(conceived in the mid 1960s)
Mission: responsibly to explore informational complexity
Information issues from difference:
Powerful information issues from differences among metadifferences:
the more complexity among them,
the greater the potential of the information.
Macroinformation is my term for the information that emerges from our mental processing of informational complexities.
We don’t just process data: there’s data, and more data, and tons of information already in our heads: and we process parts, and wholes, in an informational environment. The real information, the whole of the information (the macroinformation) must be seen to interact in an ecology of information.
The kids chant Nyah-nyah. They’re chanting the fifth and third of a chord: where’s the root? The root remains unchanted, but it’s “there,” we hear it.
The wife gets “B”s tattooed on her rump because her husband loves her beautiful buns. She strips, bends over, and her husband asks, “Who’s Bob?” ! We have data for the Bs; where did the “O” come from?
Well, we have that information too, but it appears in our processing of the joke, there’s no data for it in the joke.
The movie shows Captain Renault being handed a wad of cash from the roulette cashier’s cage. The sound track has Captain Renault saying, “I am shocked, shocked to learn that there is gambling going on in here,” and closes Rick’s casino down.The information that follows us home from the theater wasn’t in the pictures and it wasn’t in the words. Neither was it in the music. The information that haunts us emerges from inter-playings, even conflicts, among the constituent information complexes: words, pictures, actions, sound effects, music … all processed in minds that already know something about the world.
Information begets information.
The most important information emerges as meta-patterns that rise above data the way a flock of birds rise above the earth. Without the earth, there are no birds; without the birds there is no flock. But their beauty is in the metapatterns.
The meaning of information is in the metapatterns.
Claude Shannon, Norbert Wiener … defined information in terms of the inverse of the probabilities. There’s more information is the string 2, 5, 13, 87 … than in the string 1, 2, 3, 4 … There’s more information in Steve Allen’s “Roses are red,/ Violets are blue,/ You thought this would rhyme,/ But it doesn’t” than in any of the familiar Roses are red jingles.
Probability is wonderful, and dangerously counter-intuitive, and I make use of it; but Gregory Bateson defined information as
Any difference that makes a difference.
Difference is a concept that fits the non-mathematical human right down to the ground, and if you can follow me into meta-difference, we shall flock like birds in the stratosphere of complex, emergent information.
What started me on this path may be of some relevance and interest. By college age I was beginning to get fragmentary explanations for seeming-informational contradictions I’d been aware of since childhood. During WW II, from the US, Hitler was the bad guy. So how come the MovieTone News coverage of his rallies was so exciting? Because our documentary makers were using footage from Leni Riefenstahl, the genius of filming mass rallies.
The documentary that showed our bold leader, President Truman, firing the miscreant General MacArthur, showed Mac marching like a hero, while sunlight flashed annoyingly from the elected haberdasher’s eye glasses. Whose side were the documentary makers on?
Marlon Brando had a skull that could star in any museum. Elia Kazan filmed him in naturally contrastive black and white, looking one moment like a brute … but change the camera angle one millimeter, change the lighting one candle-power, and Marlon looked like a Roman god. Complex information exploded from these minute differences.
Then in graduate school I first heard of information being stored on some medium for a computer. Fine. Then I heard that one could count the bytes involved. Fine. Then I heard that this was regarded as giving a quantitative value for the information! Balderdash.
First, the data will be very different depending on how you’ve “spelled” the data. English is far from efficient, even among natural languages. But far more important, data is being equated with information! No, no. The data is this bird and that bird. The information is the flock flying in what we see as a “formation.”
I had a thesis to write, then a revolution to foment. I put my 1960s thoughts on information on a back burner. It wasn’t until I decided to heat the subject up a bit early in 1999, starting writing that soon got posted as Macroinformation, that I learned that Norbert Wiener had said that there was more information in a good poem than there was in the phone directory for a major city. Had I known that in the 1960s I would have assumed that the information theorists were taking proper care of their business. As it was, I long believed them to be missing the core of the point. Now; whatever they do, I don’t know. Macroinformation is what I do.
And I’ve noted some patterns in emergent information that I believe are essential to wisdom on the subject.
When I heard that some computer people thought they were quantifying information I was indignant, but not because I believed that information could not be quantified. I do believe it. I still believe it. I think I am taking the correct steps in that direction. The more steps I take however the more I see that particular goal as still very distant. That doesn’t mean we can’t get there, or at least get closer. But however close we get, however far we remain, efforts at quantification will remain more like quantifying the electricity in a thunder storm than weighing a cabbage on the grocer’s scale. Meantime I say that a hypothesis I hope to develop toward theoryhood believes that the quality of information will prove to be directly proportional to the quantity, not of the data, but of the complex information, the deep meta-information. No, not meta-data! Not the information-about-the-information that’s mere directions for style: read top to bottom, left to right, put the margin at the left … And not meta-information a step up from meta-data: grammar: the noun is different from the verb, the unmodified noun is different from the modified noun … the pronoun is different (and not different!) from the noun … No, meta-information a step more complex and abstract still: the macroinformation which challenges to think of what kind of a government bureaucrat Captain Renault is: taking payola from Rick’s crooked table night after night, then closing Rick’s down, protesting his innocence the while …
Try synformation as a synonym for macroinformation, the synergy of the information: meaning identical.
The more overtones, the more that is implicit, suggestible, between the lines … the better the poem, the painting, the tune, the speech … The greatest literature will prove bottomless.
My attempt the other day at a new Entrance for Macroinformation resulted in an emphasis on my Spectrum of Informational Complexity. [Link temporarily down.] I must relate that to my concept of informational dimensions, which relates to my concept of Extension / Intension (now posted here as of 2009 03 26), and non-spatial dimensions. Which relates to … and so forth. I’m getting it all here the best I can.
To hunt for macroinformation on your own, focus on nature versus culture, surveying the informational scree from that conflict. (A post offering details follows.)
My son gave me the domain Macroinformation.org. I moved all macroinformation modules from Knatz.com, published since 1999, at the invitation of Entropy Magazine, to Macroinformation.org. The US censored all my domains in 2007. I’ve been trying to resurrect via blogs since crawling out of jail. Now I like the logic capacity of this host and will move more and more things here, under WordPress, till I can recreate the domains themselves.