An epistemology, based on the information that rules our lives, is stated - Informationism -. Information, or perhaps the message, reaches the brain as tiny impulses- quanta or useful information -, hitting and activating the neurones; as a consequence becoming quanta of useful information. Among other matters, human neural evolution due to information, as well as other neural information theories are studied.
In these historic times of change in social structures, a transmutation process is taking place which affects all human manifestations. Its main influence can be seen in the conceptual principles related to the theoretical basis of many scientific disciplines. Considered as a whole as an essential element, information is also affected by the transmutations that are currently taking place. Neuronal Information Assimilation theories are studied.
Descartes (1596- 1650 AD) in his famous statement “I think,therefore I am”, he grants an absolute value to human thinking, valid by itself; which confers nature to the being. This “thinking” is reached through a process of assimilation of information producing knowledge. The point of view of Cristoph Martin Wieland (1733-1813 AD) which deals with information, with the understanding and the information of the heart is also interesting.
In the Oxford English Dictionary, there is a great deal of definitions for information, dating from the XIV century. Apart from pointing out information as an element to form the mind, to teach and to learn, it mentions its function as an advice,as a warning; as well as in legal terms.
Evolution in the XIX, XX and XXI centuries
It may have been at the end of the 80’s in the XX century, - one has to be cautious with these statements - when the neurological connotations of information started to be studied as such - neural assimilation -, along with its connection with theology and hermeneutics.
All these studies are carried out at the same time as the development of computerized communication techniques, computer science, and all that is related to computational science.
What is understood by “information”
Information is both “everything” and “nothing” at the same time. On the one hand, it is indeed “everything”, due to the fact that, through its mental or physical use, one can reach knowledge and, from that, taking as an example its most pragmatic sense, research, science, wisdom and the truth - objective, relative and conditioned truth -. From this reasoning, it can be concluded that information has a transcendental connotation, given that, following the same line of thought; from truth one can reach evidence and certainty.
Neuronal theory: quanta of useful information
The theories stated the fact that impulses from the outside are received by neurons, which thus start their activity. In other words, neurons are activated, giving the individual – the human being – a higher reasoning capacity and intelligence.
The signals coming from outside the brain formed small “quanta of information” which were immediately followed by the processes mentioned above to develop knowledge and subsequently ideas, becoming “quanta of useful information”. And this is a phenomenon that has been occurring since Man became Man, or maybe even before that. Helmut Anntz affirms that hominid became human exactly due to the consecutive reception and assimilation of information, reaching its brain from the outside, from its environment.
Neuronal theories of information
Therefore, we know that information is processed - neuronal assimilation - when certain impulses, or quanta of useful information, reach the brain, thus giving rise to knowledge: a useable product. Several authors have done research on this significant subject and have developed different theories which I can today describe as “neuronal theories of information”.
In order to study some neuronal theories, one has to go back to the middle of the XX century when C. E. Shannon published his Theory of Information, which can be considered as the starting point. Somewhat later, in 1988, I had the satisfaction of releasing my theory of the quanta of useful information. Since then, many different theories have been developed. Most of them try to find some parallelism between the processes occurring in the brain and the mechanisms carried out by computers; in accordance with some programmes prepared beforehand, in order to have the machine carrying out the function for which it was manufactured (– by human beings – note of the author). Some authors think that the process has been carried out the other way round; i.e. it was the machines’ operation that induced the thought of a similar operation in the brain. In any case, these theories have been developed by different specialists and researchers of the field of information science.
In order to study the mentioned process of neuronal assimilation, we will expound some relevant opinions, considered as the starting point of subsequent researches. On the one hand, John McHale considers information is a consumer good, which humans should use to their benefit and to obtain better living standards. He assumes living beings use their senses to collect information from the environment and the difference between human beings and other living beings is that man can “process” information consciously; humans use a system of symbols to communicate with fellow men. The author also mentions the changing and changeable environment of information - note of the author -; since he assumes that it is due to its influence and use that our life conditions, basic principles, cultural manifestations and so on vary. The use of information to a greater or lesser extent measures the level of evolution of the human race. More informed societies will have more possibilities for choice.
On the other hand, Fred I. Dretske grants information a holistic, primal and basic nature. He states that, in the beginning, there was information and the world came after it. The transition, (perhaps better transmutation – note of the author), was carried out through the development of organisms with the ability of exploiting information in a selective way, with the purpose of being able to survive and endure as a species. Information reaches the brain and affects and activates the neurons. For a reaction to happen, the brain needs a reference scale; which is built through consecutive information reaching it from the outside world. These theories seem somehow incoherent to me, since the question about the origin of information arises. If the world has risen from information, perhaps the idea of an all-embracing creator loses strength… or is information then the creator?
Another interesting researcher is Thomas J. Froelich, who deals with information as an element to develop knowledge, subsequently studying the latter. He states thought is not absolute; it depends on the nature of each individual, on its reference system and on its set of values. Nothing new so far; but he carries on with the statement that thought can always and only be valid from the point of view of the individual thinking it. Therefore the famous sentence of Descartes needs to be inverted, thus considering: “I am, therefore I think”. Thinking is a human activity and it implies information as an element, cause and effect. This activity grants a social function to thinking. Each society - social group - creates a different form of knowledge and thought.
Other interesting theories
Similarly, the theories of R.M Berstrom are interesting. According to him, humans behave as a communication system, at the centre of which is the brain. Here, the signals are received from the outside and emitted to the outside. Information is supposed to be the raw material to develop these abilities. The author also states one needs to make the difference between information and the processing of it. Through subsequent reasoning, the difference between “information” and “information science” can be established. As several other authors maintain, Bergstom compares the brain with the machine - perhaps the computer -, stating that information is the raw material driving both and thus comparing information with energy. The informative capacity of the brain, within the brain structure, is estimated to be generated at approximately 109 bits/sec. However, when it reaches the conscious level it is only about 100 bits/sec, which means there is a loss of 107 bits/sec when going from the physiological to the psychological level. Human beings have the capacity for a higher brain development; to be more intelligent. The mechanism to go from the sphere of the “unconscious” to the sphere of the “conscious” is missing.
The theories of Brier will now be considered. He deals with the interpretation of the message, different from the information; in order to make it understandable and comprehensible by the receiver. The brain, together with the machine, is responsible for this comprehension, in which a cognitive process is included. Brier, together with M. Leupolt and other researchers, amongst whom I am included, is of the opinion that this cognitive process should be extended to every living being, i.e. plants and animals.
Alexander King assumes there is a series of phenomena, events and stages of understanding, each of them at a higher and more complex level of abstraction, in order to reach the “knowledge” of the world we live in, and to adapt our acts to this world. Information is in every one of these stages, either as a base or as a vehicle to pass from one level to the other. These theories are actually shared nowadays by several specialists and researchers. What was new about them was the historic moment in which they appeared. Alexander King was one of the pioneers and he is well known for his many works and papers.
From the principal theories of Norbert Henrichs, it is worth mentioning here his interest in the creative ability of human beings, which enables them to reach science and, therefore, wisdom. This author also focuses on the spiritual attributes of information and, to a certain degree, grants it theological connotations.
Amongst other opinions and research from the theories of Peter Ingwersen, we could stress those in which research is considered as the result of a modification of the structures of knowledge of who receives the information – supposedly a human being.
From either point of view, neuronal theories are based on the same principles and follow almost identical reasoning. Perhaps A. N. Leontiev contributes with something new, by relating information to conscience, and assuming information is in fact the way in which conscience exist for the others. Apart from that, information is the link between individuals; obviously in a process of communication.
Informationism: former theories
After what has been written until now, it would seem unnecessary to continue justifying the possibility of formulating a new epistemology based on information: informationism. However, it may be convenient to establish relationships with other theories on knowledge organization, in order to observe perhaps the parallelism between these and information, taken now as a mental process.
On the one hand, information arrives to the brain, and activates a mental process which starts with the seizure, reaching knowledge and then comprehension, to end up with a total understanding of whatever was involved by the information in the origin. All this implies a process of organization of knowledge itself. On the other hand, information is considered to be the connecting thread which affects the brain of human beings, helping them to form their intelligence. Each historical period has based its knowledge theories on a different principle, which is itself influenced by the stage of the actual evolution of mankind. Similarly, the philosophical trends being studied by men from different points of view have had an influence; different theories have thus raised, such as causalism, empiricalism, positivism, historicism, physicism and so on.
The relationships that may be applied between some of these known theories and informationism are now considered. Firstly, “causalism” which states there is no effect without a cause: effect = quanta of useful information reaching the brain; cause = knowledge. Realism states that real objects are the base for knowledge. Here, an idea corresponds to an object and the former has its origin in information, which will thus become the object. Positivism is the theory which matches the best. It was devised by August Comte, and based on the concept that only the facts, immediately received by the senses and quantitatively verified, can generate knowledge. This author also allows for a social attitude, given that the perception of the outside world may condition our behaviour.
In the past, perhaps since 1980 to mention a guiding date, the chemical and spiritual components of human beings have been being considered; this implies a change in the postulation of such theories. A modern theory of knowledge has subsequently risen, based on the principle of “get to know you”, which has lately gained great importance. This principle studies and examines in human beings, both physically and psychologically, in a neo-realistic attempt to turn the activities of the spirit into mere equations, and chemical and physical formulae; arguing that a human being is formed by chemical elements and compounds.
More recently, a turn towards a more humanizing position is being observed. Let us, for instance, quote Fernando de Elzaburu, who bases his theory of knowledge organization on the change of paradigm of his new “vision of reality”. We live in a transmutation period and, therefore, old reference parameters are no longer valid. Other more highly abstracted parameters, based on system theory, should be accepted. Norbert Henrichs also develops his theory from a change of paradigm, by adding a phylo-theological connotation to information, based on obtaining “wisdom” – more complex than “knowledge”-; subjective and relative knowledge, since it is human, but objective and absolute with respect to its relationship with science - note of the author -. Jirî Cejpek’s sets his paradigm on human conscience, as a psycho-physical phenomenon carried out in the brain when it receives information. Many other formulations, by many other authors, and deducible from the ones already mentioned, could be quoted here.
Informationism: a new theory of knowledge
Even though it is widely admitted that we are currently living in the Age of Communication, given that information flows back and forth through communication; it is obvious that information surrounds and invades us. Not even on a desert island could
we escape its influence. Information is the basis for any human activity, for all our reasoning, the origin of any social attitude; it is the basis… It is the basis on which to formulate a theory of knowledge, which takes information as fundamental paradigm, and which I call “Informationism”.
On the one hand, Informationism entails an optimistic viewpoint, through the belief that a more equal and homogeneous world can be achieved, if its paradigms are correctly applied. On the other hand it implies a waiting and hoping attitude, given that it implies an uncertainty before the truth is revealed. Informationism also assumes a functional principle of thinking, a philosophic and scientific activity, with its repercussion on scientific development. Moreover, it affects daily activities, such as trade and industry. Its influence can be observed in ethical and cultural behaviours. It also has an effect on pragmatic activities such as decision-making, for instance. Having an attitude based on Informationism means perceiving the world from a higher level, on which a broader range of concepts is observed; a higher level of abstraction.
Informationism is an objective in itself. It relies, in each particular case, on real and objective reasoning, based on the existence of also real and objective information, hence true information. Therefore, Informationism is also true and real. These rather deterministic attitudes; stating a totalitarian view of information as the seed of “all” that happens in the Universe, within which is Planet Earth and the rest of the cosmos, leads one to consider Informationism from its pantheistic aspect, of globalizing connotations, considering this as a positive view. Informationism can thus be considered to have positivistic attributes.
It is deduced that Informationism can be described as human, objective, realistic, optimistic, globalizing, philosophical, scientific, pragmatic ,real, terrestrial, cosmic… pantheistic; all “good” qualities anyway. Some researchers and specialists may not agree with this classification and theories… let us await their reactions.
In any case, it can be stated that Informationism period has arrived.
We live in a constantly evolving world, which leads to a continuous transmutation as well. In the past twenty years or so, to set a date, there have been greater transmutations than in the fifty years before. Information technology has been the cause of all these changes. We do not even know ourselves, neither do we get to specify our attitudes towards machines, faced with a computer for instance. What an amazing change in the way we do some research, write a conference paper or send a letter to a friend! Machines and electronic devices would not have gained such importance in our lives… if it were not for the influence of a driving force… towards change. Here is just where information has its place, exactly in this driving force, which is mainly determined by two specific factors: quantity on the one hand, and speed on the other, in which human beings are immersed. We live rushed lives. We are in a hurry to do everything; even, or maybe due to that, to control the amount of information surrounding us.
Ours is a changing world, influenced by information. It is information itself which leads us to understand that our fields of consideration; our points of view must be broadened. Everything is related to everything; and to be able to distinguish what captures the relevance, the attention or the interest, a higher degree of abstraction needs to be reached. Things need to be looked upon from higher above; a higher level of thought needs to be reached… Likewise, there should be the aspiration of reaching a Cosmo vision… with higher level of abstraction.
Since the appearance of information was shown up: due to the influence on the brain of impulses coming from the outside - quanta of useful information -, thus reaching the neurons and activating them, nearly all definitions found consider this aspect; and then the anthropological, neurological, biological, ontogenetical, epistemological, and theological connotations appeared. Regarding this, our colleague A. García Gutiérrez mentions “bio information”.
Information, as an all-time route of civilization, is also analyzed. It is supposed to belong to the mesosystem, within the noosystems. And there is also here an induction to consider the validity of Informationism: a new epistemology, based on the paradigm of the universality of information.
A new area of knowledge is emerging, independent in itself, but systematic and vertically related to the rest of the scientific areas of knowledge; that is to say, Information as a science in itself.
Emilia Curras (09/12/2009)
Descriptors (Key words): Information science, philosophy, informationism, theory of knowledge.
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