On defining the concept of “information” in measurement theory

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  • ON DEF IN ING THE CONCEPT

    IN MEASUREMENT THEORY

    V. S. Karp

    OF " INFORMATION"

    UDC 621.391.001.11 : 681,2.08.001.11

    An interesting question is formulated in [1] about the philosophical, theoretical, and practical aspects of in- formation both in the theory of measurements and in science generally. Infon~nation theory is acquiring great im- portance nowadays. As it is put in [1], "The only basis for modern information theory has been mathemat ica l infor- mation theory, the task of which is to establish only the quantitative characteristics of information founded on the probabi l i ty-stat ist ical approach to it, and mathemat ica l information theory is consciously taken in abstraction from the practical analysis of the nature of information."

    This is just fine. Information theory has a developed mathemat ica l base. And while it is true that at the mo- ment various different aspects of information are developing successfully, the expression "different approaches to un- derstanding it" is unintell igible.

    There can be only one approach- f rom the standpoint of mathemat ica l information theory. It is quite simply essential to consider in each concrete case the boundaries of its appl icabi l i ty, and also to establish whether this case corresponds to the conditions of application.

    It is thought that information in the technical sense can be expressed only quantitatively, as a bearer of deft- nite meaning. But the qualitative side of information is of a purely emotional nature (good or bad, soft or hard, deep or superficial, etc.). This concept clearly proceeded from the press. The quality of information lies at the founda- tion of any quantitative characteristic.

    Having obtained as a result of measurement the value of the diameter of a component, we can determine whether it is good or bad, whether it satisfies our requirements or not. Consequently, it is not necessary to speak of two different forms of information, since it only obscures the essence of the question, and the same holds also for the statement that the concept of information "has outgrown the bounds of information and turned into a general scienti- fic category." The simple truth is that with the development of any science its bounds extend. But when within the sphere of a single science, there are a nmnber of phenomena which it is impossible to explain, and new fields of knowl- edge open up. The situation with information science is not comparable, since it has just begun to develop.

    The concepts of "information" and "measuring information" are different things. By the word "information" we understand communication, notification, warning, etc., (again in an emotional sense), and by the concept of "measuring information," measurements as a process of receiving and transforming information about the measured quantity with the object of obtaining a quantitative result from comparing it with an accepted scale or unit of mea- surement in the form most convenient for father uti l ization by man or machine [2].

    The best course of al l would be to differentiate these two concepts not only in fact but also in words.

    In view of the fact that the concept of "information" in the sense of communication, etc., has firmly entered into the literature and into everyday use, but "measuring infon-nation" is a new concept; it would be better to leave it with old name of "theory of measaements . "

    Moreover, the second approach to information as a relationship of mater ia l systems contradicts the concept in d ia lect ica l material ism of the objectivity of the substance and energy, and consequently informational, content of matter. Otherwise we obtain the result that information exists only because there is someone to receive it.

    Translated from Izmerite l 'naya Tekhnika, No. 6, pp. 91-92, June, 1970. Original article submitted January 13, 1969.

    @1970 Consultants Bureau, a division of Plenum Publishing Corporation; 227 West 17th Street, New York, N. Y. 10011. Al l rights reserved. This artie!e cannot be reproduced for any purpose whatsoever without pcr,,~issiv, n cf the pub!isher. ,'! cop), of this article is available fro.~ the publisher for $!5.00.

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  • There remains the question of what terminology to adopt: "negentropy" or "information." But information exists objec~vely. It is necessary only to receive it. And how to receive i t - that must be the business of the theory of measurement.

    To define the theory of measurement (measuring information) as a PART of the total information about an ob- ject would be to impoverish the theory itself. The more the theory and practice of measurement develop, the great- er the number of different data about the object which interest us. From successive measurement of each parameter the transition is to simultaneous combined measurement of many parameters. With time their number increases sharp- ly, but they never reach a l imit.

    So, having established that information about an object exists objectively, we note that the receivers of infor- mation are mater ia l receiving systems, existing objectively as a result of evolutionary development or created by man, the aim of which is to conserve the information for the future, process it and use it.

    To speak of the level of organization of the receiver, stil l more to identify everything with man only, would be incorrect, since we already know fairly complex information systems in the living world, and much stil l remains to be found out.

    In connection with what has been said above, we may give the following definitions:

    Information. A reflection of the substance-energy essence of matter, received by mater ia l systems in order to conserve, process and further uti l ize it, and expressed in ordered data on the probability of an approach to that essence;

    Measuring Theory. (Measuring information): ordered data on the probability of a characteristic of a mater ia l object, obtained by comparison with an accepted scale or measuring unit in the form most convenient for further use by man or machine.

    L ITERATURE C ITED

    i. ~. P. Semenyuk, Izmeritel'. Tekh., No. 8 (1968). 2. P.V. Novitskii, Foundations of the Information Theory of Measuring Devices [in Russian], Energiya (1968).

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