THE ESSENCE OF INFORMATION: PARADOXES, CONTRADICTIONS, AND SOLUTIONS M. Burgin
Department of Mathematics University of California, Los Angeles 405 Hilgard Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90095 Abstract. The information age is upon us and the main paradox is that there is no satisfactory and commonly accepted answer to the crucial question what information is. This results in a quantity of contradictions,misconceptions, and paradoxes related to the world of information. We consider the existing situation in information studies, which is very paradoxical and inconsistent, in the first part of this paper. To remedy the situation, a new approach in information theory, which is called the general theory of information, is developed. The main achievement of the general theory of information isexplication of a relevant and adequate definition of information. This theory is built as a system of two classes of principles and their consequences. The first class consists of the ontological principles, which are revealing general properties and regularities of information and its functioning. These principles are explicated in the second part of the paper.
1. Introduction The information age isupon us and the main paradox is that there is no satisfactory and commonly accepted answer to the crucial question what information is. We are overwhelmed with myriad of information from a wide spectrum of information sources, such as the World Wide Web, emails, images, speeches, documents, etc. At the same time, our experience demonstrates that common sense understanding of the notion ofinformation may be very misleading. Consequently, we have to go to information science and develop theoretical perspective on entertainment. The main problem is to find the right theory. Looking into information science, we encounter a peculiar situation. On one hand, it has a lot of theories, a diversity of results, and even a proclaimed success. Scientists created a diversity of information theories:statistical or Shannon’s, semantic, algorithmic, qualitative, dynamic and so on. On the other hand, as it is written in the introduction of one authoritative book on information policy, “Our main problem is that we do not really know what information is.” However, the advancement of science is very fast and a new theory appeared recently. It is called the general theory of information. It comprisesall other known theories of information and contains much more. 1
There have been a lot of discussions and different approaches have been suggested trying to answer the question what information is. According to (Flückiger, 1995), in modern information theory a distinction is made between structural-attributive and functional-cybernetic types of theories. While representatives of the formerapproach conceive information as structure, like knowledge or data, variety, order, and so on; members of the latter understand information as functionality, functional meaning or as a property of organized systems. The principal achievement of the general theory of information is that it explains and determines what information is. The new approach changes drastically our understanding ofinformation, this one of the most important phenomena of our world. It displays that what people call information is, as a rule, only a container of information but not information itself. This theory reveals fascinating relations between matter, knowledge, energy, and information. The general theory of information is built as a system of principles that represent intrinsic properties of information andinformation processes. The set of the main principles consists of two parts: basic ontological and basic axiological principles. Basic ontological principles are formulated and investigated in the fourth section of the paper. They reflect the most essential properties of information as a natural, social, and technological phenomenon as well as regularities of information functioning. This provides a...
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