Information, meaning and representation


Humans perceive the world in a seemingly direct way. They see the world and its objects to be out there and hear the sounds of the world and understand the meanings of them. Each sensory modality represents the sensed information directly, as the actual qualities of the sensed entities – or so it seems. However, it is known today that this appearance arises via rather complicated sensory and cognitive processes in the brain. These processes are carried out by neural activities that remain beyond awareness. Humans cannot perceive the material structure of the brain, nor the neural firings that take place there. Somehow all this remains transparent, but what is perceived is the actual information without any apparent material base. Obviously a true cognitive machine should experience the information in a similar way. Therefore the following questions must be asked. Which kinds of methods, signals and systems could carry and process meaning in a way that would appear transparent and seemingly immaterial to the robot brain? Would these methods differ from the information representation methods that are used in present-day digital computers?

What is information in a computer? It is understood that all information may be digitized and represented by patterns of bits, ones and zeros to almost any degree of accuracy. Digital technology has its roots in Shannon's information theory (Shannon, 1948). Shannon's ...

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