanding what software is and how it relates to other
  things.  Curiously, this lack of understanding has caused intellectual
  property to be destabilized, with a number of serious repercussions for
  those who want to keep all information out of the hands of lawmakers: The
  decision to look at software as patentable machines is a direct result of
  the objection to regarding software as copyrightable, which some people
  who were also of the mystical inclination fought long and hard against.

| And, of course, physicists do _not_ understand the nature of magnetism.
| Richard Feynman said so himself; he's a fine expert witness.

  At least they understand that it is part of reality and not some mystical
  property of "mind" that only some new "magnetism theory" can explain by
  first assuming that magnetism is distinct from all other forms of being.
  Such would be a dramatically anti-intellectual starting point.  And that
  is just what this mythological specialness of "information" is all about:
  It has been created out of thin air, probably because it was easier to do
  that than to think things through at the time it first appeared as a
  problem.  E.g., this notion of "cyberspace" as distinct from reality, as
  some see it, has caused lawmakers to wonder if they should enact new
  kinds of laws to apply to it, which is _insane_ when you think about what
  this "cyberspace" really is: _people_ acting in normal reality.  No new
  laws are required.  Whether people sit around a campfire and tell stories
  or do so with much computer hardware and software and visualization and
  what have you, is completely immaterial.  Yes, it impacts our senses in a
  slightly new and different way, but that does not _change_ anything.

  Norway is now run by a priest from the fundamentalist Christian People's
  Party, the fifth largest party representing one eighth of the electorate.
  Carrying a Swiss Army pocket knife in Oslo, Norway, is a criminal offense.