, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 213–244 | Cite as

The Fundamental Problem of the Science of Information

  • Jaime F. Cárdenas-GarcíaEmail author
  • Timothy Ireland


The concept of information has been extensively studied and written about, yet no consensus on a unified definition of information has to date been reached. This paper seeks to establish the basis for a unified definition of information. We claim a biosemiotics perspective, based on Gregory Bateson’s definition of information, provides a footing on which to build because the frame this provides has applicability to both the sciences and humanities.

A key issue in reaching a unified definition of information is the fundamental problem of identifying how a human organism, in a self-referential process, develops from a state in which its knowledge of the human-organism-in-its-environment is almost non-existent to a state in which the human organism not only recognizes the existence of the environment but also sees itself as part of the human-organism-in-its-environment system. This allows a human organism not only to self-referentially engage with the environment and navigate through it, but also to transform it in its own image and likeness. In other words, the Fundamental Problem of the Science of Information concerns the phylogenetic development process, as well as the ontogenetic development process of Homo sapiens sapiens from a single cell to our current multicellular selves, all in a changing long-term and short-term environment, respectively.


Science of information Human-organism-in-its-environment Gregory Bateson Distributed cognition Ecology Communication Shannon information Distilled information Bateson information 



The authors would like to acknowledge the editors for their helpful suggestions and the reviewers for their comments and suggestions, which have helped to significantly improve the content of this paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of Maryland – Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Kent School of Architecture, University of KentCanterburyUK

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