FW: Emergence of information out of nothing?

From: Glenn Morton (glenn.morton@btinternet.com)
Date: Sun May 12 2002 - 12:36:35 EDT

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    Below is Lucien's original reply. Sorry this is out of order as my reply to
    this just left here before I could get this one forwarded. In a few hours I
    will forward Lucien's response to my note which just left here.


    see http://www.glenn.morton.btinternet.co.uk/dmd.htm
    for lots of creation/evolution information
    personal stories of struggle

    >-----Original Message-----
    >From: Lucien Carroll [mailto:ucarrl01@umail.ucsb.edu]
    >Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2002 2:29 PM
    >To: Glenn Morton
    >Subject: Re: Emergence of information out of nothing?
    >Glenn Morton wrote:
    >> >"puckle". If you weren't using it as support for your argument, I would
    >> >assume that "Puckle is a clearly defined word with no imprecision" was
    >> >said tongue-in-cheek.
    >> Of course you wouldn't assume it had any meaning. Indeed, for all most
    >> people in the US know, I might have made up the entire idea of Doric
    >> english. I didn't however, but I had never heard of it until I
    >came here.
    >> It is a dialect of Aberdeenshire. There is another one for the Orkney
    >> Islands. I know no words from it, but was told of it's existence while
    >> visiting there last month.
    >I didn't mean that puckle was a made up word (ie, made up by you,
    >without semantic value outside your mind), but that its semantic value,
    >by convention, is that of an _imprecise_ quantity. I had googled the
    >word to find its meaning. I don't see how this is an example of
    >non-ambiguity of language. Even technical language, designed to be
    >non-ambiguous, is full of ambiguities. So much more words like "puckle"
    >or "stuff" from common speech. The very same speaker, in just a slightly
    >differenct context will use the same word for something quite different.
    >The production and interpretation of language is informed by context,
    >both internal and external to the interlocutors. Thus, some meaning
    >(particularly pragmatics) is subjective, but still there is meaning
    >which we can objectively say is carried by the utterance, by design.
    >There is a meaning that an utterance does carry and a multiplicity of
    >meanings that the utterance does not carry.
    >> There is a structure which determines its meaning, but it is an agreement
    >> between lots of people. It is internal to them but NOT inherent in the
    >> sounds or inherent in the letters. It is a mental state, like my thoughts
    >> about my boss or the thoughts of my employees about me. I can't quantify
    >> their mental states (nor do I really want to know what they
    >think about me).
    >You are correct in saying it is not inherent in the sounds, but in the
    >context of an interaction between speakers of the same language, its
    >meaning is determined. And there are sounds which cannot be speech in
    >any language. Because of our physiological features, our speech does not
    >sound like the languages of the odd life forms from star trek. Because
    >of cognitive features (presumably) human speech does not include all the
    >permutations of grammar that are mathematically possible. Because of the
    >conventions of speech communities, there are permutations of sounds you
    >will never encounter in speech, in any of the worlds languages. These
    >first two things that determine the structure of acceptable speech are,
    >I think you would agree, objective features of the environment from
    >which speech sprouts. The third thing, conventions, is likewise an
    >objective feature of the environment.
    >> The problem, as I see it, is that in order to know something exists, you
    >> must be able to recognize it. When I put out those sequences
    >and have asked
    >> people who claim that it exists, they can never recognize in
    >which sequence
    >> it exists. This is analogous to the claim that there is some sort of
    >> 'biological' information in molecular sequences, but they can't tell you
    >> what it is or that it exists a priori. I think I have a perfect right to
    >> doubt the existence of this supposedly objective 'semantic'
    >information if
    >> no one can even recognize it when it is put before them.
    >They may not be able to recognize in which sequence it exists, but were
    >they go to the terrible effort of interviewing a million people if they
    >recognized semantic content in the strings, the more conventionally used
    >strings would recieve a much higher response rate than the random or
    >cyphered strings. The investigator would not have to know anything about
    >the strings in order to determine that the mandarin phrase held semantic
    >content. The biological information in molecular sequences "tells" you
    >about the workings of the biological system, but it can't be verbalized
    >at your request because the thing is such a monstrously complicated
    >system. Drug creation and testing is all about this kind of
    >investigation. They "interview" a biochemical about the semantic value
    >of umpteen million virtual molecules, and then try moderately successful
    >ones again with real-world versions.
    >> >If I understand correctly, semantic information was the only kind of
    >> >information people talked about until Shannon came along. That alone
    >> >should tell you this is not a useless concept.
    >> Language is an agreement that a particular sound REFERS to a particular
    >> object. It is a grandiose table of connections which ties the
    >sound to the
    >> referant. The sound itself contains NO semantic information.
    >The table, in
    >> the mind of the individual, contains the information of which you speak.
    >ok fine. We can say the source of the information is in the mind. But
    >the speech sounds bear the imprint of that information, and mediate the
    >exchange of information.
    >> CHinese provides some really interesting examples of this (the only
    >> technical flaw is that I will omit the tones and they might not
    >be the same.
    >> But to the western ear, at first one doesn't hear the tonation anyway).
    >> ee shou ge is a song.
    >> ee ge shou is a hand.
    >There is nothing remarkable about how exchanging the order of words
    >changes the semantic value of an utterance. The sentence "The guy bit my
    >dog" and the sentence "my dog bit the guy" are different because of the
    >semantic importance of syntax. I prefer the case of when we deal with
    >different conventions. A couple years ago i was in paris with my family,
    >and we went into a chinese restaurant. The lady asked, i think in
    >english, "how many people," and one of us either held up our hand or
    >replied "five" in english. As she headed off toward the table, she said
    >"cinque", but i because i was expecting chinese rather than french, i
    >heard "san ge" and tried to correct her, "wu ge". The same sounds under
    >one convention filled the same grammatical role as under the second, but
    >had different lexical value.
    >> There is absolutely NO information semantically in the word shou or ge.
    >The semantic value of counter words is primarily grammatical
    >rather than lexical.
    >> >I don't, however, think that there is anything incredible about the
    >> >accumulation of semantic information. It is interesting to me that it is
    >> >so, but it appears to me to be the natural result of a functioning
    >> >process that we get forms that bear the imprint of what works.
    >> There is a correlation with biology and language that I believe
    >holds (won't
    >> defend it really hard right now). That is we see that any sound
    >or sequence
    >> of characters can be used to refer to a particular object. This is the
    >> equivalent in biology where MANY gazillions of different sequences will
    >> perform the very same function. The only difference is that in
    >language, any
    >> sound will do. In biology there are some restrictions.
    >As mentioned above, there are limits in speech sounds too. And like
    >alternations in protein forms that all perform similar functions,
    >language has synonyms and varying levels of specificity that may
    >be employed.
    >I think it is quite unfortunate that laypeople misunderstand entropy
    >(for pete's sake, its definition uses so many words that outside of
    >technical contexts have such different meanings), but i think there is
    >plenty of confusion about information theory even among people who
    >should know better. I for one, still have really poor thermodynamic
    >intuitions, even though i did fine in my thermo/statmech courses.
    >Perhaps Shannon information would be easier to explain to people if
    >semantic information were better understood.
    >Lucien S Carroll ucarrl01@umail.ucsb.edu
    >"All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge."
    >-Jeremiah 51:17a

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