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July 11, 2009

Sending Information Across Time and Space

This post is something I've wanted to accomplish for a while, on a topic that fascinates me.

Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver's information model describes an information source, a transmitter, a signal, noise, the received signal, a receiver, and a destination. It's the basis of almost all modern information theory. Some people refer to it as "the mother of all models".

Shannon and Weaver give us a definition of information. Others have expanded on it. Shannon himself disagreed with some scholars who associated his concept of entropy in information science too closely with the use of entropy in thermodynamics. If you really want to hurt your brain, consider Schrödinger's concept of negentropy as life itself.

There is, I believe, a lack of clarity on the intertwined roles of communication and information, and I think that examples (such as this video) serve to demonstrate the relationship.
Communication moves information across time and space.
Without information, communication has nothing to move.
Without communication, information is trapped where it is.

Years ago I'd seen a movie called The Black Robe. There was a scene in the movie which really excited me, to the puzzlement of my companions who they didn't see what the big deal was. For me, this scene gave a real-world example of Shannon and Weaver's information model, and shows how communication and information are interwoven.

The background story is that a group of Native Americans are escorting a French missionary to a remote outpost. Along the way, they teach each other a few lessons.

I've come to have this video through the efforts of my son's friend Jon, who edited the scene out of another YouTube and reformatted it for me. Thanks Jon!

Previously, the movie shown below had been my favorite video example of communicating a message across a channel in the presence of noise:


Don Brown said...

Loved it.

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