Terence W. Deacon: What is missing from theories of information?


Where there is no evolutionary dynamic there is no information in the full sense of the concept. – Terrence W. Deacon

In his essay What is missing from theories of information? Terence W. Deacon tells us:

The “intentional inexistence” of the content of a thought, the imagined significance of a coincidental event, the meaning of a reading from a scientific instrument, the portent of the pattern of tea leaves, and so on, really is something that is not there. In this sense the Cartesian-derived notion that the content of mind is without extension, whereas the brain processes that realize this content do have extension, is at least partly correct. But to say that this absent content is extensionless is not quite right. The non-produced signal (that is, reduced entropy) that is the basis for Shannonian informative capacity, the non-present work that was or was not the basis for the reference of this signal, and the interpretive options (organism trait variations) selected in an evolutionary process, all have a definite negative extension in the sense that something specific and explicit is missing. In other words, like the space within a container, these are absences that are useful because of the way what is present can exemplify them.

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