Complex Nature of Information and Language

November 8, 1996

In a 1945 paper entitled "The Theory of Communications", Denis Gabor [1] asked the question; "What modifications would arise by departing from the rigid prescription of absolute independence of the data and allowing a limited amount of interference?". Gabor was speaking of the effects of Heisenberg's "Uncertainty Principle" in terms of possible interference between time and frequency. This note examines the macro effects of looking at that interference in terms of information and language being "complex" in nature; i.e. as having both real and "imaginary" components.

This model, selected for expedience rather than on theoretical argument, to take a practical look at difficult-to-explain linguistic phenomena, has the advantage that it allows one to look on communications as being of two distinct types; non-overlapping fabrication of "tangible" (semantic) mental imagery, and the creative orchestrating of latent-emergent (episodic) information potentials, to engender mental imagery associated with the phase and harmonic (rotating vector) properties of the informational components.

This complex view of information also enables a bridging between the technique of holography and the "bootstrapping" principle. For example, the self consistency with which one builds a web of relationships in the "bootstrap" method, appears to play the same role as coherent light in the case of holography, allowing the management of the natural phase of the information under study. In this sense, the "bootstrap" process can be compared to shining a "mental laser" on natural phenomena to illuminate its hidden interrelationships. This is in fact, the approach which is being crudely attempted within the documents populating this web page.

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Groups of words and symbols, like teams, can produce output (i.e. messages) in two complementary yet antithetical ways; by linear, non-overlapping fabrication (F), or by creative, interfering synthesis (C). The overall message (M) relates to these two processes in the manner of a complex variable; M = F + i*C. In business, there is an effort to restrict communications to non-overlapping assembly (F) of well-defined words, and to avoid the ambiguities of creative (interfering) word usage. On the other end of the pole, the poet builds his/her messages almost entirely from creative interference (C).

In the middle are philosophers like Heraclitus and Wittgenstein who attempted to build their messages from a balanced combination of linear assembly and nonlinear interference.

The use of only non-overlapping assembly restricts the messages to "brick-on-brick" tangible images, while the use of only creative interference restricts the messages to latent imagery (i.e. emergent potentials). Used together, these two processes allow for metamorphosis of the imagery. For example, the dynamic imagery of an embryo growing into an infant involves latent potentials which "upwell" into tangible features, and tangible features which "subduct" into latency. One of the salient features of morphing (a capability of all natural living systems) is the "harmony" between the "whole and the parts". Clearly, mechanical systems have neither a morphing capability nor the same sort of harmony between the whole and the parts.

[**Note: The notion of harmony in messages, in the context of complex messages (M = F + i*C) brings to mind the fact that any complex number can be represented as a rotating vector in the two dimensional real-imaginary plane with arbitrary angular velocity "w"; i.e. (M = F + i*C = e **(iwt). So the notion of harmonies and phases seems natural to this "view" of message production, an analogy which might be pursued further, but not here.]

The point of this discussion is to elaborate on the issue of "holons and glyphs". It was contended in that note that Egyptian hieroglyphs (which went into decline after the time of Darius I, a contemporary of Heraclitus) were more amenable than a phonetic language to "complex" message building. Metamorphosis was a requirement of the Egyptian language prior to the conquest of Egypt since the Egyptian gods, like the Celt gods, were continually metamorphosing, not only in their own personage but also with respect to their interactions with aspects of nature.

For example, in a discussion on the hieroglyphic representation of the goddess Net [2]; "The examples reproduced by Lanzone represent the goddess in the form of a woman, who wears upon her head the crown of the North (image); she often holds a sceptre, (images), in one hand, and the symbol of life in the other, but sometimes the hand which holds the sceptre also grasps a bow and two arrows, which are her characteristic symbols. She once appears in the form of a cow with eighteen stars on one side, and a collar round her neck from which hangs (image); on her back is a ram-headed lion with horns and plumes, (image), upon his head. The cow stands in a boat, the prow of which terminates in a lion's head with a disk upon it, and is provided with wings; the stern of the boat terminates in a ram's head, and by the fore feet of the cow, which is describe as "Net, the Cow, which gave birth to Ra," (combined image), is an utchat, (image). In one scene she is represented with a crocodile sucking at each breast."

Clearly there is some heavy-duty interference and metamorphosis going on here and a lot of latent-emergent meaning which probably had a very powerful impact on those who were fluent in the symbologies and related mythologies.

While this genre of pictographic communication medium can carry more powerful portent than a satellite photograph of a tropical storm morphing into a hurricane, the brick-on-brick phonetic constructs of the Phoenician and Greek languages, due to trading and economic considerations, were to rapidly marginalize it after the end of Darius I reign in about 480 BC.

The attributes of the Phoenician phonetic alphabet (only 22 letters) provided an ideal base for an easily learned standard "lingua franca", satisfying the simple transactional need of traders and businessmen. The mysteries of myth and the subtleties of history, however, could hardly be as well served by "brick-on-brick" phonetic constructs, as they could by the metamorphosing interference patterns of the natural symbol based hieroglyphics. As McLuhan said; "the medium is the message". The medium of hieroglyphics was right for a culture which was rich in myth and mysticism, and the medium of phonetic letters was right for a culture which obsessed on linear rational constructs.

In summary, it appears that "normality" in current western culture heavily emphasizes a material-causal (unipolar) view of reality and eschews the creative-emergent (dipolar) aspect. The "bifurcation" from the dipolar to the unipolar culture appeared to occur around the year 480 BC, subsequent to Heraclitus and the adoption (and adaption) of the Pheonician alphabet by the Greeks. While Heraclitus appeared to have a mastery of using creative interference effects within the new Greek language [3], he appeared to be poorly understood by his philosopher-successors (even to this day), who believed that all of philosophy could be "handled" by rational thinking and Aristotelian logic. It has only been in the twentieth century that Aristolian logic has been proved to be incomplete (Goedel's theorem), and that "Rational law is not restricted to an expression of causality" [4], but includes the "hidden order" effects of deterministic chaos and other "creative order" associated with quantum behavior in nature.

The above discussion, stimulated by questions raised in Denis Gabor's 1945 "Theory of Communication" [1] is to put forth some possible rationales which may explain the apparent "skew" in what we currently call "normality", since an understanding of "learning organizations" must "see" beneath the distortions of culture in order to be able to cultivate high levels of performance and actualization within the culture. Long term speculations on a more balanced language base, using visualization and "fractaglyphs" (hologlyphs?) can be found in the note "holons and glyphs" on this web page.

[1] Gabor, Denis, "Theory of Communications", JIEE 1945

[2] Budge, E. A. Wallis, "The Gods of the Egyptians", 1904

[3] Kahn, Charles H., "The Art and Thought of Heraclitus", 1979

[4] Bohm, David, "The Implicate Order", 1980