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What is information? What is the essence and basic operating principle of information? (Original 2024) Searching for Target Information Series One

We are already in an information age. This is a concept that everyone has already accepted, so people just want to explore and master the information they need. However, what exactly is information, what is its nature and basic circulation model, people usually do not delve into or easily get confused in the chain of concepts. Here, I try to explain my understanding of this topic with concise concepts.

1. Meaning and Nature of Information#

What is information? Simply put, information is the understanding of the world by people. To elaborate, information is the understanding of people or things in the world, and it is encoded, stored, transmitted, or kept confidential through language rules, logical rules, etc. Currently, the definition of information in academia seems to be uncertain, and its source seems to come from the controversy over the understanding of the nature of information, that is, whether information is a substance or energy, or a recognition/description of the substance or energy state of the world? However, even if it is believed that information is a substance or energy, it is itself a recognition/description of the substance or energy state; whether information is a substance or energy seems neither confirmable nor falsifiable. It can be logically consistent to believe that the nature of information is the encoded understanding of people or things in the world.

From a macro perspective, everything can be regarded as information. From the perspective of physics, the particles that make up objects, including molecules, atoms, elementary particles, etc., can all be regarded as information or carriers of information, and quantum physics is the understanding of the laws of operation of atoms and finer particles. In the key field of life sciences, the DNA and genetic coding mechanism that constructs human life is also a form of information. From the perspective of information science, information refers to any data or knowledge that can be perceived and recorded, including text, images, sounds, videos, and any other form of data or knowledge.

Concept clarification or distinction. To understand the concept that essence is a kind of recognition "information", it is necessary to distinguish between the object of recognition and the result of recognition. For example, "atom" is the object of recognition, and "atom" itself is also a kind of recognition; the understanding of "atom", including the view that atoms are indivisible (the view of ancient Greek philosophers) and the view that "atom" is divisible, is the result of recognition and also a kind of recognition. It is necessary to clarify the order of people's understanding: data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. People usually classify the results of understanding the world into data, information, knowledge, and wisdom based on the degree of eliminating uncertainty. This distinction has its advantages, but it is easy to cause misunderstandings in that it regards data as the original and objective data of the material and energy state of the world, rather than the result of human understanding. However, data itself is also obtained through the design of models, observation, statistics, generalization, and summarization, and it is also a kind of understanding of the world.

3. Basic Laws of Information Circulation#

From a micro perspective, examining information requires examining the ways in which people encode information. In addition to basic language grammar rules and basic logical rules, people need to follow certain rules or coding methods to process information. To examine the coding methods of information, it is necessary to examine the information source, the medium of information circulation (carrier), storage, processing, exploration, research, and the generation of new information sources. The basic process of information circulation is: information starts from the information source, passes through the medium or method of information circulation, goes to information storage, then goes through information processing (such as sorting, indexing), and finally goes through searching, querying, and researching, thereby generating new information (sources), forming a continuously evolving and updating information development cycle system.

Information circulation basic flowchart generated by ChatGPT-4 based on my content.

Specifically, different disciplines have different basic circulation models for understanding information from their unique perspectives. For example, computer science regards information as data, text, audio, video, records, etc. that computers and network transmissions need to process. At the same time, the process of information processing in computer science actually follows the basic process of information circulation, but it is different from other disciplines or information circulation methods (including different from paper books, oral expression, direct observation, or practical experience).

In conclusion: Through the above analysis, we can know that the nature of information is a kind of description or understanding; information needs to distinguish between recognition objects and recognition results; information circulation follows a basic process model; specific information processing sciences, such as computer science, process information based on specific coding and decoding rules, following the basic information circulation model. In this way, we are in an information world and era.

This article was originally published on January 17, 2024, here, and archived here.

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