Re: [OPE] intermission: value of knowledge

From: Paula <>
Date: Thu Dec 03 2009 - 18:27:41 EST

Dave wrote:
> I think the author is conflating *information* with its possible
>*utility* to human agents.

But the utility of information *is* important. We would hope this exchange
of emails is of some use, right? It's not just a jumble of characters, bits,
or whatever. There's meaning involved, there are issues involved, there are
people involved. If the quantitative approach can't handle that aspect, then
the approach itself is of restricted utility. But I do agree that it is of
*some* utility, for instance in encryption, as mentioned by Paul C. So it
seems that even quantitative theories should be of some utility 'to human

Paul C wrote:
> You are right that entropy is reduced and value is added, but I am trying
> to answer a more fundamental problem in the opening chapters of the book :
> 1. why is it that labour is possible and How is it that labour can reshape
> parts of the real world.
> 2. why is it that labour creates value.
> 3. why is it that human labour, unlike the labour of horses, has proven
> indispensible.

Paul, these are good questions, but the labor referred to in 1 and 3 above
is concrete, whereas the labor referred to in 2 is abstract. The distinction
needs to be born in mind - unless you mean to reject it.

>The writing of a novel does produce a material thing : the draft that is
>sent to the
>printer. The making of a pattern by a master pattern maker in a casting
>shop is an
>analogous process, it is only the prejudice of the intellectual classes
>that sees it as
>something distinct.

A draft is still not the same as a novel, any more than a book is a novel.
The labor of the novelist is qualitatively different from the labor of a
random typist (who, in your terms, also produces a draft). I could turn your
argument around and say that it is only the prejudice of a certain kind of
society, where profits are made from from novels (and even from the 'rights'
to novels) just as much as from metal casts, that sees no distinction here.
But remember, without this distinction you'd have to eliminate the category
of 'intellectual classes', and the prejudice you blame wouldn't even exist!

>This point that you are making is one of the big obstacles that students
>information have to surmount. It seems counter intuitive that a random
>sequence of
>digits should contain so much information.

I don't see it as an obstacle, I see it as confirmation that there are
different aspects of information - the qualitative being just as real and
important as the quantitative. We know that the labor that produces
information produces use-value, and that use-value can be considered both in
terms of quality and of quantity. But the question here is whether that
labor is also productive of value, and I'm not sure that communication
theory can get us very far in answering that question.


ope mailing list
Received on Thu Dec 3 18:34:13 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Dec 31 2009 - 00:00:02 EST