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Information Theory

Information Theory

In 1948, Claude Shannon of Bell Telephone Laboratories published two papers on a system known as Information Theory. In his paper Shannon proved that disorder or haphazard noise contains a message. Most interesting of all, Shannon’s math for describing information was identical to  equations devised in the Victorian era to explain entropy. The equation was a mathematical expression of the tendency of all things to become less orderly, suggesting that chaos is the destiny of all things.*

Miklos Legrady: 16″ x 20″ – 40.64cm x 50.8cm, acrylic on canvas, Dec. 2019.

There is complexity within noise, a process that operates alongside entropy, that produces new information… otherwise the universe would have shown signs of entropic degradation, become simpler instead of more complex through time. Part of this complexity is a universal formative and self-correcting pattern which directs how any process executes its function, and this pattern Shannon defined as a reality check.

Information can be wrong, mistaken, faulty, and when this occurs it veers into  illogic unless corrected. As Jeremy Campbell wrote in Grammatical Man,  “…since all things in the world have a tendency to become entropic, disorderly, their random deviations from order must be corrected continually.”

We see this in art when Jerry Saltz says that “artists are de-skilling like crazy” and Benjamin Buchloh says that skill is not required in art.  Anyone can make a claim but is it true?  A reality check will answers Jerry that no amount of de-skilling will bring about the golden age of the simple mind; those lacking skill will never do better than an experienced professional. Benjamin Buchloh need to brush up his etymology because the word “art” itself means skill; the art of cuisine, the art of conversation.  We look for skill in everything we acquire; a lack of skill means an inferior product.

Information theory tells us that knowledge needs constant verification, correction, adaptation. The art world has neglected these lessons and it is now time that we verify our assumptions, instead of accepting the lazy thinking of the last four or five decades.

Miklos Legrady

Volume 34 no 4 March/April 2020 p 18

*-Jeremy Campbell, Grammatical Man, p18-19, Colin and Campbell (1982)

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