Thursday 10 November 2011

Maps and information


Start from the idea that 'the territory' is everything, reality, all that stuff out there (if there is anything).
  • A map is a representation of the territory. The map has a finite set of objects and relationships which can be manipulated.  The map provides the language to tell a story, which is to say to understand something.

  • The territory is impossibly big: we cannot know anything except through maps. We cannot understand the territory, we can only understand maps of the territory.

  • We can improve maps - make the bigger scale, put more things in them - but eventually they cease to be any use.  A 1:1 map's no good to anyone - if it were possible - it'd be just as incomprehensible as the territory

  • But no one map serves all purposes, so we have more than one map. We have different maps for different activities. That does not make one map right and another one wrong.  They are all wrong, if by that we mean they are not the territory.
We take as a working assumption that there is a territory out there, but all we can do is observe whether our maps 'work' or not. If we make decisions based on the map and we get the results that the map predicts, then we reckon that the map is a good map of the territory. If it doesn't work, we reckon there's something wrong with the map.

When I travel to London I generally take both an A-Z street map and an topological map of the underground. If I travelled to parts of London that I don't know without a map I'd be completely lost.

Using the same map as someone else makes communication possible.


So what's this got to do with information? Two things - and this starts to get self-referential.
  • Informational ideas provide a new map.

  • Maps are information. Maps exist in the universe of information.
A map built on informational ideas (including the idea that maps are information) is a useful new way of understanding the world.

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