Dimensions of Information

Macroinformation / deconstruction reconstruction: Dimensions of Information
@ K. / Mi.org 2000 11 17

Macroinformation is my term for complex information. All data is information, but not all information is mere data. The information of data (Information0) corresponds directly with the data. Complex information, Macroinformation (Information2), emerges as a synergy. It cannot occur without a system or systems of aggregates of data existing as a structure or participating in a population of structures. It cannot exist without a population of information “players” (though one of a population of two players could be alone on a desert island and the other player the long dead author of a message in a bottle).

Difficult? Hard to follow? Never mind. There’s a great deal more to be said about all of the above, but let’s move directly to a simple example of Macroinformation where a variety of types of information stack and interact.

The man says “I love you.” The woman makes a face.

The target of the illustration is to show that here two existentially distinct types of communications abut and that new information, complex information, information not tied one-to-one with the data, emerges, radiates, from the juncture. Additionally I shall emphasize that the logical typing of the information is independent of content. My points do not vary with the meaning of the parts. The woman’s face may be a smile or a rictus: the man may say “hate” instead of “love.” (It may be the woman speaking and the man making a gesture …)

The man’s utterance may be viewed as data or as information. Spoken, the data is a stream of morphemes; written, the data is a string of characters. On this simple side of the spectrum of information complexity the data and the information are one and the same, interchangeable, synonymous. Ground. Base. 0. Information0.

Let’s look at our dialogue of characters and gesture as a script for a play, using a simple HTML rebus as an instruction to the actress.


I love you.


o o


The availability of the caret (or “Shift 6”) on my keyboard is all that is responsible for the actress being prompted to turn her mouth down instead of up. Irrelevant. The point I repeat is utterly independent of whether the scene is real or scripted, whether the man is sincere, whether we, the readers, trust him, what the woman intends by the face she makes … Further, the point is independent of whether “love” is a simple or complex concept, of whether the term is clear or ambiguous …

My first presentation of the scene emphasized information as data: mere data, Information0. This latter instance of the “same” situation conspicuously involves data of a logically different kind. The tags I used to construct a table with two different left margins, both indented from the normal margin, are a form of meta-data: data about the data: Information1, one meta-step “higher” than Information0. The prefix meta- means logically distinct from to a point where convention sees the distinction as at right angles, perpendicular, orthogonal. Meta-data is as distinct, as different, from data as length is from position or as width and height are from length. (Position, Dimension0; the others, Dimension1, Dimension2, Dimension3.) Please note the appearance of the word “different.” Gregory Bateson defined information as

any difference that makes a difference.

That definition is as profound as it is simple.

Meta-data is different from data. Thus, be aware that there is a potential, I suggest a necessity, for new information, new difference, to come into existence wherever there are meta-steps. This new information will be orthogonal to the data, and orthogonal to the meta-data as well. Information2!

On analogy both with Alfred Korzybski’s Science[1933] and with Bateson’s Learning0, Learning1 … I utilize [n] tags for Information. Review:


Whether there is indeed nothing below Ground0 (which should boost data to Information1, incrementing each of the others) will be considered, but not in this introduction. (Meantime, don’t forget: the entire universe comes from nothing.) Information[n]
above Information2 I can no more grasp than I can do the geometry for a hyper-cube. Trying to apprehend Information2 is already as difficult as trying to grasp the shadow of a hyper-cube.

My original term for Macroinformation was meta-information. I opted for Macroinformation 1) to avoid confusion with the already existing term meta-data and 2) to invite comparison with the macro-universe. The macro-universe is itself inextricably conceptual, aggregate, systemic, a structure of interacting structures … Though similar things could be said as well for the micro-universe, there are still clear differences between them: differences orders of magnitude different.

Now: imagine a spectrum of complexity with regard to information.

Information Complexity
lower low median high higher

Data is information. The complexity of data in isolation, by itself, is low. Data plus meta-data moves a bit further toward greater complexity along our spectrum, which for the moment, is plotting things in one dimension regardless of how many other dimensions are represented by the things plotted.

The man and the woman comprise two persons. Convention regards them as “individuals,” but of course even if normal, both contain myriad voices within themselves. I said above that Macroinformation is dependent on a population of information players. Seeing the scene as a play is intended to emphasize the latter. I expand the scene one step to introduce additional refinements.




I love you.




o o



That latter prompt is offered to the washerwoman who has lingered at the rehearsal and is being appealed to in lieu of audience. We will monitor the complexity of the information: initially with as much simplicity as I can manage. Noting the complexities added by additional information players is important, but not crucial to the intoduction.

XML offers a second sort of tag for HTML meta-data which would prompt or instruct in ways logically distinct from the tags to {italicize this!}
The man’s words are data. Data is always information. The woman’s face too is data: but data of a different kind: gesture: a different kind of language. I hope you noted that my rebus built of a few characters and a few tags of meta-data was itself data of a different kind: different from both the characters as English and the “face” we are to imagine. In addition, we have the director’s and assistant’s prompts: a perhaps smaller difference of type, but still a difference.

Now: we have moved slightly further to the right on our spectrum of complexity.

Information Complexity
left arrow drawing left arrow drawing small double arrow drawing right arrow drawing right arrow drawing
words, gestures …

still leftward
. . .

The further to the left in complexity of information, the less interpretation is involved. The letter A in data is the letter A. There is no symbolism other than the semiotic fact that the symbol is just that: a symbol. The letter “I” (capitalized, in English) corresponds one-to-one with the word “I.” Both are interchangeable (in this context) with the morphemic diphthong /ai/. Similarly, there is an unambiguous objectivity to the data of the woman’s face. That is, if we map the coordinates of the woman’s face against time for the moments of her response, we should be able to get it right in the same way that we should be able to spell the man’s words. Interpretation of her “face” is another matter: as is the perspective from which we see it, as is the fact that data may fall on the eye, but the mind makes nothing of it without modeling: and remodeling! But that’s for development in other files: as is my implication that objectivity with regard to Macroinformation will require an objectivity logically orthogonal to the objectivity we apply to data.

Now: I hope this part is clear: things are slightly more complex in information when meta-data is added to plain data: my indentations, my altered font faces … have organizational effects which in turn are intended to have psychological effects, focusing the reader, alerting the reader to differences in the text … The situation becomes additionally complex with X-meta-data prompting responses to the data . The director instructs the actor playing the man to


Can the instruction possibly be followed by the actor without interpretation? What will the washerwoman do when prompted to applaud? “Mind” has little involvement in the data. But the information in the scene that interests us is utterly mental.

The man says “I love you”; the woman makes a face. What we make of that juncture is neither in the words nor the facial coordinates. Neither is it in any of the several meta-data. New information issues forth from this abutment, information that dwarfs any information that could possibly be in the statement or the face alone. I say that this new information is what I said at the start and more. It is complex. It is not data. It is not in the data. I call it Macroinformation. Macroinformation emerges from between the sets of data. Gregory Bateson observed that we tend to count “things” like digits where nature is likely to be counting relationships that define the things, permit them to grow. The hand is more than a sum of fingers. Spaces between fingers are as important, potentially more important, than fingers alone.

Macroinformation is a synergy. Synergies appear only in populations of things, aggregates, systems … Synergies appear only when things with their own structures act together to form new structures.

Macroinformation is not finished with the man, the woman, the statement, the gesture, the rebus … but let me double our population of examples. Shakespeare has his Cleopatra refer to her immaturity as her salad days. That noun cluster together with the dozen to eighteen words it’s integral with was one of the first examples of what I have come to call Macroinformation that made me believe nearly forty years ago that “information theory,” at least in the form in which it was reaching my ears, was missing something: like the doctor whose enjoyment of The Aeneid lay solely in his being able to follow the action on a map. A half dozen older pieces here treat Shakespeare’s phrase at varying lengths. Here I just emphasize a couple of things. Already mentioned, both salad and days are nouns. That’s a no-no the way I was taught Standard Written English. (Of course Shakespeare wasn’t writing Standard Written English. Standard Written English hadn’t yet been invented and Shakespeare wouldn’t have received many pennies at the gate if it had been and he had used it.) Regardless of whether you approve of Shakespeare’s exception, note: it’s different from standard usage, even from standard Elizabethan usage. It carries its own neon sign proclaiming its difference.
An unexpected sameness, particularly a forbidden sameness, is itself a huge difference: like two men holding hands. No amount of study of the data would note that difference; only a study of the data in relation to a set of structures: including the structure of standard English. (Actually that latter category is itself a set of structures: context dependent.) Note further: the two nouns denote “things” from different types of existence. Salad is a food, a dish of cold vegetables; days is a measure of time as experienced by creatures of the planet earth. (We won’t know till we’re tried it how well the term will lend itself to experience on other objects in space.) Now note further, no amount of study of the denotations of the two words can produce a satisfying meaning for the pair. We’re slipping further and further from the “objectivity” of data: into a different kind of “knowing.” I suggest that even the playgoer who doesn’t know the Elizabethan connotation of salad as a trifling dish of no nutritive substance should know within a moment that the ship of poetry has just sailed over water as bottomless as any ever encountered.

My scene with the man and woman involved the word love. Cleopatra was responding to a taunt about her love. But love is not what I’m juxtaposing here. The juxtaposition I emphasize is that between logical types. Words are a different type of communication from gesture. Salad is a different sort of “thing” from days, days actually not being a “thing” at all (no more than is “love”). Multiple sets of information will always be more complex than information in a single set. The complexity is greater where the sets are of normally incompatible type. The complexity will be very high where two or more incompatible types are shoved up against each other.

In the Shakespeare phrase two types are represented by words ironically, paradoxically, macro-informationally, of the “same” grammatical class. A sentence may contain any number of nouns so long as they’re buffered by other grammatical parts in between. A workshop can contain any number of magnets so long as they’re not jammed up against each other, similar poles facing. Similars repel in close proximity. Shakespeare’s device is simple however rare. He found still another way to boost the esthetic voltage of the scene. (Voltage, realize, is potential difference.) He stacked multiple versions of the same device in the same two words.

Information Complexity
data more complex data meta-data more complex meta-data Macroinformation more complex Macroinformation

NB: I hope my readers don’t need to be told, let alone reminded, that there is no significance beyond the adoption of a convention in my placing simplicity to the left of the spectrum and complexity to the right. The significance is independent of the convention. The relationships would apply along a Y axis as well as an X, as well along a Z axis. The “left” could be the top or the bottom, the in or the out.

I noted above that multiple logical dimensions were being plotted one dimensionally as a spectrum of information complexity. (There is no necessary correspondence between what a thing is and how it’s represented.) The information types plotted in that one dimension represent, according to my theory, three informational dimensions. Let me now see what I can do in this two-dimensional medium of HTML to suggest the three informational dimensions. This time I employ drawings.

X Y axes

X Y Axes

I have represented data as the X axis. The choice is not entirely arbitrary: I didn’t flip a coin. Data is familiar. A horizontal line is comfortable to creatures living in a gravity system with a horizon. I offer meta-data as the Y axis. I place the more abstract concept in an orientation traditionally associated with things “elevated.” Having done so I ask the reader to exercise his mind to rotate the drawing ninety degrees: clockwise or counterclockwise. The relationships do not vary. Spin it. Invert it. Turn it inside out. The relationships do not vary.

NB continues: I hope my reader is a scientist. I hope he knows all this. If he does, he should be the more willing to allow the possibility of a reader who doesn’t: or a reader who could use a reminder. But in the meantime, where’s

Z axis

Z axis

Coming out of the monitor, straight at your eye.

I use the natural language simultaneous to repudiating it. We can’t get away from the teleological baggage of up and down, left and right. Even after jettisoning it from the space ship, it carries nearly the same momentum and travels along with us. So I use it: but point out that it’s garbage: outside the ship.

Indulge me please as I again appeal to the reader’s independent mind. In physics class I was shown a simple model of three-dimensions. Point your index finger away from you, elevate your thumb till it’s perpendicular (it takes an effort to hold it), fold your pinkie and ring fingers out of the way, and extend your middle finger to the side. Like data, holding the index finger straight is easy. The thumb (meta-data for the moment) is hard. Holding all three mutually perpendicular is very hard. But this simple physical model of three dimensions serves as well to model data, meta-data, and Macroinformation. Further, your hand has the advantage of not being on a monitor or page. You can rotate it. Three dimensions are three dimensions independent of the model’s surroundings. Apropos, processing Macroinformation is as automatic for humans as is processing data — easier, because Macroinformation batches — but modeling it as a abstraction, making it hold still for examination, requires repeated effort.

I return to a two dimensional presentation on the monitor but entreat the reader to see it dynamically.

xyz Axes


The third “finger,” the middle, emerges from the center of the drawing. Macroinformation streaks into your eye. We may also think of it as running through the wall and past the limb of the earth.

Dynamic Orthogonality

Dynamic Orthogonality

I am not a mathematician. I can see that height, width, and depth are orthogonal to each other in a cube. I can also see that in that special case, height, width, and depth can trade places as you turn or roll the cube. In a cube, they’re interchangeable. Not so in informational dimensions. Meta-data too may be comprised of data but data and meta-data don’t roll. There is no data in Macroinformation however much we may use data (and other forms of information) to talk about it. Macroinformation is utterly distinct.

Are height and width literally “perpendicular” to each other in a hassock? in a strolatomite? I don’t really know or care. What we should see about these “dimensions” is that they are distinct, different, themselves a source of information.

I substitute dots for parts of the three dimensional lines to emphasize that we are exploring, not safely treading known territory. This drawing skews the lines from the too familiar and rigid neatness of a normal Cartesian graph. It will be some time, if ever, before work on Macroinformation balances like a mantelpiece.

My scene with the man and woman is invented for the purposes of this set of papers. Shakespeare’s salad days is an independent artifact by a known author. I now introduce an illustration of Macroinformation which is an artifact of a group of cultures at large. It has no single source, no Folio, no variorum edition. It’s been played with, as I play with my scene, but the players are myriad, not accountable, long anonymous (however many individuals could be historically named).

Jesus Christ: A once common name is paired with a title of exclusive numinosity. A millennium of macro-informational study would not exhaust the stack of existential types there junctured. An asymptote would be reachable by a well-funded, interdisciplinary, honest … series of generations of scholars, but this water too may be unfathomable.

Understand: my reference is independent of any creed; my reference is to the Macroinformation that wells from the pairing of a human organism, the commonness emphasized, with a magical title, the uncommonness (if not the “impossibility”) emphasized. I am not saying that information is independent of belief. On the contrary: I’ll shortly be arguing specifically that they are not independent. That argument will tie intimately with my emphasis on clarifying our classifications of types of being. But first let us see a few things clearly about the current pair of words.

The phrase Jesus Christ is a koan: an oxymoron, a paradox … of public authorship. (Don’t tell me the public has no genius.) In the scene with the man and woman I asked the reader to ignore all but information type: words and gesture; characters and rebus; data and meta-data … and to appreciate the emergent information that all recognize and respond to but have lacked adequate analytical tools for. With salad days I asked the reader to ignore all but a startling stack of incongruous existential (and grammatical) types. Here I ask the reader to concentrate with me only on the incongruous existential types. Jesus refers to a man. Like salad, a man is extensional: he occupies space, has mass … Christ, like days, extends only in time, perhaps only in the human mind’s extension in time. Days refers to a local rotation of solar light and planetary shadow, but has the power of a perspective shared by many many creatures. Whether or not the term days is precise, it does refer to a phenomenon commonly perceived on this planet. Salads and men can be shown as can both words and gestures. Verifiability applies. Days can be shown, but it’s somewhat akin to the magician showing that the woman has been sawn in half: the demonstration depends on limitation of view. Problems of demonstrating “Christ” are of a different kind: different even from demonstrating “days.” The demonstrations will be 100% mental: there is no physical referent. Phenomenal referents are deferred: the promise is that if you don’t “see” it, you will come to see it. The requisite epistemology is different. We hear the words, we see the face, we eat the salad, we feel the days. We recognize men, know that they have names, know that many lived before us, that some names have been preserved. But we don’t know Christ except through faith on the one hand or disbelief on the other. (There is a third choice: never heard of him.) Christ occupies a totally different class of “thing” from the other things we’ve considered.

Gregory Bateson repeatedly discussed the cybernetic idea of the electric buzzer and the peculiar existential, logical, and epistemological class of the switch. If electrical contact is made, the switch is “on,” magnetism is activated and concentrated, a clapper makes contact with a bell: some sound-making device. Contact between bell and clapper turns the switch off. Some other device pulls the clapper away from the bell. The clapper being pulled away from the bell reactivates the switch. If the switch is on, it turns off; if it’s off, it turns on. Prior to cybernetics, traditional human thought lacked the conceptual tools for switches. The universe didn’t lack the things; men lacked the proper analytical tools. I say that the phrase Jesus Christ functions as an existential buzzer. Jesus and Christ are as logically distinct (and opposite) as 0/1, off/on, true/false … Here the differences are several: perhaps easiest to see first is man/God … man/God … man/God. As soon as we think the man, Jesus, we think the god, Christ. We also resonate between normal and magic, profane and sacred, common and anointed … The name Jesus has so long been associated with the title Christ that the given name resonates “by itself.” On its side Christ has its own resonances. Jesus Christ offers a nest of macro-informationally buzzing buzzers.

Before proceeding I say that I hope I have shown enough thus far in this introduction for the reader to recognize the relationship this project will emphasize continuously between complex information, particularly emergent information — Macroinformation — and types of being. Existential Classification must develop hand in hand with Macroinformation. (Perhaps the former could develop independently; the latter cannot.)

Other files develop the concepts here introduced. Some files examine a variety of classes of example. Other files are merely notebooks. Still others explore considerations core to the concept of Macroinformation to peripheral or parallel to the concept of Macroinformation. For example, one file argues that human communications favor information organized on analogy with human physiology. Another accounts human history with regard to certain paradigms and paradigm shifts with mythic simplicity. Others review Macroinformation in varying lights: semiotics, semantics, set theory … Still others propose “next steps”: a search for Bateson’s Case of Synonymous Languages, for example.

This penultimate section to the Introduction is intended as an accordion folder into which slips of ideas can be dropped or removed. The first briefly scan some of the depths of the territory.

The Capital Building in Washington DC occupies space, is extensional; but is “the Capital” “itself”? St. Patrick’s Cathedral has mass, but does the Church? (It has a different kind of mass.) The Adirondacks, the Rockies, and the Sierra Mountains all may be found on the continent we call North America, but “where” are such entities as the United States, Canada, Mexico …? I find classification systems other than those used by Korzybski and Bateson (for example) to be woefully misleading as well as inadequate. Taxonomies are all mental artifacts: so too will be new taxonomies. But communications would be limited indeed without them. Parenthetically, I just encountered an awesome new classification system reflecting the work of Carl Woese. Stephen Jay Gould reproduces it in Full House [New York, 1997, p. 180] and I’m so excited I just copied it as a digital drawing. (It’s a large drawing which I will perhaps incorporate into another file.) It classifies life on earth in three grand evolutionary domains: Bacteria, Archaea, and Eucarya. It makes every other “tree” I’ve seen look like a mathematical lie: a property in a staged illusion. Gould’s thesis (in my words) emphasizes that we should see the “full house”: all of the data; not ensorcell ourselves via the artificial magnification of vanity-appealing parts. Neither my Macroinformation nor my Existential Classification will be right until the picture is full. Imagine what our heirs could do then with a few macro-informational bell curves.

Macroinformation should enhance the study of communications, both human and more. Macroinformation should be part of the study of information and of complexity. Macroinformation offers a set of syntheses of a number of studies. Colleagues are invited to collaborate, especially by offering points and parallels I may be missing. (Please read all the essays before deciding what they are.) I see Macroinformation as already a qualitative study of information and communications. I feel little closer to a quantitative study than I was thirty-some years ago when I first thought along these lines. A quantitative study never-the-less remains a goal. An interdisciplinary analysis of the information in Mozart’s A Little Night Music, or Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, or the spiritual Amazing Grace would have helped in a lot of arguments of the past.

Information is independent of truth. I can use data here to say “The moon is made of green cheese.” So too is the whole of the spectrum of information independent of what Korzybski calls sanity. The poem can move us: to love or to hate, to sober up or to jump off the cliff, to make peace or to drop the big one. That latter should make us the more anxious to understand our own behavior.

introductory material from 2000 12 28

Complex things may be made up of simple things, but something else is inevitably, often invisibly, added on. One complex of things may make an atom. A complex of atoms make a molecule. At some level of complexity the molecule becomes an organic molecule. Molecules may make a cell. Cells may make an organism. At each level, a new something has emerged: a synergy: something not predictable from knowledge, however complete-seeming, of the previous levels. Organisms differentiate, form genders, imply species.

If the atom is “real,” is the molecule also “real”? … Is the species real? Objectivity, with regard to both questions and answers, changes with level. There seems to be something “physical” about the atom (if you have enough of them). But however physical the individual organisms may be, the reality of the species is abstract: abstract, but not less real.

My subject here is information, an ingredient in communications. I propose that there are more analogies between chains of levels of organizations of perception such as atom and species and concepts such as data, information, communications than I at least have seen acknowledged. In particular, I believe that complexity in information is itself of source of new species of information. I believe that handling populations while talking only about handling individuals is a source of a new species of deception more dangerous than anything implicit in the atom’s relationship to Energy.

Communications have been meticulously analyzed by Gregory Bateson (with Jurgen Ruesch). I emphasize that that part of human communications which are in any aspect deliberate — human speech, for example — are deeply ambivalent. We use the same channels whether identifying our selves and purposes as we use in concealing or mis-identifying our selves and purposes. The human speech apparatus can cry “Don’t shoot: it’s Paul” or pretend to be an owl while trying to sneak closer for spying, abduction, attack. I observe that institutions have the same capacities as individuals (and generally a better budget). I believe that a mankind interested in survival needs a science of communications and interpretation on an altogether new level of objectivity, power, accountability, and responsibility than have hitherto served (a likewise ambivalent) civilization.

My current contribution toward this goal is my concept of Macroinformation. Two years worth of writing on the subject is mounted here at Macroinformation in which I try to recognize, introduce, analyze, illustrate, and partly define the phenomenon. I will guide you to those files in a moment, files in which I propose that information is minimally three-dimensional. Easy to see is the dimension of data. Logically orthogonal, but still visible to many, is the dimension of meta-data: data about the data. Mutually orthogonal, and harder for the intellect to see (particularly perhaps the trained intellect) (but transparent for us all to experience) is the abstract dimension of Macroinformation. Where distinct data types abut, new information emerges: information which is not data, information which has no physical referrent. A different kind of objectivity must be developed responsibly to analyze the abstract.

Thus far I’ve had little more success than I would anticipate having whispering in a theater about illusion to an audience intent on experiencing the illusion. The magician’s aides don’t have to throw me into the alley: the ticket buyers themselves don’t listen.

At least a couple of readers discovered and acknowledged that there were good, challenging things here. Gradually I saw that at least one saw it with a technical clarity rivaling, possibly exceeding, my own. Now I can account for at least three who see some important part of the core complex, not just the periphery. It’s my hope that they can help me determine how better to communicate it to more. Since it’s inception after all Macroinformation has needed and invited interdisciplinary collaboration.

A menu of files will follow these observations, but first:
Attended communications in civilization require the polite fiction that human communications are simple, mono-polar, benevolent. Macroinformation argues that simplicity is one narrow part of the spectrum of complexity in information, that information is bi-polar, poly-topological, that sine waves have troughs as well as crests, that seeing which is which is interpretive, subject to further interpretation even without new data.

By implicit analogy I argue that beer is full of a lot of dead yeast the majority of whom may well have believed that the sugar in the barley wort would last and last. It isn’t even the case that the dominant yeast gets to drink the beer: the beer is for a different species altogether: one the yeast never meet. Man believing that everything is for him, endlessly and without consequence, is an example of, well, Macroinformation: an insane Macroinformation. Understand: I have nothing against whatever “gods” might want a biosphere converted into something not a biosphere and who have suckered a human yeast to work for them: I’d just like my kind to live in the barley wort a little longer.

Paul Knatz shares with the world the misfortune that I am better at starts than at finishes. I believe that that liability is the result of the failure of my starts to communicate successfully. I believe that that failure is far more the responsibility of the world than mine. (I say the world suffers mutually because it lacks the ideas it ignores, or doesn’t understand, chooses not to countenance. Lack an honest grading system and one will soon lack a full complement of ideas.) Certainly any writing, any idea can be improved, equaled at the least. But I believe that something other than quality and clarity are at the core in the failures of my work. I flatter myself by believing that my failure is actually evidence of success: success in frightening people with real issues. The downside is that I’m forever believing that a different start, a wider (or a narrower) stance, might succeed in attracting pollinators, partners, a mating. This current top page is the most recent of some forty starts made over two years: hundreds of drafts producing forty-odd fragments. Had any one of them produced a mating I believe I could then have finished it, called in Chapter One or Introduction and gone on to Chapter Two. A mature Macroinformation Project could then be rewritten, improved, simplified, made more all-inclusive, and be published as a revised edition.

As it is, this current top page recapitulates strategies tried and abandoned eighteen months ago: it uses a wide angle lens; more recent efforts have used telephoto. Some files concentrate on defining Macroinformation technically. Today’s effort began on a different tack.

introductory material from 2000 11 16
Three Dimensions: Sensing the Paradigm

My first graphic in the Introduction mapped three mutually orthogonal phenomena along a single axis. Showing one logical dimension in two spatial dimensions is easy: the axis of Information Complexity is an example. Now picture a spatially identical axis, but call it Data. So far we have a Cartesian X axis. Meta-data must be plotted vertically to it: a Y axis. So where’s Macroinformation? Coming right off the screen straight at you while simultaneously running to infinity in the opposite direction through your wall and streaking past the limb of the earth. Picture a cube. Isolate one corner. Three lines mutually perpendicular to each other meet (and invisibly pass each other) at a single point: a vertex of the cube. That’s hard for a human mind to see let alone hold. Oh, the data is on the retina, something is in the visual cortex, but the reality of the data, the information of that data, has a hard time being mapped or interpreted in the mind. And maps successfully erected have a short life. The average mind isn’t good at storing it, the superior mind little better. Yesterday I recalled to my son Carl Sagan’s two-dimensionally represented “shadow” of a hyper-cube in his Cosmos
series. The graphic was printed two-dimensionally in book form and broadcast two-dimensionally on TV. We see it. The data goes on the retina. But the mind recoils. Even a hint of four dimensions looks like something from hell to minds comfortable in two dimensions. I hope the reader is laboring with me on this point, because I have no full-nelson on my own subject: a have a toe-hold at best and my grip at best is slippery. If you are comfortable as well as adept at thinking in three dimensions, if you are Frank Lloyd Wright’s peer (as I am not), please, come quickly. I need you. Take this burden from me. Little Hans has his finger, all of his fingers, in holes in a dike: the dike invisible to the population at large. The Dutch grow their tulips in hard won knowledge of the sea. PK confronts a metaphorical dike: in a population blissfully congratulating and promoting itself in I believe fatal ignorance of its own physical spaces and logical dimensions.

Yet even those with merely normal or slightly better than normal faculties (like mine) can specially train themselves to apprehend new paradigms. A high point in my life came after a conversation with R. Buckminster Fuller. I stood on a plain and watched the twilight. I disciplined myself to disregard the sun “setting” as it daily had in my culture. Within the hour I mentally “felt” the sun as “fixed” in relation to us and felt myself and my illusion prone patch of planetary surface turning deeper into the earth’s shadow. Since then, most days, I revert to seeing the sun “set.” Cultural gravity pulls a strong tide, hard to impossible to swim against. Most halls at Columbia or Cambridge, Harvard or the Sorbonne, experience a setting sun. (I am not saying that my retraining my senses made it so. My senses were still subjective but with this difference: my new feelings matched theories already centuries old and also match the more objective experience of astronauts with a view!)

Yet almost any of us can swim in an exhausting spurt against ordinary tides. Forget the vertex of the cube. Hold your hand the way I was shown in physics. Point your pointer finger directly away from you. Elevate your thumb to the vertical. Your pointer stays pointed for a few moments without discomfort; your thumb needs a bit of force. Now, folding your ring and pinkie fingers out of the way, extend your middle finger to the side. No, don’t say, Yeah, yeah, without actually doing it. Your thumb has collapsed. Try again. For a moment you can achieve the simplest of models, not only of trinary spatial dimensionality, but of informational complexity. Data is like a line. We can see it. We can think about it. We’re comfortable with it. Thinking about meta-data is like trying to hold our thumb rigidly vertical: we can only do it for a second. Thinking about Macroinformation: something mutually orthogonal … Well: from what I can see, we haven’t been able to do it at all. Yet we all live quite comfortably in how ever many special dimensions actually exist. We all process and issue new Macroinformation. The chasm exists between our doing and our understanding: between our lives and our model making ability. The former are fully dimensional; the latter is relatively impoverished.

2011 05 16 I’m resurrecting this complex, ranging, old file the best I can. It probably would have been easier, faster, and better to just rewrite it, which I’ll have to do anyway.
Note in particular that my “numbering” systems are always changing. My zero changes, subdivides … I insert another metadimension …
I need a vacation after this one. My thinking having moved on makes it worse.

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in dimension, information, pk Teaching, structure. Bookmark the permalink.

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