General Communications Process Theory
By Roy D. Follendore III
Copyright (c) 1999 RDFollendoreIII
All Rights Reserved
At what point does data, information and knowledge come into existence? What is noise, why does it exist and how do we recognize it? Are the communication processes that we use necessary passing the meaning that we intend? How would we go about measuring meaning? What exactly is meaning? Are the technical processes that we are currently using adequate for conveying and processing that knowledge? What is knowledge and what is beyond it? These are questions that are fundamental to the nature of who we are and what we perceive as human beings.
These questions have not been adequately addressed as fundamental research. Such work as that done by Claude Shannon was oriented to transport rather than transaction qualities. This is partly because his work was primarily involved in the mathematical encoding and decoding as an engineering process. Encoding and decoding represents the mechanics of a narrow perspective perspective of a communication system . The process of creation of an optimal mechanism that will move data does not mean optimal creation of a mechanism that conveys meaning.
For a general Communications Process Theory to exist it should take into consideration the context of how we load the encoder as well as how we present the decoded information and the assumption as to the accuracy and efficiency of those processes process. A philosophical paradigm involving the rational and contextual encoding and decoding process does not exist. It is important to create a paradigm that will allow modern communications solutions to produce fundamental tools that can exploit new opportunities.
This is an important topic for this Internet oriented society because these same underlying questions confront anyone attempting to develop an advanced technical communications solution. From the first moment that a communications design decision is made, the important issue of where that decision fits within the topology of human communication. One problem is that there has not been a map or theory that explains these things within an association of useful boundaries. Having this map is critical because it clearly predicts the position of the technology application in terms of techno-cognitive processes in which the solution must operate.
Theories that are considered to be of a general nature begin with a concept that a system containing many ideas can fit neatly within one general concept. This General Communications Process Theory is an attempt to do exactly that. The ideas are to provide a practical definable process that integrates communications from the smallest point of physical change, through communication transfer and all the way to successful communications content implementation.
With this in mind, let us start at the beginning.
Bits and Packets of Energy
Bits represent binary logic and are assumed to be the smallest and most basic of all possible communications units. As signals they are active bits of energy which cause some change to take place at a level that can be noticed. They signal through their very existence and they signal when expected or they do not. Their signals are essentially reference pointers not capable of carrying meaning except through association with a particular expected point in time. The point that they reference exists somewhere else by definition. By this I mean that a bit points to something specific and useful because we have preordained it to be so. Had this pointer arrived prior to the assumption of what it was to point to, then the bit could not be recognized. It is therefore the underlying order into which this pointing action takes place that gives meaning to an otherwise random packet of energy.
Change involves time. This means that the underlying assumption of all meaning comes down to temporal associations between energy packets. It does not matter if the energy packets involve sound waves, pencil movements or electrons on a computer screen. All of these are residual marks made by the transfer of energy packets. As we have already said, this transfer of energy must be expected and qualified with respect to what is already known in order to be interpreted as communication by the receiver. The prequalification is vital to reception. Without this pre-qualified expectation, the packets simply represents another part of ambient noise.
We are all constantly bathed in noise. Was there noise before there was communications? So what exactly is noise? From the implications of these questions we assume that noise is simply context free packets of energy that interfere with understanding. These packets might have originated as part of a communication process or they could have been propagated by natural processes. We only can arrive at the concept of entropy if we classify that which does not matter. We must assume that we can do this even when we can not so it does not matter. When there is no context by which to qualify and reference the bits, there can be no communication.
The fact that a an action (or a bit) is expected and arrives within a correct context authenticates it's existence as communication until proven otherwise. Through reduction of reasoning we must understand that authenticated context is the core of all communication processes and must not be left out of a General Theory of Communication. If we now take this path of reasoning, it is obvious that any process that reduces the original authenticated context introduces noise, the reduction of which Claude Shannon's work revolved.
Recognition as the Moment of Meaning
Bits that are represented by energy packets are expected to conform to predetermined arrangements which in modern electronic communications are defined in terms of bytes. Within this physical realm of thinking, Bytes assume the role predefined patterns and matrices for mapping arrangements of bits which act as standards for the reduction of error. In other words, each byte acts as a noise filter. As the number of bits arrive within a specific amount of time without conforming to the predetermined expectations of contextual arrangements of bytes, the probability that the bits are noise increases. Conversely, as these bits are recognized as code as they conform to this probability threshold of contextual expectations and accuracy.
This threshold is the moment that the byte becomes a byte. This is the moment of meaning. It is the moment when a symbol arises from entropy and is recognized from the universe of noise surrounding it. It is the beginning of communication but it is also the point at which classical communications engineering theory typically abandons the paradigm of communications because the signal has been considered to have been delivered on the distant end without error. But a in the context of communication, the signal or symbol has not communicated and the system is not engineered if the subject meaning and context of meaning is not broached.
This process is continued as words until the contextual complexity of the data is able to carry information. Information only then begins to exist when the complexity of this production contains an ordered contextual arrangement of statements and facts.
What is meant by meaning?
To answer this question let us take a moment to create a simple thinking experiment involving context. Suppose that a particular memory were erased from the minds of every human. Let us say that everyone completely forgot about the existence of the Milky Way. At that moment, would this vast thing we call a Milky Way exist? The answer is that it certainly would exist as a potential undiscovered thing and it would exist as a potential concept but otherwise it would have no meaning.
Things have meaning simply from the strength of their connections to other things that are known to exist. If a single person in the world suddenly remembered and brought up the Milky Way as a topic of conversation among a group of astronomers, the words would be out of context to the sky. Where would this Milky Way be? The pointer to our own Galaxy would not exist and the meaning would be assumed to be a chocolate candy bar. The brain interprets the universe by relating incoming patterns of packets to its own pattern of connections.
Since everyone has a different pattern they perceive meaning slightly differently, but even so, there remains a correspondence of meaning which allows all to understand and empathize. Meaning therefore involves the rational connection of concepts found through the individual perspective of the human mind. As a part of shared empathy it is an important and integral part of social interaction.
Would the universe exist without this rational engine that we call our brain? Clearly the physical observer's answer is not that it would not exist, because the reference to meaning would not exist. We would not have known and we would therefore never have known. The existence of the universe would not be able to be be perceived both because we as individuals would not exist. Our contextual references to "the other" which give us perception would also not exist. Whether we would exist as something else is a very different spiritual question. Perhaps we might be disembodied presence floating in space-time, but without context to who we are, our physical selves we would not perceive things as ourselves and would therefore react differently. We become changed individuals as our bodies change dramatically and there is no reason to believe that would not occur if we were disembodied.
However, having taken this perspective it is interesting that the very thing that would lead us to the understanding that the universe would not exist without our brain, also gives us the empathetic understanding that the universe would indeed continue to exist. Once again this has to do with the perspective of context within communication theory. By knowing the "other" we come to know ourselves from the "outside" as part of the other. There becomes into the rational existence "us," the "other," and as a result the "us as the other." From this perspective we have acquire the paradox of perspective. The proposal that our ability to personally perceive is lost does not destroy the potential of the "other" and "their universe" continued existence. It is therefore this social empathetic perspective which provides the objective context through which fundamentally enduring principles of science and the arts are allowed to exist.
It is not necessary to go beyond this point to understand that context to self as what we are and what we are to the universe is a transition. We measure this transition as time. While the physical universe may be finite, the associated context of things within it is infinite and multidimensional. In this way too there is paradox of meaning in the universe that is at the some moment, both infinite and finite. It is this complexity to contextual orientation of self and universe that is the essence of meaning and it is this paradox in meaning from which reason and mathematics arise. Axioms and Postulates are rules for making patterns which map to our most basic social perceptions of context. In this way, mathematics is purely a social process. In this way it is easy to understand how it has become a universal language with contributions coming from many different social and racial origins though mankind's history. It comes from the "us as the other" third person perspective.
There is this first order level of perception that represents the present "us" in context within the universe of objects we call the "other." There is also this second order objective perception that represents the empathetic "other" objects perspective. This in turn drives us to understand the first order in context to the perception of second order. Through this third order of perception we come to understand the nature of the "us as the other." It is no wonder that context is so important to the accurate and effective transfer of meaning within human communications. It is no wonder why the wide contextual bandwidth of sight has such a powerful impact on perception during communication.
Informative meaning seems to have a kind of informative mass which might be measured in terms of context if were to be able to accurately measure context. Meaning depends on context. Moreover, it is through context that we connect our existing individual baseline perspective of acquired knowledge with informative facts to acquire meaning. But what exactly do we mean by context? Can we measure context? In a purely object oriented defined world, context is defined as the association objects and attributes. Because objects can have attributes that are also objects, and can even be the same object, context can be complicated by recursive and repetitive associations.
The context of an energy packet to other energy packets, or even to objects in the rest of the world is nebulous. For this reason and when viewed at this level of thinking, a purely quantum measure of complexity might never be accurately or practically measured. An accurate measurement might have excellent theoretical implications, but the selection of the criteria for what is and is not contextual would have to be carefully controlled. So perhaps the aggregate can be measured if we choose to change the perspective.
Context can also be considered as an indefinable infinite matrix in much the same way as the momentary position of an electron is indefinite by shear probability. Just because the momentary position direction and speed of an electron is not known, does not mean that the electron can not exist or be known. The fact that indefinite contextual associations exist does not mean that a definable and classifiable context matrix can not be usefully measured. It does mean that the attributes of the object becomes self defining. If we limit the context to the aggregate level of "what it is," then what are we leaving out?
A Physical Explanation of Context
Context can never be complete in the physical universe because the energy cost is to high. The physical universe exists and is bound by an ordered balance of energy and matter. The dimensions of contextual complexity represents logical states whose existence is energy free. It is the addressing, retrieval and processing of the these contexts that cost energy, not the existence of the states themselves. Since contextual relationships are infinite, the cost of retrieval of all contextual states in energy is therefore infinite. Therefore, the energy that would be consumed in processing these contexts would be infinite. Using the most powerful physical computers that could ever be developed, there could never be enough economy or speed to retrieve all of the potential contexts of a single atom, for the atom is in itself a contextual universe. The scope of context is not important for a single thing yet is still a single thing referenced to a universe of infinite complexity. Context represents the construction of reality and therefore is a fundamental part of communication, but because of its overwhelming aspect as an infrastructure of nature, we must also be particularly careful to choose what is important to communicate through contextual association.
Perhaps the lesson that we need to derive from all of this reasoning is that to understand the implication of context, we have to know when to start considering context. At the level of random noise, context is completely universal but when noise becomes a bit the definition begins to change because probability changes. By the time code and words are recognized from complex matrices of bits, the context begins to be measurable in terms of originating purpose.
Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved