Consider the four definitions of information presented in this chapter. The problem with the first definition, “knowledge derived from data,” is that it merely substitutes one word we don’t know the meaning of (information) for a second word we don’t know the meaning of (knowledge). The problem with the second definition, “data presented in a meaningful context,” is that it is too subjective. Whose context? What makes a context meaningful? The third definition, “data processed by summing, ordering, averaging, etc.,” is too mechanical. It tells us what to do, but it doesn’t tell us what information is. The fourth definition, “a difference that makes a difference,” is vague and unhelpful.
Also, none of these definitions helps us to quantify the amount of information we receive. What is the information content of the statement that every human being has a navel? Zero—you already know that. However, the statement that someone has just deposited $50,000 into your checking account is chock-full of information. So, good information has an element of surprise.
Considering all of these points, answer the following questions:
a. What is information made of?
b. If you have more information, do you weigh more? Why or why not?
c. If you give a copy of your transcript to a prospective employer, is that information? If you show that same transcript to your dog, is it still information? Where is the information?
d. Give your own best definition of information.
e. Explain how you think it is possible that we have an industry called the information technology industry, but we have great difficulty defining the word information.

  • CreatedSeptember 15, 2015
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