Between Order and Chaos: The Quest for Meaningful Information


The notion of meaningful information seems to be associated with the sweet spot between order and chaos. This form of meaningfulness of information, which is primarily what science is interested in, is not captured by both Shannon information and Kolmogorov complexity. In this paper I develop a theoretical framework that can be seen as a first approximation to a study of meaningful information. In this context I introduce the notion of facticity of a data set. I discuss the relation between thermodynamics and algorithmic complexity theory in the context of this problem. I prove that, under adequate measurement conditions, the free energy of a system in the world is associated with the randomness deficiency of a data set with observations about this system. These insights suggest an explanation of the efficiency of human intelligence in terms of helpful distributions. Finally I give a critical discussion of Schmidhuber’s views specifically his notion of low complexity art, I defend the view that artists optimize facticity instead.


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Correspondence to Pieter Adriaans.

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This project is supported by a BSIK grant from the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OC&W) and is part of the ICT innovation program of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (EZ).

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Adriaans, P. Between Order and Chaos: The Quest for Meaningful Information. Theory Comput Syst 45, 650–674 (2009).

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  • Meaningful information
  • Learning as compression
  • MDL
  • Two-part code optimization
  • Randomness deficiency
  • Thermodynamics
  • Free energy
  • Algorithmic esthetics