Friday, December 16, 2011

information world

I was excited and informed by Faster : The  Acceleration of Just About Everything by James Gleick, a book that takes a broad and well-written look at humans and their production of speeds, in travel, work and elsewhere.  I had seen his book "Chaos" for years before that but I guessed that I had read enough about that subject of scientific mixing and disorder in systems.  It's an idea related to the importance subject of randomness, which is basic in statistics . However, when he recently came out with "The Information", I thought it might be a book I would enjoy reading.

A couple of weeks ago, I began watching  "The  Science of Self", a Great Course taught by Professor Lee Silver.  It is about genetics.  Silver explained that DNA merely conveys a code, information, not particular chemical substances.  He illustrated his point by stating that a woman on one planet and a man on another could have a child together without meeting or touching or exchanging substances if the code for the man's genome and that for the woman's were used to create an embryo on a third planet using their genetic codes.  

The idea fascinates me.  I realize that I am the current result of my parents' codes as well as what I have eaten, breathed, performed and experienced over the years but in a sense, I am information.  So, information got back on my hot list of topics.  I am interested in the inexpensive, brief "Very Short Introduction" book series by Oxford University.  I remembered one about information and just started it a couple of days ago.

Information: A Very Short Introduction by Luciano Floridi is an eye-opener.  I take some of his statements with a grain of salt, especially when he makes statements about basic changes in humans from their computerized and internet information streams and activities.  But he talks about the infosphere and distinguishes that from cyberspace, which is a term he uses, like most people, to mean the collection of information on computers and their cousins.  Infosphere is his term for the total of interconnected organisms related to each other by means of information exchange.  So, I guess a mosquito that has sensed my presence and I and my friend reading my text message are all members of the infosphere.

I remember that Steven Hawking, the astrophysicist and some colleague had a disagreement about whether or not information could escape from a black hole.  I am not clear what they meant but there is that term again.  Duncan J. Watts in "Everything Is Obvious, Once You Know The Answer" is a good example of a further development of data mining, text mining, where conclusions about peoples' behavior, ideas and feelings are derived from tweets and related text data.  Scientists, investigators and theorists are more aware of the presence of information, how to search and 'mine' it, and derive insights from it these days.

Floridi emphasizes that things we call "objects" are getting to be part of the infosphere.  Doors that open as I approach and lamps that light up when the sun goes down are examples of objects that are not quite as inanimate as a hammer or pair of pliers. 

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