by Thomas Váczy Hightower
Carl von Bertalanffy, who was biologist, formulated in 1937 a general system
theory, which main point was, that it is not possible to separate a part of a
complex system for investigation without affecting the whole system.
In quantum physics a similar limitation (Heisenberg's uncertainty relation) was for other reasons recognized. Another discovery in modern science, which broke with the classical reversible mechanics, was Fourier-Clausius' thermodynamics, Bolzmanns statistical extension of the thermodynamics, and the introduction of entropy.
In classical science (Newton) the method of isolation and deduction was used with success on simple, reversible, mechanical systems. However, quantum physics and the study of living and un linear complex systems revealed the influence the scientific method had on the system under investigation. The laboratory and the scientist became an interacting part of the object.
The general system theory gave a method to study organized complex systems, which was under constant change and self-preservation, such as biology, anthropology, psychology, economy, and similar "living" systems.
This leads to the science of regulation and control, where the feed-back
function plays a key part, namely Cybernetics created by Norbert Wiener.
During WWII the need for fast guiding of the anti-aircraft defense gave a boost in developing guiding systems, Cybernetics, and developing of calculating machines.
To this framework of new sciences belongs the Theory of Games, created by one of the 20th. Century greatest mathematician, John von Neumann. He was a key player in formulation of the mathematic language for computers, robots and automatic machines.
Communications systems such as telephone and radio was also in rapid development and the theoretical ground work was made by Claude Shamnon form Bell Labs.
The basic recipe of communication is:
|Sender||code||channel (add noise or distortion)||decoder||receiver|
|Spoken words, letters, pictures||transformed to electric impulses||wireless, cable||convert to words, characters, pictures||interpretation|
The exact definition of information can be formulated as a
process that removes or reduces uncertainty, where uncertainty is a given
number of possibilities.
Information is the process that removes possibilities or alternatives. The amount of information depend on the numbers of possibilities the source of information can choose from.
Information is a measurement of optional alternatives and the more there can be removed from multiple options, the more information.
The most simple case consists of two options: he comes or he does not
come. If the information's is, that he comes, a definite amount of information
If the case gives 4 alternatives, such as 1) he comes and is happy, 2) he comes and is sad, 3) he comes and is angry, 4) he does not come, and the given information is, that he comes and is angry, the quantity of information is higher, than in the first case with only two alternatives.
The quantity of information is given by the numbers of alternatives. In the above cases it is 2 and 4.
In the information theory a mathematical function as the logarithm based on 2, log2 is most practical, so the quantity of information is in the examples respectively log2 of 2 = 1, and log2 of 4 = 2.
There are of course much more to take into consideration than
the choices of alternatives, namely the calculation of probability for the available
number of alternatives. One option
can have a higher probability than the other, so the formula for the quantity of
information contains also an average calculation in the receiving signal.
There are other communications issues than technical. There is the semantic level of communication in which the problems are of transferring the message to the receiver in the intended way. There is the question of effectiveness in the communication. How effectively does the message affect the receiver? This level of guiding and feed-back belongs to the Cybernetics.
The unity of the quantity of information is measured in bits, which stands for binary digit. One bit is the smallest piece of information there is, namely 1 or 0, yes or no, first formulated by the Hungarian scientist, Leo Szilard.
This definition of quantity states an important change in science,
since it leaves the connection with the physical world as it is known in the classical
science. There are no differences in information theory other than the difference
that can be perceived by an observer.
The key issue is not a physical force or an object as such, but rather the difference between a white paper on a black table. A none-physical event with no dimension or matter as such, since the difference lies neither in the paper nor the table, and not even between paper and table as a physical event subject to measurement.
For a classical scientist there are numerous differences in
the paper and the table, but what counts for the information theorist are only
those differences that carries an information
(Bateson). It is the message about the property of the subject or the event,
that has meaning.
The difference in the information theory is an idea. A mental aspect.
This is a philological concept belonging to the realm of ontology. What is
"most" real; the matter (substance) or the information? This huge philological
question is beyond my powers.
In this context we have to accept that things and events exist as substances and processes in time and space according to the laws of physics.
The tricky thing about information is its mental nature. It is an entirely none-dimensional realm, removed from physical forces such as push, pressure, momentum.
Concerning energy one has to understand that information requires energy as any other process does, but that the energy-exchange belongs to the sense organs, nervous systems and muscle tissue. The flow or quantity of information is measured in bits, and it is the carrier of information that consume energy.
The issue here is about a living organism provided with sense organs,
by which it receives information about the surrounding world. A corresponding
organism can receive information about the behavior of the first organism and
in this way there is a continual exchange of input and output and thus a change of
This exchange of messages can take place through many different channels of communication, and the messages themselves convey different levels of complexity. From the very simple, such as an open door, the look of a face, to the most intangible, as the meaning of life or the beauty of music.
The nature of this web of information we are a part of often has the character of a loop. A message is dispatched and returns later to the sender in an altered form.
It might be a surprise that the information theory is closely connected to the second law of thermodynamics, one of the fundamental laws in physics, which expresses the amount of order/uncertainty in a system, and its tendency to increase entropy. All physical systems will in time evidently become more mixed and equalized, less organized, loosing structure and gain more entropy.
The formula for the quantity of information is the same as the thermodynamics law for entropy, since for both systems it is a matter of level of order or degree of organization. As well as the source of communication as for a thermodynamics system one can say that when the state of structure is high, it is characterized with a little degree of chance or uncertainty, hence the entropy is low and the information high.
In the information theory we are not dealing with classical physical
notions such as mass, power, energy, but with a more intangible notion as form
or structure. Entropy is an expression of the fundamental law of the tendency in
nature to obliterate structures and wipe out forms.
However, for a living organism, the ability to maintain its form and even increase the degree of organization, is one of its astonishing characteristic. This means, among other things, that because it is an open system it is able to import energy and in a sense import negative entropy. Living organisms are being in - formed.
So where does order come from? This is a fundamental question for evolution theorists. Darwins theories appeared too materialistic and one-dimensional for many scientists, who have worked with information theories and the mental aspect in living organisms interacting with the surrounding world, which lead us to Gregory Bateson.
So far this brief introduction to the information theory has outlined the work of the pioneers, yet an important scientist ought to be mentioned, Gregory Bateson, an American who was an anthropologist, but was in close connection with the key players in the creation of the information theory, which method and terminology he altered and extended in his own way.
He described himself as a behavioral scientist and his critical use of the
information theory in his field work and in his many publications is outstanding,
since he as a true scientist with a very broad, impartial view, investigated
the natural communication between living organisms such as
humans and mammals.
Bateson used his method of study on the way schizophrenic families communicate, which he described as "double bind" and on the Alcoholics Anonymous rehabilitation program, which gave him material to his analysis of Western culture.
The occidental culture was viewed by Bateson as a great complex
Cybernetics system and could be described as any cybernetics system by its protocol
and habitual assumptions.
Bateson renounced an exhaustive catalogue, but pointed out a main feature in Western thinking, namely the symmetrical relation, which can be described as two parts related in such a way, that more of a kind of behavior from one part will make the other part react in the same way respectively, e.g. arms race, sport games, alcoholics, etc.
Complementary relations are also different behavior, but the two parts accommodate to each another in a relationship where the more of the one part stimulates more of the others accommodation. Examples could be dominance/submission, care/dependence, sadism/masochism, exhibitionism/spectatorship.
Another thinking premise in our culture is the idea of separating
a part of the whole and take unilateral control over that part with
the result that the other part is considered as hostile - to be opposed to what
is outside the border.
Such deep-rooted concepts as 'man against nature', 'the individual in contrast to society', 'we against the others', 'body separated from the soul', overlook that we are a living part of the whole system.
Long before ecology became fashionable, Bateson considered it as his main concern. He was not too optimistic and did not believe that technology could save the world. The fundamental premise of thinking has to change dramatically, if we shall escape ecology collapse.
The original definition of ecology means the study of the interaction between
living organisms and their environment and is related to energy and matter
transport over a membrane or a boundary, e.g. coral reef, pine forest, a city.
The diagram displays the dynamics of the ecological crisis according to Bateson. Hybris covers the Western erroneous thinking such as purposive thinking, which ignore the context with the whole of Nature.
Bateson did however consider that there were more to ecology than balance sheets, because it did not take into consideration the exchange of information, entropy and negative entropy, that involve the whole cybernetics system beyond the exchange between borders in living organisms. It is more like drawing up a budget of pathways or circuits and dealing with probabilities.
Bateson was a scientist and his use of mind in complex living systems
has nothing to do with the common idea of a "religious" mind in
Nature. He did not accept the notion transcendence, as the keen scientist he
was, but considered control and self-regulating as a mental aspect, which
did not belong to a part of the system, but was inherent in the whole system.
The individual mind, which is immanent in the circuit within and outside the body, is only a subsystem of the supreme mind. This larger mind is not some transcendental deity. It is still immanent in the total interconnected social system or planetary ecology.
It is an entirely self-adjusting unity, which "think, act and determine" and the boundaries do not coincide with the organisms or parts involved, but is weaved in or incorporated into the whole system.
In the terminology of Bateson, mind does not imply the common notion of
or consciousness, but the mind of the many involved systems.
He uses a simple example to illustrate what he understood as mind. (The tricky part is basically connected to the semantics in the western thinking.):
"The man cuts down the tree with an axe."
In the language itself we have already established 3 different parts of the process independent of each another. The man, the axe and the tree. The ratification of the process is already done by the language, in separating into 3 different things with the assumption that it is the man who contains the will power and controlling the process. The language itself has already divided the cycle, (which is a simple cybernetic feedback system) into 3 separate parts which interacts, but according to Bateson, the mind does not belongs to the man!
He took a closer look: each blow by the axe is modified and
adjusted in accordance with the marks of the axe in the tree. The
cybernetic description is based on the differences. First there is the distinction
between the blows, the marks in the tree, which is perceived by the mans eyes as a difference. The brain
transforms the input from the retina as a difference, and gives new information
to the muscles for a new blow. A simple trial and error loop, always referring to
the point of reference in the tree. The recipe for the process is A-B-C-a-b-c-a1-b1-c1-a2....
What is transmitted around the cycle are "differences that make a difference", which is Bateson's definition of a basic idea, the smallest unity of information. (The mathematical terminology in the Information theory will state differences as bits.)
Bateson's statement was, that the mental aspect - the mind - was laying immanent in the whole circuit, not in the brain of the man.
Strictly in the cybernetic sense one can say that the crucial guiding factor is the differences in the marks on the tree, not the brain, which only respond to the differences.
The phrase: "The ghost in the machine", comes to mind when the PC suddenly goes crazy. Yet one can say that though the computer and the brain have circuits of their own, it is the interaction between man and machine that is the issue. The brain, the nervous system and the body are not the case. According to Bateson, they are all subsystems, which first when added to the surrounding world become part of the whole circuit, that has the immanent mind.
The learning process is also described as a cybernetic function,
where by repetition the skills sink "down" to deeper layers of the brain
- into the unconscious level.
The basic recipe is stimulant, response, reinforcement. Bateson assign fundamental thinking and behavior habits in culture and civilization to this level. The way we perceive and react to our surroundings is unconsciously ingrained.
His participation as a guinea-pig in perception experiments by A. Ames, showed to him how automatic the 3-dimentional space is processed in the brain.
Ames constructed e.g. a trapezoid box in such a way that looking in a peephole, the box appeared "normally" rectangular. The test person's job was to point with a stick at an object in that distorted space knowing it is trapezoid, but it was not possible to hit the object even after multiple attempts.
After a long learning-process the test person finally was able to accomplish the job. The odd thing was that it was only possible because the test person began to perceive the box as what is was, a trapezoid box, and after the experiment the normal space looked very odd and unreal.
Bateson tells that after a number of these experiments in Ames laboratory, he could hardly walk on the street, because he did not believe his normal perceptions.
It was the information interactions between the different
parts released by differences Bateson was focusing on. Mental systems
react on differences, which means that they compare and make distinctions
between differences. A classification is taking place and hereby hierarchic. Mental
systems are leveled in categories.
An example from the daily life: The words on the menu card are not the food to eat!
A discipline in information theory is
meta-mathematics. It is about what can be proved in a mathematical, logical axiom
system. In the beginning of the 20th Century Whitehead & Russel released a
book, Principia Mathematica, which dealt with the relationships between
categories and their elements in an attempt to solve the logic of paradox. A
category cannot be an element itself, which would create a paradox, but have to be on
another level of abstraction or another logical
Meta is a Greek prefix meaning "after", and was first known used by Aristoteles' Metaphysics, which was the book he wrote "after" his book about physics.
A paradox is typically a kind of communication, where a part of
the statement have a negative assertion and is referring to itself. The
classical example is the Cretan Epimenedes' statement: "All Cretan's are
lying". This paradox has haunted logical thinkers for about 2,500
years and is still pending.
The theory of dis-continuity between categories and their elements is also called "the theory of logical types", which Bateson used as the fundament for his theory of communication.
He pointed out that in humans and mammals communication, a mixture of categories and their elements is done all the time, e.g. in humor or in play.
The picture is made by Escher. To illustrate different levels of category, I have added Escher drawing his drawing.
Closely connected to meta-communication is the linguistic notion, context, which means the coherence or connection in which the message shall be understood. The underlying assumption is, that anything outside the context, shall be ignored or let out of the reference frame.
A simple example could be the sign: 0. If this sign is placed
in a context with ROW, its function is the letter O in the word ROW, but if the
context is 203 the sign change to a number 0. So the framework or the environment
state the context in which the message shall be received.
In every language there are many words that are pronounced and spelled the same, but change meaning in different context. It is so common that we do not think about it.
In Danish, e.g. the word for 'darling' in another context means 'tax', a third meaning is 'treasure'. A more morbid example is the word for 'married', which in a different none figurative sense means 'poison'!
As an anthropologist and ethnologist Bateson was puzzled by the way mammals was able to understand the difference between play and real fight. They seems to know what context means and are able to respond accordingly.
Meta-communication or context is actually the rule in daily behavior much to the despair for logic minds. The violation of logical types and creation of paradox's are the common stuff in daily communication and may I add makes the life more spicy.
Every day we literally experience such context each time we
encounter a frame:
television, movies, art, theatre, games, or in a psychological framework: humor, political
address, psychotherapy, orations of different kinds, etc. We knew as our related
mammals, that this is only a game.
Actually, each time we use the word, " I ", a meta-communication sign or a premise is stated, indicating a context in which I set the rules.
In addition our behavior is related to which relationship, context, we have with different persons or groups. The contexts are different if we are with ones spouse, family, fellow workers, friends, etc.
From the day we are born, we begin to learn from every interaction with other humans and gain an understanding of the patterns and relationships going on, unconsciously or more consciously. Bateson considered the learning process as a communication phenomenon and made a hierarchy of learning processes reflecting the level of automation or unconsciousness. We shall not go further into learning, but state that the deeper levels of personality such as identity, character, habits, outlook on life, depend on a input from "a bigger mind" outside one self.
Context belongs to the world of communication and can not be regarded as a
physical thing separated from the observer, but a message that always depend on
The object has a form or pattern, which contains information depending on the observer's interpretation.
An example could be some paw tracks in the wilderness of Africa. A city tourist on photo safari will most likely observe those imprints in the soil as animal footprints, but the guide and tracker, who has a long experience of wildlife in the region, will be able to interpret the paw tracks as very resent from a full-grown, wounded lion, and will release the safety catch of his rifle and be on alert.
The amount of information humans receive is immense and economy in the consciousness is essential for fitness in life. No organism can permit all information on the conscious level, unless it can process a major part of it on the deeper instinctive or unconscious level. Habits and already learned skills belong to that level. This is how economy works. It is selective and systematic.
Bateson's suggest that the selection is performed in agreement with purpose,
intent or attention. Here lies the distortion of the total
Cybernetic system, since the aim is a linear cause
chain, A-B-C, though the whole mental cycle structure is A-B-C-A. In the
identification with the aim, C, we loose sight of the bigger cyclic cybernetic
system, where C only is a part. The fulfillment of the purpose - how legitimate it
might be - can cause severe damage to the whole system.
The human being itself, its relation to the environment, the culture it is living in, the ecology of nature, are all cybernetic systems. The "purposive thinking" pull out those sequences of the mind that do not have the cyclic structure, which is characteristic for a living organism, and distort it to a linear cause chain.
This way of thinking is very effective though greedy, but not wise. (This make me think of Gurdjieff's comment about man as "an insane stimuli-response machine".)
A priori one can claim that all perceptions and responses, all
categories of behavior, all learning and genetics, all neurology, physiology and
endocrinology, all organization and all evolution, can be considered
communication. This broad field can all be subject to the laws of
In fact, it is impossible not to communicate. We are born into the world of communication, we are a part of it willing or unconsciously, and even after our death it continues in form of legend.
As mentioned earlier, Bateson made use of the mind concept in
description of complex cybernetic systems, including the unconscious mind. For
Bateson the mind concept was a description, a model, a map, which should not be confused
with the landscape. In science as in daily life the mistake of categories is
He liked to rephrase Pascal's expression, "the heart has its own reason which is unknown to the intelligence", to "the heart has its own precise algorithm".
Algorithm is a mathematical recipe for a process or calculation, also used in computer programming. Bateson used this word to explain the underlying premises for our perception, thinking and acting, which is unable to be captured or understood by the algorithm of the language.
The common use of the word self lead us to believe
that it is well defined and substantial. Even behavioral science makes frequent
use of it, but Bateson warns against carelessness with that word since it cause
confusion and unscientific waffle.
The Buddhists have a more clear take, since they considers the self as fiction, and the work is to forget and deny individuality. It is a hard bargain for a Westerner, so what has Bateson to offer?
He considered the self as an abstract idea without boundary, a quantity or volume of unknown elements. What they are is an earnest philosophic question, but since he regard himself as a naturalist, who observes human beings in their culture and records their habits, conceptions and their picture of the world, he choose to point out the contradiction in terms of the Western concepts of the self.
The general idea of the self is what Bateson calls "the
captain of his soul", which leads to believe that the captain has control and
willpower over his behavior and actions. There are however also a common recognition, that obscure, unconscious
forces lead us to actions out of control.
This contradiction leads Bateson to focus on the guiding system of the self, since it seems to operate unstable and unpredictable.
His study of the Alcoholics Anonymous rehabilitation program, gave him material for his analysis of
the change of the alcoholic's self, when he manages to go clean. This radical
change of the alcoholic self, indicate that the self has been altered to a more healthy self
sustained creation. The reprogramming of the self demands a bigger and stronger
guiding system, that is able to overrule the old alcoholic self, characterize as
a symmetrical response to other people can drink - so can I.
The new self is a harmonizing complementary relation working in the way that the stronger the wish for alcohol the more need to give in to the AA program.
Those who are familiar with the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky system will see the law of three at hand:
the alcoholic self is the passive force. The creation of a new self, the wish to transform to a higher level, require a force with a much higher rate of vibration, the active force. The gab is too big, so a neutralizing force is needed. The AA system is the neutralizing force and is the mitigating factor in creation of the new self.
Bateson operates also with 3 systems: The original drinking behavior. The AA system characterized by a complementary part-of-the whole relation. The third system is a superior, bigger mind system composed of the other two less complicated systems plus a supreme immanent present life force, which Bateson, who was atheist, characterized as belonging to the concept of God.
At first this may sound odd, but he had to involve a higher system to make the logic of Cybernetics work. Secondly, he considered art and religion as examples of pre-verbal thinking, a bridge over the gap between consciousness/mind and pre-verbal perception. This immanent supreme deity, which he jocularly called the god Eco, is permeating man, nature and the universe.
In a scientific term: the self tend to maintain and preserve its self. This applies ironically also to the alcoholic self, but since it is in fundamental, sharp conflict with the supreme meta system, a morphological evolution of the self can take place, and the alcoholic can embark on a clean life.
For the schizophrenic the case is different, as Bateson points out, since the self is under a constant destruction and do not have a chance to create a sound and robust self by calibration, due to the double bind communication in the family. Double bind relations are a trap, a mission impossible, since it does not leave any options for success. An example could be that a parent encourage the child to express its opinion and when it does, it is blamed for being unkindly and disloyal. Or the other way around. A schizophrenic patient sends a mothers-day-card to his mother with the words: "to the one, who has been like a mother to me". The message is double bind.
The morphological evolution of the self, as I understand it, can take place only in other circumstances less pathological. I am referring to religious revelation or enlightenment. A less dramatic transformation of the self can take place for a person earnestly working in groups guided by a teacher with a higher level of being and consciousness.
I will end this brief summary of Bateson's cybernetics
theories by introducing Ashby's black box method, since it displays - in my opinion
- information theory in a nutshell. W. Ross Ashby's books about Cybernetics
are considered a key source, and they did convince Bateson of the scientific
foundation of Cybernetics.
Ashby's method applies to anything of a complex nature, that is impossible to gain an insight into and therefore can be describe as a black box. The investigator has to connect to the box so they together form part of a new system with feedback. The two parts of the new system interact by means of communication.
The scientist formulates some questions by making an input to the box and it makes a kind of an answer - an output. No response is also an information, since it tells that the input is invalid.
The investigator makes a careful log over all the occurrences in the system, which Ashby calls a protocol. In theory there are no limits to the lengths of the protocol, since there always will be something undone. At some time the investigator considers the protocol sufficient and begins to make conclusions about the nature of the black box.
But the long protocol has to be decoded in order to find some sort of regularity or systematism in the huge amount of information. The entropy grows with the length of the protocol.
The decoding is decisive for the knowledge about the black box. It is possible that no pattern or regularity can be found in the protocol, so the system could be chaotic. At least in the span of the protocol since that is what is given of information.
The process of decoding or interpretation of the protocol is
called constraint (Ashby) or restraint (Bateson), meaning that the statistical probability
of a certain occurrence will come up where it is expected or presumed. The
random chances are constraint, which give an indication of a pattern or
structure, that could give basis for regularity.
When a black box protocol shows regularity, a further decoding can be performed by mathematical calculation and a law free of constraint can (perhaps) be formulated. A law gives possibilities for prediction, which can be tested by a new protocol under similar conditions.
Ashby's black box method for complex cybernetic systems is in
many ways similar to the classical method in physics, but with a new, crucial addition:
the observer, the scientist is part of the method. He evidently concludes that science
is always metascience. A metaphor or reflection
of the subject. A map of the landscape. An image of reality.
Everything in life are black boxes. We really do not know what is going on inside, but through communication between the box and us, we can get an idea of the double system, that reflect not only messages from the box but also contains data about ourselves. The way we observe and formulate questions to the box, is guided by our outlook on life, our culture, and can not be separate from the information about the box.
The theory of systems and cybernetics gives a scientific method for studying living organisms, their interactions and the way they learn to behave in their environment. The major difference from classical science is the abolition of the objective observer, who can not be separated from the object.
Bent Ĝlgaard (Danish), "Kommunikation og ĝkomentale systemer, ifĝlge
Books: W.Ross Ashby, "An Introduction to Cybernetics".
Gregory Bateson, "Steps to an Ecology of Mind".
" " "Mind and Nature".
Looking at the hearing faculties of a human being, we know, that the
input to the hearing center in the brain is around 1 million bits per
second. One bit is the smallest piece of information there is, namely 1 or 0,
yes or no, first formulated by the Hungarian scientist, Leo Szilard.
The input from the 5 senses is about 11 million bits per second. No wonder the head is so warm! What an enormous work to process and get rid of all the unnecessary information from that huge input. So the big question that has puzzled scientists for many decades is, how can the brain handle all this information so only relevant messages reach the conscious part? In this context consciousness means the ordinary state of mind where the necessary information for maintaining orientation in life is taking place.
Sophisticated laboratory tests performed by many different scientists has shown that normal consciousness can process only around 16-20 bits per second. Depending on what kind of intellectual work they are testing, the number of bits differs a little but the upper limit is 50 bits.
Especially the American scientist Benjamin Lebet (German origin) has done pioneer work in that field. Even during open surgery in the brain he has performed many tests while the patients are awake and communicating.
Professor Helmar Franks approach differs from the general empirical method by looking at the central maximum stream of consciousness as a subjective time quantum (Subjective Zeit Quant, SZQ), the smallest moment of perception. That quantum fits well with humans' capacity of hearing and seeing. Sound impulses up to 16 beats per sec. are heard separately, but over 16 beats it's merged into a continuous sound. The same applies to the speed of pictures. Over 16-18 frames per sec. will compose a smooth movement.
It is an astonishingly small capacity - about 16 bits per sec. the
conscious mind can process. On the other hand, it has access to a large memory
As it has been pointed out about great story tellers such as H.C.Andersen and tales collected by the Grimm Brothers, that their writing, though containing little information in bits, is able to access the long path to the memory bank so a huge amount of information can be released. Their words are pregnant so they can release and create many associations.
We also have to bear in mind that the above mentioned tests about our consciousness are limited to one channel at a time. The tests do not reflect the many other channels of information we receive simultaneously. Though they may not be noted, they still "color" the few bits of information.
"There is more to the picture than meets the eyes", contains a
lot of sense, because a human is not a one-channel computer, but a
multidimensional holographic bio-computer, that perceives.
The sub-limit perception - meaning all the input from our senses the consciousness is not aware of, are enormous; about 11 millions bits/sec. As it is stated in the theory of information-entropy: the more information the more entropy. So the big work of the brain is to throw away information - to forget, which is done by heat. About a million times less information is allowed to enter the consciousness.
What is interesting is also the delay in real time (0.5 sec) and
the simulation of data the brain - more specifically the part that is conscious,
meaning that which has the attention - performs. The most surprising for me is
the simulation of referring the events back in time to the moment where the
actual registration of the event occurs. EEG can record that as "the readiness
potential" 0.02 seconds after the action or simulation.
I do not of course refer to the instinctive or moving parts, that react almost instantly, but to the intellectual part that interprets those few bits, that are made available, when the millions of bits are thrown away as heat.
When one thinks about it, it makes sense. It takes time to process the 11 million bits/sec and only make the intellectual part aware of what is relevant for orientation in life. When a tiger is after you, the information about a beautiful flower that you are passing cannot in that situation be considered worth paying attention to!
We have to bear in mind that the above-mentioned small numbers of bits apply only to the intellectual capacities of the brain. The sub-limit perception from all our senses and the processing from the other centers of intelligence - instinctive, moving and emotional add enormously to the small amount of intellectual data.
Thomas Hightower, 2001-4.