Man the food-gatherer reappears incongruously as information-gatherer.
Odysseus wept when he heard the poet sing of his great deeds abroad because, once sung, they were no longer his alone. They belonged to anyone who heard the song.
Language is not a technology, no matter how well developed and efficacious. It is not best seen as something separate from the mind; it is what the mind does. "Language in fact bears the same relationship to the concept of mind that legislation bears to the concept of parliament," says Jonathan Miller: "it is a competence forever bodying itself in a series of concrete performances."
Whereas the total vocabulary of any oral language measures a few thousand words, the single language that has been written most widely, English, has a documented vocabulary of well over a million words, a corpus that grows by thousands of words a year.
In our world of ingrained literacy, thinking and writing seem scarcely related activities. We can imagine the latter depending on the former, but surely not the other way around: everyone thinks, whether or not they write. But Havelock was right. The written word--the persistent word--was a prerequisite for conscious thought as we understand it.
On two occasions I have been asked,--"Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.
Cannot work on account of rain
The rain has done much good
The rain has done a great amount of damage
The rain is now pouring down in good earnest
Every prospect of the rain continuing
Rain much needed
Rain at times
To employ the telephone, one just talked. A child could use it. For that very reason it seemed like a toy. In fact, it seemed like a familiar toy, made from tin cylinders and string. The telephone left no permanent record. *The Telephone* had no future as a newspaper name. Business people thought it unserious. Where the telegraph dealt in facts and numbers, the telephone appealed to emotions.
It may sound ridiculous to say that Bell and his successors were the fathers of modern commercial architecture--of the skyscraper. But wait a minute. Take the Singer Building, the Flatiron Building, the Broad Exchange, the Trinity, or any of the giant office buildings. How many messages do you suppose go in and out of those buildings every day? Suppose there was no telephone and every message had to be carried by a personal messenger? How much room do you think the necessary elevators would leave for offices? Such structures would be an economic impossibility.
Thornton C. Fry, enjoyed the tension between theory and practice--the clashing cultures. "For the mathematician, an argument is either perfect in every detail or else it is wrong," he wrote in 1941. "He calls this 'rigorous thinking.' The typical engineer calls it 'hair-splitting.'
" The mathematician also tends to idealize any situation with which he is confronted. His gases are "ideal," his conductors "perfect," his surfaces "smooth." He calls this "getting down to essentials." The engineer is likely to dub it "ignoring the facts."
It used to be supposed in Science that if everything was known about the Universe at any particular moment then we can predict what it will be through all the future.... More modern science however has come to the conclusion that when we are dealing with atoms and electrons we are quite unable to know the exact state of them; our instruments being made of atoms and electrons themselves.
There was a difference in emphasis between Shannon and Wiener. For Wiener, entropy was a measure of disorder; for Shannon, of uncertainty. Fundamentally, as they were realizing, these were the same. The more inherent order exists in a sample of English text--order in the form of statistical patterns, known consciously or unconsciously to speakers of the language--the more predictability there is, and in Shannon's terms, the less information is conveyed by each subsequent letter. When the subject guesses the next letter with confidence, it is redundant, and the arrival of the letter contributes no new information. Information is surprise.Seems very relevant to today's ChatGPT crew...
Information can be considered as order wrenched from disorder.
Some son-of-a-bitch will invent a machine to measure Spring with.
You cannot stir things apart.
Alan Turing once whimsically proposed a number N, defined as "the odds against a piece of chalk leaping across the room and writing a line of Shakespeare on the board."
Szilárd made clear that he did not wish to invoke a living demon, with, say, a brain--biology brought troubles of its own. "The very existence of a nervous system," he noted, "is dependent on continual dissipation of energy." (His friend Carl Eckart pithily rephrased this: "Thinking generates entropy.")
Any one who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.I remember my friend and mentor Paul Morville printing that out and posting it in a lab where we worked, the implication that my frustration with bugs generated in code (probably code I had written) were making such random chaos.
Septimus, in Tom Stoppard's drama Arcadia. "Thousands of poems--Aristotle's own library ... How can we sleep for grief?"
"By counting our stock," Septimus replies. "You should no more grieve for the rest than for a buckle lost from your first shoe, or for your lesson book which will be lost when you are old. We shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms, and what we let fall will be picked up by those behind. The procession is very long and life is very short. We die on the march. But there is nothing outside the march so nothing can be lost to it. The missing plays of Sophocles will turn up piece by piece, or be written again in another language."
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Once a piece of information is filed, it is statistically unlikely ever to be seen again by human eyes. Even in 1847, Augustus De Morgan, Babbage's friend, knew this. For any random book, he said, a library was no better than a wastepaper warehouse. "Take the library of the British Museum, for instance, valuable and useful and accessible as it is: what chance has a work of being known to be there, merely because it is there? If it be wanted, it can be asked for; but to be wanted it must be known. Nobody can rummage the library."
Too much information, and so much of it lost. An unindexed Internet site is in the same limbo as a misshelved library book. This is why the successful and powerful business enterprises of the information economy are built on filtering and searching. Even Wikipedia is a combination of the two: powerful search, mainly driven by Google, and a vast, collaborative filter, striving to gather the true facts and screen out the false ones. Searching and filtering are all that stand between this world and the Library of Babel.