Information Theory – The Logic Of Mental Processes
Information is basically stimuli which has particular meaning for the user of the information. In computer parlance, information is data that is processed by a machine. When information is inputted into and stored in a processing device, it’s usually called data. Output data may then be seen as information after processing (including printing and formatting). Data is organized into files (if one has a computer) or in a database.
Information science deals with how information is created and how it gets used in our day to day lives. It also deals with its effects on our psychology and on our environments. Albert Einstein was obsessed with space, time, and relativity; he was interested in laws of cause and effect in all their many details. And he was a pioneer in science who was fascinated with mechanics, particularly mechanics at a sub-microscopic level – a level so small that it seems barely imaginable when viewed singly.
In Albert Einstein’s model of the universe, information plays a central role. Space and time are non-relativistic phenomena, and we cannot measure them experimentally. Einstein postulated that space and time are determined by electrostatic repulsion and gravitation (a similar account to the one Einstein proposed about the atom and its nuclear spin). Thus information must be quantized and determined by measuring a unique set of external physical information pulses sent by an observer. Einstein’s special theory of relativity further postulates that the speed of light is only an instantaneous measurement of the amount of information produced or transmitted by a system.
More recently, James Clerk Maxwell took a similar position in his ideas of the two ways in which the human mind constructs and transmits information: through the senses and through the unconscious mind. Maxwell showed how certain patterns of information, on which a person’s memory and imagination depends, may be formed in an unconscious mind which completely modifies these patterns according to its own internal instructions. For example, when a person forgets an important date, the date may be remembered from the information learned during a previous visit, or the information may be recalled through a series of images and emotions triggered by the event. Maxwell’s theory of information is thus a complex version of abstract human memory theory.
Information theory has had a profound impact on technology. Computers, with their vast databases of stored information, make use of a form of information theory. This is especially true in the case of digital computers, whose storage capacities are almost limitless thanks to the evolution of digital information systems like CD-ROMs and DVDs. Similarly, the Internet uses a form of information theory to ensure that information is distributed and available to users in the most feasible way. The potential of the Internet to disseminate large amounts of data has made it an essential technology in today’s information age. Even the cellular telephone uses information theory to ensure that conversations can take place without being corrupted by outside sources.
Although information theory offers a rich variety of explanations for how information is processed in the brain, more research is needed to uncover other possible sources of information, and how these sources of information are coordinated to create conscious mind functions. Information processing in the brain may also be accompanied by unconscious processes such as the generation of memories and information that is intended to serve as cues for the conscious mind to execute specific actions. Research in this area will no doubt shed new light on how the mind functions and where in the brain it functions. The advance of knowledge about how information is processed in the brain opens up endless opportunities for the study of the brain and will no doubt help in creating newer methods of medical treatment.