Information, As sensory input

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Summary

Information (shortened as info or info.) is that which informs, i.e. that from which data can be derived. Information is conveyed either as the content of a message or through direct or indirect observation of some thing. That which is perceived can be construed as a message in its own right, and in that sense, information is always conveyed as the content of a message. Information can be encoded into various forms for transmission and interpretation. For example, information may be encoded into signs, and transmitted via signals.

Details

Often information can be viewed as a type of input to an organism or system. Inputs are of two kinds; some inputs are important to the function of the organism (for example, food) or system (energy) by themselves. In his book Sensory Ecology Dusenbery called these causal inputs. Other inputs (information) are important only because they are associated with causal inputs and can be used to predict the occurrence of a causal input at a later time (and perhaps another place). Some information is important because of association with other information but eventually there must be a connection to a causal input. In practice, information is usually carried by weak stimuli that must be detected by specialized sensory systems and amplified by energy inputs before they can be functional to the organism or system. For example, light is often a causal input to plants but provides information to animals. The colored light reflected from a flower is too weak to do much photosynthetic work but the visual system of the bee detects it and the bee's nervous system uses the information to guide the bee to the flower, where the bee often finds nectar or pollen, which are causal inputs, serving a nutritional function.

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