On Information & Information Networks

[Still in draft format / still very much WIP]

Some beliefs about information and information networks that I reference when thinking about networking and the Internet. These are abstract ideas that have to be translated to practical usage (done elsewhere). A combination of thoughts from academia, practitioners, and my own.

Assertions on Information

  • Information reduces uncertainty
  • For a given information function, information is (in)sufficient, (un)clear, and (in)accurate
  • Information is at rest (storage), in motion (network), or in process (compute)
  • Information is distinct from storage, network, and process; and a distinct resource
  • Information is subject to the laws of physics, which are the same in all inertial frames
  • Information complexity cannot be reduced below the necessary information
  • Information complexity will be equivalent for equivalent functions
  • No node can process the entire information in the universe (in the network?)
  • No information function is omnipotent – has all the information of the Universe (of the network?)

Information network goals

  • Information at destination is the same as information at source:
    • Complete
    • Not added to
    • Not changed
  • Information arrives at destination when needed
  • Information is delivered to the destination intended by the source

Summary Goals / Principles

Basic Information goals / principles

  • Information is at rest (storage), in motion (network), or in process (compute)
  • Information is distinct from storage, network, and process; and a distinct resource
  • Information is (in)sufficient, (un)clear, and (in)accurate
  • Latency should be low enough and bandwidth high enough to complete a function in time.
  • All of the information required should be delivered to a function.
  • Information should be necessary, without noise and redundancy.
  • Information should not contain false statements or have errors introduced into it.

Space, velocity and time

  • Information travels in space as the properties of energy and matter, therefore information is subject to the laws of physics that govern the motion of energy and matter
  • Space is pervasive & the condition that makes information observable & transferable
  • Space is the challenge to be overcome in many information functions
  • Time changes when displacement and velocity changes.
  • Information relativity errors are mitigated by adding information (there maybe limits to this)
  • The speed / size of an information channel determines how much information can be delivered to an information function, in a given period of time.
  • No information function is omnipotent.
  • When the network transfer time starts to exceed the processing time, the tendency will be to focus on moving the information closer to the information function.
  • When the processing time starts to exceed the transfer time, the tendency will be to focus on improving the processing time.

Complexity

  • Information is a form of complexity: what it takes to store, process, and transfer information.
  • To minimize complexity, an information function should only have necessary information.
  • Information complexity cannot be reduced further than necessary information.

The Value of Networks

  • For small networks, the value of a network can be expressed in simple terms as the square of the nodes (Metcalfe’s law)
  • For large networks, the value of a network is the extent to which value creating combinations of information, storage, and compute can be discovered and executed per time period.
  • In large networks, directories and other forms of discoverying value, as well as overlay graphs / interest groups, become essential to the continuing discovery and expansion of value.
  • Distributed information / information functions is a source of new value.
  • Centralized information / information functions is a source of scaling known value.
  • Both distributed and centralized information play a role in expanding the value of a network.

Automation and Autonomy

Information technology is presumed to be more productive, at many tasks, than people. For the situations this is true:

  • Automation is the increase in productivity that comes from repetitive execution of a known process, in a shorter amount of time, with less errors, than a person would, over a significant population of tasks.
  • Autonomy is the increase in productivity that comes from responding to an environment, quicker than a person would, with the same or better responses.

Derived Goals / Principles

  • Increasing value: reducing latency, increasing capacity, reducing errors, and increasing accuracy.
  • For large networks, directories and other discovery mechanisms increase value.
  • Information complexity cannot be reduced for a given capability

Imperfect information and networks

Perfect information, storage, processing, and networks is not a realistic expectation. Space is pervasive, so latency at least, is a fundamental reality in today’s information technologies (quantum entanglement aside). Therefore we study imperfection with the goal of making improvements that increase productivity and create value.

  • Perfect information is necessary, non-redundant, without noise or error, and available in spacetime at the moment it is required by information processing.
  • Perfect information processing (intended add, change, deletion, and usage of information) has access to perfect information, is infinite, instantaneous, and without error
  • Perfect information storage (information at rest) is infinite, instantaneous, and without error.
  • Perfect networking (information in motion) is infinite, instantaneous, and without error.

Information Fundamentals

Information Function

There are three states of Information

  • At rest: storage
  • In motion: network
  • In process: compute

Information is distinct from storage, network, and compute

As information can move from storage, to network, to compute, and the same information can be represented on different media, information is something distinct from the media it is on. Information is a resource.

Information increases certainty

Information increases certainty when it is:

  • Sufficient (complete and available when an information function needs it)
  • Clear (no noise or redundancy)
  • Accurate (no errors or falsehoods)

Example:

  • 4 = x + y
  • x could be many values including 0,1,2,3, and 4
  • If we now discover that y = 1
  • 4 = x + 1
  • We can now say with certainty that x = 3

Goals of information networks:

  • Information that is sufficient/complete (communication with necessary latency/bandwidth to be available with function needs it, with no information loss)
  • Information that is clear (no introduced noise, and only what is necessary)
  • Information that is accurate (no induced errors and no errors in fact)

See also Information Increases Certainty

Space/distance/displacement, velocity, and time

  • D=VT; displacement changes if velocity or time changes
  • T=D/V; time changes if displacement or velocity changes
  • V=D/T; velocity changes if displacement or time changes

Time is relative

A woman standing at the location of an event, will observe the event on her watch at a different time a woman standing fifty miles away will observe/hear the time of the same event on her watch.

The time of the event, as observed by the two woman, is relative to where they are positioned/located with reference to the event.

To counteract information relativity, we add information, for example a timestamp (which may/may not be sufficient).

Space is the most pervasive and distinctive characteristic of our universe

Space provides the condition necessary for the observed and the observer; information and the observation of information. Space is the condition that creates information in the everyday sense of the word, and space is also the challenge to overcome.

  • Space is pervasive in this universe and the condition that makes information observable & transferable
  • Space is the challenge to be overcome in many information functions

Information velocity is determined by both latency and channel size

The table below shows the difference interface “speeds” can make on transferring large amounts of information, whether from one source or many. Propagation delay, in today’s technology, is essentially a function of distance / the same, regardless of interface speed, and generally speaking, small compared to the “speed” of an interface (how many bits can be serialized per second on to a communication channel).

 1MB10MB100MB1GB10GB100GB1TB
1GE0.010.080.808.00808008000
10GE0.000.010.080.80880800
100GE0.000.000.010.081880
400GE0.000.000.000.020220
Seconds to transfer of file size over interface of capacity
  • The speed / size of an information channel determines how much information can be delivered to an information function, in given period of time.

** In the future, quantum networking may have an impact on propagation delay.

Information is distributed in space as the properties of energy and matter

Energy and matter are distributed in space. Information is a property of energy and matter. The color of a squid, the modulation of an electromagnetic wave, the intensity of light, the expression of a face, the chemical pathways of a human brain. 

Information travels in space as the properties of energy and matter, therefore information is subject to the laws of physics that govern the motion of energy and matter.

At any single instance of time, no location in space can process all information

As information is distributed in space, the entire set of all information does not exist at any single location in space. As a result, no location in space can process the entire set of all information at any single instance of time.

  • No information function is omnipotent.

Time is a function of distance and velocity

  • D=VT
  • T=D/V
  • If the distance changes, time changes.
  • If the velocity changes, time changes.

If we want information networks to be more productive, we have to reduce distance and increase velocity.

If a woman stands 1 mile with her back to the hill, and a large blast goes off on the hill, it will take 0.2 seconds before the woman will hear the blast. If another woman stands 5 miles with her back to the hill, it will take 1.1 seconds before the second woman will hear the blast. The first woman would be able to process the blast information sooner, and take action sooner.

If periodic blast sounds were being used to measure time, then time would be different for each woman. As each woman move closer or furthe away from the periodic blasts, time would change. If the velocity of sound changed for any reason, time would change.

In increasing productivity, how many functions can be completed in a given period of time, reducing distance and increasing velocity (transfer of necessary information), is important.

Because time is relative, depending on location in the network, information networks often use Timestamps, so the time when an event occurred, is understood by other parts of the network.

  • Information can be added to reduce some forms of relativity / increase time certainty

Productivity implications

Productivity = Number of information functions / time (processing time + transfer time)

  • P=N / (Pt+Tt)
  • Example: P=100 / (1+9) ==> Improve transfer time / bring information closer
  • Example: P=100/(1+0.1) ==> Improving the processing time

When the network transfer time starts to exceed the processing time, the tendency will be to focus on moving the information closer to the information function.

When the processing time starts to exceed the transfer time, the tendency will be to focus on improving the processing time.

Total productivity is a function of capacity, processing, and latency

  • Processing eats information
  • Networks deliver information
  • The more information networks deliver, the more information processing eats
  • Goal should be to use as much as the capacity of the network as possible

Complexity

To be completed.

See though, as a starting point, “You cannot eliminate complexity for the SAME capability & certainty.”

The Value of a Network

To be completed

Automation and Autonomy

To be completed