Subject: Re: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Encyclopedia
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Wed, 07 Nov 2001 12:22:24 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Erik Haugan
| I'm just a layman in the fields of information theory and modern physics,
| but it's clear that there really _is_ a fundamental distinction between
| energy and information (the latter is closely connected to the physical
| term entropy).  That you need energy to transfer or process information
| does not make it less so.

  Since information theory is used here by Erann Gat to beat people over
  the head instead of reasoning with it, I would tend to think there is
  nothing to it, but "information" is supposedly non-real.  "Intangible"
  qualities of "information" are just taken for granted and do not follow
  from nor are they a requirement to biuld any "information theory" as I
  see it.  I would like those who argue that "information" _cannot_ be real
  to find a way to _exclude_ realness of information.  After all, nothing
  _else_ is non-real the way information is, so setting it apart from all
  else should be a fairly simple problem.

  But please note that this is not at all about "information theory", any
  more than the value of money is intangible and financial theory is a
  theory of intangible qualities.  Somehow, somewhere, someone decided that
  it was more useful to make "information" _intangible_.  That is the
  decision that caused an enormous number of problems for all parties
  involved, and if we do not reverse that decision, we will see more cases
  like the Communications Decency Act, which was a direct consequence of
  the specialness of "information" in an electronic medium that differed
  substantially from any other medium.  The current debates over copyright
  and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act are direct consequences of the
  desire to see "information" as a distinct category of being, separate
  from any other known category of being, such that existing copyright laws
  do not work in this "new world".  The mythological mumbojumbo has created
  a setting that has caused lawmakers and lobbyists to _succeed_ in making
  a hell out of what should have been, and really is, a simple extension of
  prior intellectual property laws.  The refusal to understand that there
  _is_ no reason to create a whole new category of being is producing a
  number of really bad consequences in our modern societies.

| I like to think that the old dualism of matter and spirit, or body and
| mind just is an early attempt at describing the distinction between
| energy and information.

  Well, it seems that mysticism is supporting the notion of "information".

| Back to Earth: from a practical point of view it suffices to say that
| it's irrational to include in an economy forms of ownership that are so
| hard to enforce.

  It became hard to enforce because mysticists like yourself refuse to
  define what this information is.  Other people do not have this problem,
  and can deal with the "intangible" goods perfectly well.  It is a matter
  of some philosophical importance to figure out where in the grand scheme
  of things information finds its place.  Creating a whole new category is
  the intellectual's version of a layman saying "I don't know".

| After all, economy is just human interaction, it's not a law of nature
| (that would be a religious claim).

  Please, this is getting _really_ ridiculous.

  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.