Re: [OPE] intermission: value of knowledge

From: Paula <>
Date: Sun Nov 29 2009 - 15:06:35 EST

Regarding 'quantities of information', I have now looked into the links sent
by Dave and Paul C. My initial thought is that the concept for information
used there does not correspond closely enough to the concept we would need
for a discussion of value creation in the 'information society' and/or
'knowledge economy'.

Take Paul C's example of the manufacturing of paper, a process that reduces
the entropy of the raw material (wood pulp). Note, first, that this process
involves concrete labor - it is the process of changing one use-value into
another. Second, that although entropy is being reduced, value is being
added. These two points suggest to me that the process of increasing (or, in
this case, reducing) information in the sense used here belongs to the
creation of use-value, not value.

But, third, note also that paper-making is not part of the 'knowledge
economy' as most business people, consumers and economists understand it. Of
course, in a sense, all economies are 'knowledge economies'. But this is not
the sense that interests us here. We are interested in economic activities
that do not produce material things - the writing of the novel as opposed to
the making of the book, etc.

It appears that the limitations of the 'quantitative' notion of information
are also an issue for philosophers. The 'Information Theory' entry of my
Routledge Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy has this to say:

"The information studied by Shannon is sharply distinct from information in
the sense of knowledge or of propositional content. It is also distinct from
most uses of the term in the popular press ('information retrieval',
'information processing', 'information highway', and so on). While Shannon's
work has strongly influenced academic psychology and philosophy, its
reception in these disciplines has been largely impressionistic. A major
problem for contemporary philosophy is to relate the statistical conceptions
of information theory to information in the semantic sense of knowledge and
content" (the author of this entry is Kenneth M. Sayre).

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