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Meaning and sense

See also diccan's article meaning.

A particularly complex concept. For general views, see semantics in Wikipedia.

This could have been dealt with before in the basic semantic aspects. Here, we take in the more dramatic aspect of "make sense", and in particular when the L function cannot be automatically, rationally, computed.

Measurement of meaning: explicit structure with "meaning" (e.g. extension type header). Just the time when the message comes. Intention of the message centre.

1. The receiver side

The first meaning of meaning is the "performative" value of a message. By doing what is commanded, the receiver shows that it has "understood". The dog sits, the lift goes to the fifth. And, millions if not billions of times per second, a computer understand what the program commands.

The effect may be invisible from outside. Be a simple storing of data, for instance. Or "evocation" of data from long termed memory.

Not every part of a message is meaningful for a given receiver. And we can separate two cases :
- the relevant information is formally written In/on the being, directly readable by a machine (barcode, for instance)
- the relevant information must be sorted out of the "natural" features of the being, by processes which may be rather simple (size or weight of an apple) or highly complex (artificial vision and pattern recognition).

Sometimes, meaning is deducted from the origin (and more globally, of the environment) of the message. For instance, the control box in a lift, where the aimed at stories are defined by the position of the button). Idem in computer menus.

One could design :
- a "physical" or "energetic" measure of meaning (a nuclear bomb would be the most meaningful of messages...),
- a duration measure (from "a glimpse" to "he was never again the same"), or even the difference of life expectancy before and after the operation;
- a "number of recipients" measure ; from TV audience to "severed heads"
- the "deads/miles" news interest unit;
- a message mass measure ;
. a bit alone has no meaning by itself. Only its position, if pointed at by some being, will let it be interpreted as some binary value: yes or no, positive or negative, 0 or 1, black or white...
. Several bits, by their relative position, may be interpreted as a number or as key into a table, for example a dictionary, where definitions will give a meaning.
. Several words, if they conform to some grammar, formal or not, can be interpreted as a fact (indicative mode) or a command (imperative).
. Longer texts need less contextual information, if they are not pure random, they bear regularities which let the code or language be identified.
. Champéry model
- virtuality/reality measure. True facts are more meaningful, but myths also (si non e vero..)
- a receiver ability measure ; The more powerful, autonomous, processing and memory rich, with experience and sensitiveness, the more each message may enter S and create resonance, trigger interesting actions. Perhaps letting aside a large part of the input flows. Depth calls for silence.
- a Delta L measure would be the best ; possibly multiplied by the number of recipients ; and the most interesting in case of L undetermination ; then comes a message, which makes sense ; even an new P assessment, a threat, as well as a new medication, or the opening of a new space.

Assimilation/expression opens some issues :
- How the meaning of the input is decomposed into the meaning of the factors ? Is the meaning of a produced the product of the meaning of its factors (+ the meaning of the multiplying operation by itself)
- How do the construction rules are designed to produce only meaningful expressions/phrases.
- External: induction, severed heads, emitter charisma, authority argument.

The richer the machine, the more it can welcome the riches of other beings. Like freedom, seen as the meeting of two maturities.

One could classify interpreting programs according to the "meaning quantity" they can extract from an input (e.g. a bitmap message). The simplest one would give one only bit (light/dark, homogenous/divers). A sophisticated program will recognize a lot of patterns, possibly a text...

A simplistic being cannot find much meaning in the richest message. Thrown to an electric switch, brick and a Bible will have the same binary effect. At best, a simple machine could be transparent, and let out the original...

Thesis : But a complex being can find a lot of meaning even in a simple message. It can infer from it much more information that is directly contained in it, using context, general knowledge and particular conventions with the emitter.

In sophisticated beings, the meaning may be measured at several levels. For instance, in signal processing, a first level is given by the sampling, with a high number of bits, strongly marked with a noise as well as redundancies. A higher level will provide the meaningful bits, much less many.

But meaning is not only a quantitative question. It may simply mean... something to be done by the receiver, and definite things to be evoked by him.

Thesis : Random bears no meaning by itself (as well as it is non KC reducible). But the user of some random process may attribute it any meaning ("alea jacta est")

On the Champéry model
- when the number of pixels of the image will reach the limit of resolution. field (e.g. an human eye), the look of the curves will change. After some time, the pixel increase is ineffective since not perceived. The phenomenon may be masked if the seer can zoom from the global image into some particular region.
- to test the theory on images with a large number of bits, will demand to pre-select images. On which criteria ? Analogy problem in CERN for reconstitution, with a-plat zones, and borders.

2. Event

The concept of event, a fashionable topics in the 1970's (Communication 18. L'événement. Seuil, 1972.) is a case of meaning evaluation. An event is something in the flow of inputs ("news") that is considered as meaningful enough to take a good place in a media. The old journalist rule "deads numer/mile" applies : the number of lines assigned to an event is proportional to the number of casualties, and inversely proportional to its distance from the readership location.

An event could be defined as a strongly meaningful temporal variation. Something abnormal (define a distance to normality ?). Or the fact of entering in a critical state ?

Hence, the meaning quantity transported by a message depends on :
- message length
- redundancy rate
- interpretive capability of the receiver
- conventions on codes between receiver and emitter
- shared knowledge and emotional system by emitter and receiver.

One can show this progression on the example on a pair of wires presented to an observer, having no idea of what it transports (a little theoretical, since the mere look of it will generally be informative, colour and size of the wires, in particular, but lets us go) :

- First, it takes prudently contact and look for the context, to sure that there is no very high voltage.
- Then it connects a classical meter, and detect a direct or alternative voltage. Just that, in some cases, could be an interesting signal.
- If voltage is varying periodically with a crest of 220 V and a period around 50 Hz, it understands that it is on the mains.
- In absence of "strong" voltage, it can lower its measurement threshold and look for classical "signal" currents. In some cases it will find classical telephone currents, or ADSL. Or perhaps just white noise.
- Then it can concentrate on "contents", and identify sources (Internet, radio or TV emission, etc.).
Now it can look for meaning, with language identification, formats, etc. then pattern recognition. Or somesthésie coming from the "natural" world.


A more refined model of activity may be looked for.
The simplest one has two states (active, inactive). Meaning is the time spent in active state
The meaning may be infinite if the message remains indefinitely in active state (for example, if the process loops)
or vanish if the system is not even put into active state to receive it

A little more complex model would distinguish : dead, active, inactive. Another case of infinite meaning is the lethal message

3. The emitter side

"That is what I mean"... Intentions and finalities, concentrated in the core of the process, get expression into a message. This one has to be build, integrating meaningful elements and receiver element so that the intention of the emitter be as most as possible understood, and possibly a maximum number of receivers.

Here, sense may be as (consequence of , aspect of ) generative power, an inverse of the KC.

The first bit does not cost. You have just to "set" it. But the second one is infinitely costly: you must question the whole or the former organization creates a structure, metabits, perhaps levels.

To give meaning, S must
- have a sufficiently explicit ontology
- be itself present in this ontology
- integrate L into this image

4. Meaning and loops

Loop between emitter and receiver
The aesthetic resonance. The interactive applications, games and art works.
The conventions, language.
The shared knowledge (and "at half word" communication")

Ideally, the receiver understands the intention of the sender. The cores or both emitter and receiver have zero mass and extension, and they can reach a pure fusion, with zero mass and extension... an time ! Love forever.

The self loop

Emergence happens when, between inputs and outputs the relation is no longer banal, goes beyond the mere reflex of "signal effect". Meaning comes when there is some level of an "internal reflection". And so more when there is an internal "motor", which may be thought of as interpreting the inputs.

The most interesting things, and possibly emergence, happen in the deepest part of what is analysed and used of the being itself. A basic limit is that the core is not directly accessible, event to the being itself (there are "minimal loops" around the core). .

Moreover, in the image development world (cinema, even games), the R&D efforts seem focussed on superficial aspects (rendering), with little effort on deep things: behaviour for instance. That is changing slowly. It goes a little better in games, where NPC's (called also AI) are more and more sophisticated.

The computer may itself "look" at that image, as does presently the graphist on its CAP (computer aided publishing) screen, or the manager looking in a histogram the meaningful inflexion point that will guide its choice or creativity.

Why look at, re-interpret, re-recognize an image that S has done itself ? That seems useless, since all the elements are known. But...

Practising the plastic arts teaches that the designer cannot totally work in abstraction. He must launch and lean, try and correct. The constraints to be respected are so many and precise that arbitrations are necessary. Structures contradict other when concretized in a limited surface. Too ornate character fonts must be abandoned, even when the diversity of the test or the stylization will encourage it. Then the process of making first a dummy, looking at it to trim ad adjust, detect incompatibilities, etc. These processes, basis of human creation, can be partially automated.

4. Semantic distance

Two beings are near each other if :
- they go the same way,
- call for the same action(s)
- may be combined in the same action
- are frequently call for together (possibly for historical reasons).

Cognitive dissonance.


5. Varia (to be edited)

- a bit alone has no meaning
- a large set of bits has (or may have at least) meaning by itself, more or less, but somethimes perhaps totallyn independent ot the environment

Dawkins : an object is something sufficiently permanent to be named

To be read : The Measurement of meaning, by Osgood, Suci &Tannhauser ... 1957 !
There are "levels" of meaning, like Maslow or robotic levels

See meaning and convention : language, code. a decision taken together by several actors


6 . Old notes, 1989

meaning and thomistic ratio.
meaning is taken as supporting the mere existence of a beeing, at level 7.
but as soon as I make a modelling of it, I stride down along levels.
6.Moral basic qualities, transcendantals
5. explicit statements, commandements
4. formal, computable values, rituals, procedures
3. subgoal and procedures
2. pixel (not really valuable...)
1. matter.
progress in dialogue, including MMD (man machine), will go towards higher levels. (Lisp, L4G, Prolog) are 4. Let's go to 5th
what to say to machines, about what?
if the computer has a large and diversified sensor system, then we have little to say him about external world.
all the remaining is our will
and even that, in some ways he knows,
and perhaps better than we ourselves do
paper, general modelling
pb of duplication, at the instant where duplication is done, is there really a doubling of bits?

part of an arbitrary process
on a pure conscience field level, game etc. Conceptual art.
provided that basic needs are fulfilled(
(notion of internal freedom space)
see Maslow scale.
then "meaning quantity" of an action
may be considered sollipsistic
external world appears only as laws governing effects of my action on my perceptions
these laws are changing historically, because my representations are less and less strongly tied to material boject (see my general theory)
then I can change deeply what I see with minimal action such as mouse moving or clicking
= quantity of meaning versus specificity
but the specifier may be typified
and the specificity may be quantified (number of bits)
the spectific object then is an adress inside the receiver of the message
notion of "interersting" activity (see ecology of computing)
meaning is action or process only on a secondary way "It means I have to". the primary meaning of meaning is evocatin
but that is true only for man in his conscience fiels, when precisely he has put action in the background
combine level of activity and level of modification in a graph, over time (see I
... program idea
1) (meaning a b) in Lisp
if a is a function and b and adequat operand/variable
then A may operate and will give a result<
meaning may be: - a/the result
- b/the work actually done
- c/a measure of that work (number of instructions actually run, time)
- d/the difference of state in the processor between prior and final stages. if the function implies no change in memories, the only change is then time
a/is not very satisfactory (the meaning of (3 3) would be higher than (2 2)).
is not quantitative for operation giving non numerical results
in the model (meaning a b)
where b is the receiver, a the message
b must always be somehow a function;
if it's a data, there will by necessary to suppose a hidden operator coupling with the data to transform it in a operand
duration of operation as measure of meaning
- relative to the operator life span
- one may replace the elapsed time, in cases when life span is reduced by operation (wear and tear), by the difference of life expectancy before and after the operation;
(the drawback here is the purely negative aspect of the meaning measure. something better would be:
the difference of life expectancy, is the operation is done or not (that leads to a more comparative, decisional, evaluation of meaning. someting like a utility function)
one goes towads a delta L evaluation of meaning...
and finally to a (delta meaning) evaluation,
which would be very satisfactory because it is recursive


meaning. notion of penetration
similar to "depth"
the meaning of a message is the depht into the subject it reaches in the 7L model, could be the level reached... or the level changed. the maxima cas "he was never the same again" relates to a change reaching to the transcendental subject itself
one could combine with the elapsed time model (icono 1394)
meaning and combination of systems. adding the meanings
that would apply to neuronal systems?
important track: meaning evolution through each phase, of analysis then synthesis. every action, having some costs, must give an appropriate ROI in terms of meaning
in synthesis, the number oft bits will generally grow concept multiplied by interfac and expression factors and patterns)
from the emitter standpoint, there is no new direct meaning
though by chance (more or less)
syntheseis may "reveal", "develop" (as in photo processes) original patterns
synthesis is a marriag process, potentially fecund.
individuality/person my levels
individual: not divisible.limit to the cutting, dividing, digitizing
a person includes the seven levels
any individuality is at the 7 levels
but a person is of an higher level than a stone
then where is the difference?
one answer: the extent of level 4, and by due proportionality, of intermediaries. (level 1 may be termed twice as large than 4, by projection... or choose some exponential law?
top level object is man . inside man top people , groups of people , top groups of people
but: chritian paradox. the smallest...
make a directory of scales , and a more free directory of concepts and the scales applicable , study a sort of congruence betweenn scales, types of scales, good arrangements will be those where several different scales are associates . eg. number of elemetns in R2/R3 , with time span of levels
quantitative approach in intention relative situation see icono
Structural saturation
see Valeurs 2010 no7. rutration by levels at 7span.. see icono 1392 see to the architect's book (
only 7 layer is self contained, self meta . then any group or object self meta contains level7 . its the case of natural language
a specific, artificial operation is necessary to detach from it (objectivation, sin?)
sarutration by levels at 7span.. see icono 1392
see to the architect's book (
FRIEDMAN Yona: Comment vivre entre les autres sans être chef et sans être esclave ? Pauvert 1974.

If we take meaning as "performative", there is meaning
- in the elements of the work (patterns explicitly recognieze as figurative or symbolic, patters more or less explicitly recognized (ambient effects, aerial perspective)
- in combination of (Velpeau bandage on a camera)

Si on prend le sens dans l'acception "performatif"
il y a du sens
- dans les éléments de l'oeuvre (formes explicitement reconnues comme figuratives et symboles, formes moins explicitemnet reconnues (effets d'ambiance, perspectdive aérienne)
- dans la combinaison (bande Velpeau sur appareil photo
- dans la combinaison des élements
- le sens de la stransgression
- pas de sens mais effet puremnet performatif (Critical Art Ensemble)


Gesture, recognition
¨Papier des Communications of the ACM
Un truc énorme en fait.
- défiinir un vocabularie
- quantité d'information portée par un gete
- geste d'un robot, d'un personnage à l'écran.
- geste et expression : geste expressif, linguistique Vs. geste d'action
- désignation
- geste conscient et inconscient
- le geste esthétique, danseurs, chefs d'orchetres
- mimésis des gestes
- gestes en l'air, eventuellement avec "prothèse" WII.
- le geste posé (clavier, souris)
- auto-perception du geste
- degré de précision. combien d bits dans un geste
- langages de gestes : les sourds-muets
- geste relatif à soi-même (expression, position) /geste par rapport à l'extérieur (montrer, frapper)
- geste symbolique/geste d'action
- geste accompagnant le langage