June 3, 2023

What Is The Difference Between Shannon Information and Specified Complex Information? And why it’s important.

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Information is interesting, here I want to specifically discuss Shannon Information verses Specified Complex Information. I know, you may be saying “so what, it sounds boring to me.” Maybe so, it may even zip over your head, in that case duck so it will hit the person behind you! While being of an esoteric philosophical nature, I think it’s significant because of its implications.

The Difference Between Shannon Information and Specified Complex Information
The Difference Between Shannon Information and 
Specified Complex Information

There’s a view that information in DNA and biological systems contain just Shannon Information – this is not true. Yes, biological systems do contains Shannon Information, but it is more specific than that – it contains Specified Complex Information. Let me first define the two and then tell you why biological systems have Specified Complex Information and why this discussion is so important.

Shannon Information verses Specified Complex Information

Shannon Information is only concerned with the improbability or complexity of character strings. In other words, it’s just mere complexity or it has information-carrying capacity. Specified Complex Information on the other hand, is complex, but also has patterning significance. This is functional information that carries meaning
Let me put it this way, all Specified Complex Information is Shannon Information, but not all Shannon Information is Specified Complex Information (see bottom half of the meme). For example, Shannon Information just means that a string of characters are complex and improbable in their arrangement, but it does not define if this string carries significant meaning. Again, Specified Complex Information is specified and always carries meaning.
For example, this is Shannon Information:

“dfsad sdaf oije .zvsdlkfjas sdlfj” and also can be “Learning about information is fun!” 

However, Specified Complex Information always carries meaning: 

Learning about information is fun!”

“dfsad sdaf oije .zvsdlkfjas sdlfj” is not specified functional information – at least as far as I know, it holds no meaning to an English speaker!

In case you did not get that, let me put it this way. Consider a key and lock. You can take a key blank and file down any pattern on the key blade – that is Shannon Information. However, if you want the key to fit the lock, you have to cut the key blade to specified sequences, shapes and depths for proper key-lock fit. Now that is Specified Complex Information.

Biological Systems and Text on the Page

Now both the text you are reading and DNA are improbable and complex. However, both carry meaning. The text you are reading is telling you something in English. DNA contains information that transcribes to RNA that gets translated to protein. In fact those sequences must be in a specific order else the organism will not produce the correct protein, a protein that does not function well or maybe none at all! The organism’s enzymes must be able to transcribe it, if there is no correct sequence, there is no transcription.

Why Know the Difference?

Oh, by the way, just so you know why this distinction is so important, Specified Complex Information is only generated from a mind. In fact, that is the only source we know of that produces this type of information! Think of the text you are reading now, it has come from my mind. Thus this leads to the conclusion that life’s specified informational core is grounded in intelligence – an intelligent mind!

Have you heard materialists say the “DNA is just Shannon Information” so it can arise by chance? What do you think, have you gained a new level of respect for “Information theory?”

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