Information: ITS nature, measurement, and measurement units

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<ul><li><p>INFORMATION: ITS NATURE, MEASUREMENT, AND MEASUREMENT UNITS By James R. Simms Simms Industries, Inc.. Columbia, Maryland </p><p>The nature of information is identified, and measures and measurement units for information are developed. There are five fundamental characteristics of information, which together comprise its nature: (1) it is an abstract concept, (2) it is weightless, (3) it does not occupy space, (4) it is observable only by the work it causes, and (6) it is transient and perishable. </p><p>Information is concisely defined as the ability to cause work. Because work can be measured, information can be measured by the work it causes. Neural information, in the form of electrochemical impulses, causes muscle t issue contract ion which resul ts i n mechanical work. Biochemical information, in the form of enzymes, causes the biological work necessary to rear range biochemical reactants (biochemical reactions). Genetic information, in the form of genes and codons, causes the work necessary to synthesize protoplasm. </p><p>Neural, biochemical, and genetic information can be measures by the work thry cause. These measures are equivalent to the extant measures of length, mass, time, temperature , charge, and energy. Units of measure are established for the three forms of information. These units are equivalent to the extant centimeter, gram, second, degree Centigrade, abcoulomb, erg, and calorie measurement units. An individuals behavior is observable by way of mechanical work in the form of muscle contractions, biochemical work in the form of biochemical reactions (metabolism), and work done in the synthesis of protoplasm. Measures of information and the information measurement units provide the basis for developing quantitative living systems and behavioral sciences that can join the community of quantitative hard sciences. </p><p>KEY WORDS: information, information parameters, information measures, information units, living systems, nature of information, behavioral science, living systems science TYPE OF ARTICLE: fundamental principles, measures and measurement units DIMENSIONS AND UNITS: cgs, information, information units </p><p>w </p><p>INTRODUCTION </p><p>ameter of living systems. It is a self- I evident t r u t h t h a t we humans require information and must process information for survival. We inform our skeletal muscles to contract in specific ways to perform the work necessary to obtain and ingest food. Our sensors detect changes in the environment and generate information that causes muscle contraction, for example the knee je rk reaction. Our h e a r t generates </p><p>NFORMATION IS A FUNDAMENTAL par- information that causes the contraction of heart muscle. In addition to these self- evident t ru ths , t he re is a robust literature verifying that information is a fundamental parameter of l iving systems. Perhaps the most striking scientific evidence that information is a fundamental parameter of l iving systems was the discovery of the dou- ble stranded helical structure of DNA by Watson and Crick (1953) and the large body of genetic l i terature t h a t followed. More specifically, Miller (1978) </p><p>89 </p><p>Behavioral Science, Volume 41,1996 </p></li><li><p>90 SIMIVlS </p><p>identified information and information processing as an essential characteristic of living systems. Miller and Miller (1995, 171) reiterated the principle tha t information and information processing are essential characteristics of living systems. </p><p>Although information is a funda- mental characteristic of living systems, i ts na ture i s not well understood. Certainly its na ture is not under- stood as well as the fundamental characteristics of physical systems, such as size, mass, changes of parameters with time, temperature, charge, and energy. </p><p>The existing concepts of information are neither precise nor invariant. For example, common usage of the word information includes synonyms such as data, fact, news, and intelligence, as well as knowledge obtained from investigation, study, o r instruction. Communication systems usage of the word information covers a wide spectrum, including: (a) any exchange between individuals in which a message is generated by one individual that can be received by a sensor of the target individual(s); (b) a message transmission medium such as telephone, telegraph, radio, television, or print; and (c) Shannons (1949) classical information theory. </p><p>Legal usage of the word information is the formal accusation of a crime. Living systems theory usage includes the concept tha t information is a fundamental property of all living systems (Miller, 1978). Biological usage includes genetic, biochemical, and neural information. Computer science usage includes information processing. </p><p>The foregoing, though not an all- inclusive list of the various concepts and usages of the word information, illustrates the lack of clarity and precision in our understanding of the nature of infor- mation. Also, there currently is neither an accepted measure for information nor accepted information units. </p><p>Emergence of the extant community </p><p>of quantitative sciences has occurred only after the discovery of the nature of a fundamental parameter and the invention of a measure and measurement units for this parameter. Emergence of a quantitative living systems science that can join the extant community of quantitative sciences depends on the discovery of the nature of information and on the invention of measures and measurement units for information. </p><p>GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF INFORMATION </p><p>The general characteristics of things are usually identified and defined in terms of observations made by our senses. Matter is a good example: (1) its weight is determined by our kinesthetic senses; (2) its size is determined by our visual senses; (3) outgassing of mat te r is determined by our sense of smell; (4) its chemical composition is determined, to some degree, by our sense of taste; and (5) temperature, roughness, and surface geometry are determined by our tactile senses. </p><p>Our senses fail us when we try to determine the general characteristics of information. We cannot determine the relative weight of our o w n or another individuals genetic, biochemical, or neural information by our kinesthetic sense; we can only conclude that i t is weightless. We cannot determine the sue and shape of genetic, biochemical, and neural information of animals because we can neither see them with our eyes nor feel them with our tactile sensors. We can only conclude that information does not occupy space. Even with the best instruments to enhance our sensors, such as the electron microscope, we can neither see nor feel information, Our senses of tas te and smell a r e of no assistance because information does not smell nor cause a taste sensation. </p><p>The lack of positive sensory identification of t h e general char- acter is t ics of information actual ly </p><p>Behavioral Science, Volume 41,1996 </p></li><li><p>INFORMATION: ITS NATURE, MEASUREMENT, AND MEASUREMENT UNITS 91 </p><p>defines the general characteristics of information in a negative way, that is, what information does not have or what i t is not. Information is weightless and does not occupy space. These two impor t an t character is t ics a r e also fundamental characteristics of energy. These fundamental characteristics lead t o t h e impor tan t conclusion t h a t information, just like energy, cannot be directly observed. </p><p>Our inabi l i ty t o observe and characterize information by our sensors leads to another important conclusion. We cannot directly measure information by the fundamental measures of length, time, mass, temperature, and charge because these measures are based on our senses. The measure of length is based on our 3-D vision, which results from having two eyes that are physically separated. The measure of time is based on our visual observation tha t things age. The measure of mass is based on the self-evident t ru th t h a t different mater ia l s act ivate our kinesthet ic senses differently as a function of their weight. The measure of temperature is based on the self-evident truth that a substance can feel warm or cold. </p><p>The inabili ty t o directly measure information i s another impor tan t characteristic tha t information shares with energy. This lack of abil i ty t o directly observe and measure energy results in energy being characterized as an abstract concept. Since information, like energy, is not directly observable and measurable, i t i s appropriate t o describe information also as an abstract concept. </p><p>Although direct observation and measurement are not possible for these two abstract concepts, energy has been characterized indirectly in terms of work, which is observable and can be measured or calculated. In science and engineering, energy is defined as the ability to do work. The work associated with various forms of energy has been identified and measurement un i t s </p><p>established-for example, mechanical energy, the erg; heat energy, the calorie; and electrical energy, the watt-second. </p><p>I t was determined earlier (Simms, 1983) that the behavior of systems could be observed only through the energies (work) tha t were associated with tha t behavior. This determination was based on Rosens (1978) proof that na tura l systems can be observed, and measured only in terms of their energies. Because the observed energy of a behavior can be measured or calculated, the behaviors of systems can be quantified. </p><p>The above considerations resulted in identification of t he following general characteristics of information. Information: </p><p>Is an essential property of living </p><p>Is an abstract concept. I s weightless and does not occupy </p><p>Cannot be directly observed. Cannot be directly measured. Has many of the characteristics of </p><p>systems and their behaviors. </p><p>space. </p><p>energy. </p><p>EMERGENCE OF THE QUANTITATIVE SCIENCES </p><p>An analysis was made of the evolution of the extant quantitative sciences t o determine processes that could be used as models for the development of a quantitative living systems science. This analysis revealed t h a t each of the quantitative physical sciences is based on (1) an understanding of the phenomena concerning the behaviors of the subjects of the science, (2) the discovery andor use of one or more fundamental measures, and (3) the quantitative sciences which were extant before the evolution of the new quantitative science. </p><p>Because the analysis revealed tha t bdamenta l measures are essential to the development of quantitative sciences, the characteristics of fundamental measures must be understoo&amp; These char&amp;ristics are: </p><p>Behavioral Science, Volume 41,1996 </p></li><li><p>92 SIMMS </p><p>*The concept associated with the measure is self-evident, i.e., axiomatic. For example, the concept of length is self-evident because the presence of two eyes allow depth perception. Also, i t t akes more effort t o walk t o a more distant place than to one that is near. </p><p>The measurement unit is defined in terms of an invariant, or approximately invariant, physical phenomenon. </p><p>The measurement unit is arbitrary, that is, it must be accepted by a consensus of the users of the unit. </p><p>The fundamental unit cannot be reduced to another more fundamental measure. The mathematical concept of counting is understood so that one unit (a sin- gle count) can be determined. </p><p>Figure 1 captures the essence of the evolution of t h e nonliving systems sciences and provides a convenient means for summarizing the essential elements of this evolution. The evolution of fundamental measures is shown from </p><p>left t o right across the lower portion of Figure 1. The boxes show fundamental laws and quantitative sciences, and the lines between the boxes show the fundamental measure and the extant quantitative science necessary for the evolution of the next quantitative science. </p><p>Length, time, and mass are shown in Figure 1 as fundamental measures. Each has the characteristics of fundamental measures listed above. </p><p>Many different units of length evolved over the long history of humankind (Petrie, 1951). For example, one such unit is the cubit which was used in Egypt from the time of the predynastic period onward. In Europe, prior to the 19th century, each country had its own system or systems of weights and measures. In China, the situation was very complicated since units differed in value from place to place, and in the same locality people connected with different trades had conflicting units. Various uni ts of t ime and mass, like length, have been traced t o ancient </p><p>FIGURE 1 Emergence of the quantitative sciences. </p><p>J3ehavimd Science, Volume 41,1996 </p></li><li><p>INFORMATION: ITS NATURE, MEASUREMENT, AND MEASUREMENT UNITS 93 </p><p>times. For example, the oldest standard of mass known is the beqa, found in early Amratian graves in Egypt (7,000- 8,000 B.C.). Currently, the English system, established by the beginning of the 19th century, and the metric system, established in 1791, are widely accepted systems of fundamental units </p><p>Geometry is shown in Figure 1 as the first quantitative science. The generally accepted account of the origin and early development of geometry is t ha t the ancient Egyptians were obliged to invent i t in order to restore the landmarks which were destroyed by the periodic inundations of the Nile (Newman, 1956, lo). The science of geometry was invented considerably earlier than 1000 years B.C. The very name geometry is derived from two Greek words meaning measurement of the earth. These measurements are based on the fundamental measure of length. Because geometry is, in essence, the relationship among various lengths, no other fundamental measure is necessary for this quantitative science. </p><p>Although not shown in Figure 1, Copernicus provided an understanding of the basic phenomena of astronomy when he conceived the heliocentric theory-reviving Pythagorean beliefs- and worked i t out in his famous book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestrium. Johann Kepler used the fundamental measures of distance and time and the quantitative science of geometry to bring quantitative precision t o Copernicus theories. Kepler used these measures to develop quantitative relationships for the motion of planets. These relation- ships, known as Keplers laws, provide t h e fundamenta l principles for t he quantitative science of astronomy. </p><p>I t is noted that the unit of time meets all the requirements for a fundamental unit. I t is self-evident that time passes, t h e un i t of t ime is based on the invar ian t physical phenomenon of planetary motion, and the definition of a t ime uni t i s arbitrary and i s agreed upon by the community of users of time </p><p>measures. As shown in Figure 1, the hndamental measures of length and time, along with the measurement science of geometry, are all prerequisites for the development of the quantitative science of astronomy. </p><p>Keplers work resu...</p></li></ul>


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