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Information  2012 

When Information Conveys Meaning

DOI: 10.3390/info3040635

Keywords: meaning, information, cause and effect, observer role, goal-directed behavior, subjectivity, emergence, evolution

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Abstract:

While some information is clearly meaningful and some clearly is not, no one has been able to identify exactly what the difference is. The major obstacle has been the way information and meaning are conceptualized: the one in the physical realm of tangible, objective entities and the other in the mental world of intangible, subjective ones. This paper introduces an approach that incorporates both of them within a unified framework by defining them in terms of what they do, rather than what they are. Meaningful information is thus conceptualized here as patterns of matter and energy that have a tangible effect on the entities that detect them, either by changing their function, structure or behavior, while patterns of matter and energy that have no such effects are considered meaningless. The way that meaningful information can act as a causal agent in bio-behavioral systems enables us to move beyond dualistic concepts of ourselves as comprised of a material body that obeys the laws of physics and a non-material essence that is too elusive to study [1].

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