First let’s be clear about the nature of information. Information is energy received by a sensor and transmitted to a sentient processor of some kind. Only if information can be discriminated into something recognized (or not) by a memory process, can it be converted into knowledge.
Information has two fundamental properties:
– Storage, which requires matter
– Transmission, which requires energy
These properties tie information to thermodynamics, in that any sensible information system exists in the material world. Computer systems, DNA system and human social systems of course store and transmit information and in addition replicate and perform logical operations. The Constructal Theory of information shows that all information systems are based on the Turing Universal Machine architecture, regardless of the method of operation. Computers use bits, biology uses DNA, but the Turing proof has been shown inductively to be transitive across all known information systems.
Information may be stored deliberately by humans in books, videos and such. However, it is only potential information until it is recognized and understood. This is the “monolith” problem, in which humans discover something clearly of intelligent origin, but are unable to obtain more than surface data about it. Much more ordinary, we can’t obtain information from a book in a language we don’t understand, even if we can recognize that it is a book and why it exists. In 1970, a common USB stick was as inscrutable to every human on earth as the monolith. Without a computer, it was impossible to know the purpose of the stick, what information it contained, if any. In short, without shared context or prior knowledge, we cannot receive information at all.
This extends to every object or experience we encounter in the real world. Without substantial prior knowledge, we would be unable to understand the energy patterns entering our eyes or other sensors. If knowledge is required to receive information, than an interesting question is, what was the first knowledge? The answer would point to the origin of life.
To convert information to knowledge, memory and a logical process are required. Is this energy I am receiving something that I recognize or not? Noise or voices? If the speech discriminator recognizes words, then they are transferred to other working memory and assembled into messages. The message may add to, subtract from or not affect the existing knowledge base. The new knowledge may trigger an immediate action, like “Get me a glass of water,” or “There is water in the kitchen,” which is added to working memory for possible expression as an action later on.
Knowledge can itself be transferred, by speech, writing, video or many other ways. The important thing to note is that there is no such thing as perfect knowledge transfer. Something is always lost . For best effect, the minds of the transmitter and receiver have to share as much context as possible. If I tell you, “2+2=4,” your shared context of math will certainly verify that my statement is correct. However, the knowledge transferred is not the math, but the knowledge that the transmitter does indeed share your contextual understand of math – at least for this problem, but no more. If you are a teacher, you test your students to find out if they have internalized the lessons as knowledge. There is simply no other way to know if knowledge exists than to observe or force its expression.
Knowledge itself is defined in the Constructal Theory of Information as a life form (DNA, social or mechanical) acting energetically in the environment. In other words, whatever knowledge you have is only in your head, invisible to the outside world, until you express it by speaking, making something, doing something, etc. Knowledge can also be expressed by failure to act, which causes the flow of energy in the environment to change, for example knowing that someone is about to be hit by a bus, but not taking action to prevent it.
The process of converting environmental information to knowledge and thus back to energetic actions in the environment is the core process which defines life forms as articulated in the Constructal Theory of Information. In following posts, the entirety of the theory will be discussed, pending of the formal proof in the near future.