17 May 2016

G. C. Williams and confusion about information

Here's the intro:
"I have recently come across Georges C. Williams’ arguments for why genes and memes should be defined as information, in his 1992 book Natural Selection. I had seen quotes from Williams made by many proponents of the meme idea but had yet to see for myself how he argued that information is what genes and memes are made of. I found that Williams had a great insight into the true nature of replicators, maybe the most precise understanding that I have come across so far. However, I also believe that Williams made a slight but important mistake in his argumentation. The mistake is that Williams is confusing two very different understandings of the concept of information."

And here's the conclusion:
"I hope I have made it clear that information is an often misunderstood and a misused concept, particularly among memeticists. Information is best understood as a subjective experience that is confined to our minds (and computers’ “minds”) and does not travel into the outside world. The only thing that travels between brains are codes. Codes can be said to be informative for they have a potential to cause meaning. Codes can be transcoded into other codes and form long codical chains of trancodes. However, these transcodes are not to be considered equal in the eyes of evolution as they compete for survival. The codes that end up being truly copied, i.e. with the same medium and the same recognisable pattern, are the replicators. Replicators are typically found to be among codes exchanged between interactors. Information theory can be useful for memeticists because it studies some of the codes’ properties."

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