Any person who is interested in information probably has some ideas about what information is. These ideas can be compared to currently accepted definitions of information or tested in practical situations to see if they hold true.

The Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems is an online reference created by members of the Principia Cybernetica Project , a collection of people who call themselves "a world-wide organization collaboratively developing a computer-supported evolutionary-systemic philosophy, in the context of the transdisciplinary academic fields of Systems Science and Cybernetics." This dictionary defines information as:


1) that which reduces uncertainty. (Claude Shannon); 2) that which changes us. (Gregory Bateson)

Literally that which forms within, but more adequately: the equivalent of or the capacity of something to perform organizational work, the difference between two forms of organization or between two states of uncertainty before and after a message has been received, but also the degree to which one variable of a system depends on or is constrained by (see constraint) another. (Krippendorf)

According to these definitions, information can be an indicator of difference, or a degree of difference between two or more entities. An entity could, in theory, be any area of matter or energy that has an identity, no matter how small and simple or large and complex. Therefore, information itself can exist on an atomic (or even sub-atomic) scale or on a scale of great complexity. Something is information if it behaves, or can behave in such a way that it causes change in or provokes a response from other surrounding, adjacent, or otherwise related matter and energy.

I propose that information is:

Matter or energy that, when it is acknowledged by other matter and/or energy, designates its own existence and organization as well as the actions performed by and upon itself.

And that

Information originates when an entity capable of acknowledging difference or organization interacts with other matter and/or energy, though information can be transformed into other arrangements of matter or energy that can exist outside of that entity.

This definition emphasizes both the substance and the activity that accounts for the existence of information.

The actual form information takes depends on its content, organization, and behavior. For instance, sub-atomic differences between hydrogen and oxygen atoms carry information when they enable the atoms to join and become water molecules. The sequence of the four chemicals that comprise a strand of human DNA embodies differences among each substance's distinctive chemical properties. These differences comprise information other human cells can use to repair themselves or create new cells. When a person listens to a weather forecast, information is created by her mind if she learns something she didn't know about before because it changes the state of her short-term memory.

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