Re: Information Theory

From: Hawkins, Sean (
Date: Fri May 23 1997 - 12:44:53 BST

On Thu, 22 May 97 18:28:00 +0100 Harnad, Stevan wrote:

> From: Harnad, Stevan <>
> (25) What is information?
> a. any message that makes you feel informed
> b. any message that makes you feel informed
> when the sender meant you to feel informed
> c. ***anything that reduces your uncertainty
> d. anything that reduces your uncertainty when the
        sender meant to reduce your uncertainty
> e. none of the above
> > From: Hawkins, Sean <>
> > I do not believe c (anything which reduces your uncertainty)
> > is the correct answer.
> "I have used the food dispenser example before to explain what
> information and communication are about: If there are six numbers and I
> can only choose one number each day, then my chance of getting lunch is
> 1/6, but if someone tells me that the number is odd today (and that is
> true) then my probability of lunch has gone up to 1/3."
> From Lecture Notes on Chapter 9
> "Information = the reduction of uncertainty between alternatives
> that MATTER to you.
> "The 6-choice lunch machine is an example of how any data that could
> reduce the uncertainty about which of the 6 windows contains the lunch
> is informative."

Regardless of whether you omit or keep this question in, I
still challenge the answer.

Basically, you have just used a contextual example to show
where information reduces uncertainty. There are an
infinite number of examples where information increases

Taking your 6-choice lunch machine as an example. What if
you were provided with another piece of information which
says that lunch may or may not be even present ? Would that
not increase your uncertainty as to the probability of
eating lunch on that day ? You say that information is the
reduction of uncertainty between alternatives that matter to
you. How would you describe a subsequent statement
along the lines of "lunch may or may not be even present" ?
If that is not information, what is it ? It doesn't reduce
uncertainty, it increases it - it is not a directive or a
question but it has relevance and it matters to you.

If you had made clear in the question that you expected the
answer to come from the theory of information then I would
have obviously selected (c), but the question did not have
an explicit theoretical basis. This issue is one which has
commonalities with the "would you mind getting off my foot
?" question.

I would submit that information which is attended to - ie
you understand that it has reduced (or indeed increased)
your uncertainty, is no longer information but rather
intelligence - information is purely explicit, intelligence
is an implicit derivation of information, and is therefore
subjective because not all information is attended to.

Sean Hawkins

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