Thursday, July 12, 2018

Jason Smith — One purpose of information theory

Unfortunately, Shannon's entropy, often referred to as information entropy, and then shortened to just information, is often confused with the colloquial term "information". This brings connotations of data, of knowledge, of specific sets of symbols with specific meaning. But as Shannon and Weaver said in their book from a year later, we must not confuse information theory information with meaning. This collision of terminology is amplified when it encounters economics, where information economics deals specifically with the economic value of meaningful information.

I believe the best way to understand this difference is to understand what information theory illuminates. Information theory gives us a way to quantify concepts when we have limited knowledge about what underlies those concepts. For example, information theory is essentially a more general framework that encompasses thermodynamics in physics — thermodynamics is the science of how collections of atoms behave despite not having remotely enough knowledge about the trillions upon trillions of atoms to make a model. We give up talking about what a single atom in a gas is doing for what an atom could be doing and with what probability. We cease talking about atoms are doing and instead talk about the realm of possibilities (the state space) and the most likely states....
Information Transfer Economics
One purpose of information theory
Jason Smith

1 comment:

Matt Franko said...

“Meaning "knowledge communicated”