Despite its ingenious approach, the concept of information by Shannon applied heretofore is not completely satisfactory. When it comes to communication between more highly organized systems its assertions with respect to the exchange of information in complex systems and the measurement of information turn out to be insufficient. No statement is made with regard to the significance and meaning of signs and words conveyed, and/or their combinations. In addition, determination of the information content of all possible combinations of signs or words conveyed would have to be integrated into the examination. In the same way, redundancy as a measurement factor for the novelty value of information received by a system is inadequate. A comprehensive determination of the novelty value of information for a system will have to encompass all information available in the system.
In order to be able to evaluate the information processing of complex systems it is necessary to not just consider the momentary transfer of information but to inspect all processes which originally brought information into the system. Moreover, the contradiction between increase in entropy and biological evolution often commented upon is opposed to the concept of a self-contained applied science. If, on the other hand, we assume that all of nature is subject to the same basic laws and principles it seems unlikely that there should be a basic contradiction between increase in entropy and evolution. The resolution of this contradiction - which possibly only seems to exist - could lead to a unified and standardized concept of information in the applied sciences. As all processes in nature can be described with cybernetic methods as material-energetic events, it should be attempted to view evolution from the angle of the flow of information. Evolution is the most successful case of processing information, and as such it could possibly contribute significantly to the understanding of the phenomenon "information".
Therefore, a new approach to evolution could result in an extension of the concept of information. It would be possible, for example, that essential structural features of matter, the physical environment as well as the cybernetic systems - that is, the biological, social, and technical systems - can be found again in the conveying "medium", the information.
The arrangement of matter in space shall be the starting point for the following considerations. According to the current standard of knowledge in physics, space and time are contingent upon mass for their existence. Matter determines the existence of space and time as well as their structure. Fields represent the distribution of energy and mass in space. The structure of matter is the distribution of energy in space and time. In addition, that what presents itself as physical features of matter from our viewpoint is determined by this structure. This structure of a space/time field can be carried over to other fields. The result is a structural image of the first field in the second, a superimposed imprint. In the extreme case of a complete transference of the first field the result is a one-for-one replication. In general, what is being conveyed from one space/time field to another is order exclusively. In this field then, information of the structure of the source field exists. In the following, what is to be understood by "information" is this structure separated from the source. Information is imparted structure. This is the general sense in which the concept of information is used here. See Fig. on pg.
Consequently, structural features of a space/time field will be found in other fields whenever an information transfer took place. In general, these structural features are transferred in an encoded manner because what is taking place is not a duplicative copying of the source fields but rather a "sample scan". Producing an exact copy of the source fields would involve an immense energy input as it would require a doubling of the matter and structure determining this space/time field. Therefore, only the structure of matter is being scanned and carried over into another form of energy which is then inevitably encoded. The scanned structure has to be physically stored and thus encoded differently because a transformation of the original into an image took place in the course of the scan. It is easy to copy and transfer this scanned, encoded structure.
If structural features can be encoded into other structural features existing in a different place or at a different time, then the original order has been conveyed. The source field provided information about its as-is state. This information, this image of the original order, now exists in a different place and at a different time. It does not have to appear the same as the original order of the space either, but rather it will always be encoded, and only decoding can reconstruct the original spatial structure and, accordingly, the structure of matter scanned. See Fig. on pg.
Once the entire structure has been conveyed it could be reconstructed in its entirety with suitable means. In most cases the original order will only be partially reconstructed in another place and at another time. The term "order" shall denote the overall physical condition of the space.
The problem of measuring the information content of a medium, a signal and/or a memory storage has to be geared to the potential conditions matter can display. Thus, the definition of the concept of information in terms of the theory of probability hits the mark of the issue. It provides information about order states of matter, and it allows a correlation between information and entropy.
In light of nature´s diversity and the size of the universe however, such a measurement of information hits upon the difficulty of finding an absolute gauge. The content of the medium can only be reasonably measured when all possible states and conditions are known - which might suffice when it comes to theoretical considerations and calculations of technical systems but which is not suitable for the evaluation of the information reception of large cybernetic systems. Furthermore, the particularly difficult problem arises that one would also have to assign an information content to combinations of micro states which could present macro states. A measurement of information will have to take the fact into account that these combinations of states result in a superordinate plane upon which information is being transferred as well.
If one wants to describe the evolution of large cybernetic systems a more reliable gauge for information is required. The correlation to source entropy, as provided by the well-known definition, is not suitable as, for instance, it cannot be calculated for the environment of biological systems.
The environment, the source entropy, cannot be drawn on as reference parameter if one intends to describe the evolution of large cybernetic systems. As additional reference parameter, only a cybernetic system would be conceivable, the information content of which would allow a measurement of the system to be evaluated. This option contains the above-mentioned flaw that there might be information in the system which remains concealed to the system undertaking the measurement. Irrespective of that, it is the only way to measure information in large cybernetic systems. Each system retrieves a different message from a signal, depending upon its "a priori" information, in short, its evolutionary status. Therefore, the search for a reference parameter suitable for measurement turns out to be quite complex.
Neither the source nor the transmission channel can provide an adequate measurement gauge for information. In order to evaluate the information content of a source, what is needed is a complete model of the physical structure of the source, a Laplace´s Demon. This demon represents all-embracive knowledge capable of calculating all future and past conditions of the world - which would only be possible if its existence would not exert an influence on these conditions, and/or if its influence could be factored into the calculation.
Thus, the evaluation, the measurement of information, appears to be possible only if an absolute gauge is available which mirrors, as a prerequisite, the complete and accurate image of the physical reality. Such an "absolute knowledge", however, would render the measurement of information superfluous.
If we examine the evolution of a large cybernetic system, that evolution can provide information about the flow of information "from source to drain". In this way, we can draw conclusions from the evolution of the system to the information picked up by the system. As such, the semantic aspect of information could be conceived as well. Hence, the information should not be measured as source entropy but rather as receiver entropy. Like any other measurement, it is relative because, firstly, not all symbols and characters existent in the sender will be understood and, secondly, information already exists in the receiver, the conveyance of which would just add up to redundancy for the receiver. Therefore, receiving the same information twice, as in the second case, would not result in an accrual of information for the receiver, hence no relaying of order if we neglect the question of reliability of the transmission channel and the mode of information storage. It is therefore worthwhile to reflect on the relative character of information. A sensible measurement of information should start at the point where the order is being conveyed. The comparison of two system states which the system passes through in close succession would avoid these mistakes to a large degree. In the same way, the comparison of systems in a state of analog development under similar conditions could provide useful clues about the changes of individual system functions with regard to the development conditions.
If structural features repeat themselves, or if single elements are combined in such a way that new units are created, the result is a superimposition, a new hierarchy level. It is this superimposition which nature´s further evolution is building upon. It doesn´t only contain information about character, size, and form of the fields but, for instance, more general statements about number, nature, and arrangement of "sources and drains". The appearance of similar fields in groups is an even more general structure also offering possibilities of generalization. There would be, for example, structural features repeating themselves which could be combined into groups.
Therefore it is possible to derive a hierarchically structured image from a hierarchically structured order of the physical space which would represent information about this source field in another medium/carrier. It seems improbable that essential structural features such as hierarchy levels would get lost in the process of transmission. Furthermore, they have to be contained implicitly if reconstruction is possible.
If a hierarchically structured order is being conveyed it should be possible to recover that hierarchical structure in the conveying medium. Essential structural features such as, for instance, the partition into hierarchy levels, certainly cannot be suppressed in the case of simple encoding- or scanning processes. With respect to this, the interesting question arises whether the original hierarchy would be reconstructed when the information is being picked up by, for instance, a biological system.
The primary physical process in the universe is potential reduction. Each physical process is associated with potential reduction. That is its fundamental condition. By experience, reduction of free energy is the general principle dominating all physical processes. Basically, the only states attainable are those which can be arrived at with continuous potential reduction. The physical system does not master any potential hurdles. It cannot mobilize energy temporarily available so as to overcome a potential hurdle and arrive at conditions with a lower overall potential. That is only possible for the cybernetic system, a physical system which is capable, due to the processing of information, of activating internal energy, and which possesses the information that a more beneficial condition is attainable beyond the potential threshold. See Fig. on pg. and pg.
From a physical point of view, the process driving the cybernetic system would also have to obey a consistent potential reduction. There should be a process, analogous to the increase in entropy, for cybernetic systems and/or animated nature reaching beyond the purely physical aspect and containing the same in itself. As there obviously is no valid possibility of differentiating between physical and cybernetic systems the assumption is justified that the cybernetic system is driven by a continuous potential reduction as well, also with respect to its processing of information. The criterion of information processing does not provide a means for differentiation because even the most simple physical processes are inseparably accompanied by information transfers. The physical world cannot be separated from its structure. As it is the basic characteristic of fields to become visible only via the effect exerted upon matter, forcing matter into its structure, it is certainly impossible to completely separate the informational aspect.
The evolution of a system is always determined by the path of the steepest potential drop of the sum total of all fields acting upon the system. As the evolution of cybernetic systems out of physical systems obviously took place without a currently verifiable, qualitatively new process we can assume that field effects played a crucial role in the further evolution of cybernetic systems.
Physical fields determine the orderly arrangement of matter. Information is the cause of all effects which can be traced back indirectly to a mobilization of internal energy or foreign energy sources. Information affects amplifiers/multipliers which have to exist in any given cybernetic system. These are processes which release larger quantities of energy than those originally required for their initialization. When conveying a spatial structure onto matter by means of a physical field, that matter must be located directly in the sphere of influence of the field, the energy of which is being reduced in the process. When conveying a spatial structure, that is information, onto a cybernetic system, that information will release, via logical functions and amplifiers/multipliers, energy from the system or its environment. However, what is being adopted is the structure conveying the information, not the structure of the fields providing the energy. A different structure is being impressed upon the field energy, resulting in a different state of order.
As information can cause different effects in systems with different reception modes, a relativization of the information is inevitable unless we would have an all-embracive measurement system, a Laplace´s Demon, at our disposal. The receiving system determines the effects a signal will cause within it. Therefore, it depends on the structure of the receiving system what information it can retrieve from a signal and how to react to it. Information is relative, comprehensible only in relation to a receiving system.
A field can only be detected by its effects. It represents the local spatial structure, here referred to as (state of) order. The term "order", however, shall have a more general meaning. "Order" shall not just be understood as a field but rather as a superimposition of all fields in a given zone. Thus, the term "order" encompasses the entire complex of field effects in space.
Information is encoded order, a spatial structure being conveyed in a cybernetic system. Information is conveyed order. It is the encoded image of the spatial structure affecting a system and therefore an image of the field effects of this sphere. As this conveyed order can in turn affect other matter and other systems, capable of impressing a structure onto it, it behaves just like a field. Retained order causes effects upon matter and/or effects in systems. In doing so, it is not the purely physical effect coming to the fore but an effect which can be traced back to the structure of the system, to states of order adopted earlier on. Particularly in higher organized cybernetic systems, this structure can cause effects via amplifiers/multipliers, the magnitude of which can be a multiple of its pure physical effect. Therefore, effects are caused which can be traced back exclusively to the original structure and its decoding by the receiving system.
As we can see, information possesses a distinctive and noticeable field character. This information field thus contains an abstract representation of an order existing in the reality of the present or the past. This same information can be conveyed in different physical ways and lead to the same effect as long as the receiving system is capable of retrieving and decoding the information from different signals. Information therefore is the structure of a spatial/temporal source field conveyed by a physical carrier. According to the source, it can be structured hierarchically. Just like a physical field, information is only detectable in its effects upon a system capable of decoding it.
Therefore, the information content of a signal and/or a system is understood to be related, in any case, to the measuring system.