Information theory was introduced by a Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon in his seminal work (1948) which delved into various aspects of communication. In this cutting-edge two-fold paper he laid foundation for multifarious discoveries of the 20th century including compact discs, mobile phones, cryptographic systems and the Internet.
Despite the revolutionary importance, Claude Shannon lived in relative obscurity for most of his life. He was not one of those inventors who go on TV and give long-winded speeches about their success. Shannon was always quite humble, caring more about his research than prestige or popularity.
Information theory deals primarily with measuring, storing and communicating information. Shannon worked on figuring out the restrictions of data compression processes as well as grasping the underlying principles of communication. He designed a model which is still widely utilized in social as well as natural sciences. Even though he did not invent anything material, he honed the tools and the theoretical framework for those coming after him, who created the informational world as you know it today.
The Foundational Principles
The aforementioned theory concerns itself with the limits of communicating aspects such as its storage and transmission as well as the general overview of the involved processes. Entropy is a meter employed in the theory which helps calculate the uncertainty of any random process. This term is also employed in thermodynamics to quantify the probability of various states occurring at any given moment in a particular system (such as within a container).
In this article, however, let’s focus on the meaning of entropy in regards to the information theory. This measure signifies the total of possible results in a sequence of letters, numbers, symbols. So, for instance, in linguistics the letter A is much more widespread than the letter Z. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the probability of stumbling upon a letter A in any given text is much higher than that of letter Z. However, the frequency and the entropy are inversely correlated. It means that the letters which are more likely to be used in a certain word or sentence have lesser entropy than those which are rarely utilized.
The more of it the symbol includes, the more informative it is for the addressee. Thus, the more excessive the entropy – the more valuable the information. In this regard, I would like to point out that these ideas are not useful only in linguistics. Information theory impacted many fields and the world upon the whole.
The Messaging Model
The system is often referred to as the Weaver-Shannon model. The name sparks many controversies among the scientists, because the most important aspects of it were developed by Claude Shannon alone. Warren Weaver was just an enterprising and smart writer who could spot the talent and use it to his advantage. Basically, when the 1948 study was first released, it was very hard to find investors or stakeholders interested in financing and developing the concept. Weaver, however, saw its groundbreaking potential and asked Shannon to use his work in his book.
However, Weaver does not add anything of value to his creation. All he does is write an introduction to Shannon’s original work where he elucidates its key points and discusses its seminal importance for the future research and the inevitable digitization of the world. In any case, he did so much to popularize and explain Shannon’s theory as well as attract people interested in its practical application that the whole model, which he never developed, gained his name. So, what’s so interesting about this pioneering invention?
First of all, it provided a framework for communicating which simplified the comprehension of its processes. According to Shannon, any such model has an input info which has to be encoded by a sender (transmitter or, well, encoder). The corresponding information is then transferred by a channel. In the transmission process there is always some noise involved be it poor connections or operator errors. Due to this interference some if the essential facts can be distorted or even lost in communication. The receiver obtains the information and decodes it. Thus, he receives an output from the sender.
The Further History of the Theory
The original theory inspired many other researchers to further develop and enrich it with new ideas. For instance, the algorithmic information theory emerged as an attempt to comprehend the compression of signals and how they can be properly arranged to form sequences of commands in the computer system. The theory was first introduced by the Russian mathematician Kolmogorov and further developed by IBM scientists. Omega was its measure unit, which signified the minimum size of a message for it to be successfully encoded.
Ronald Fisher later applied Shannon’s theory in the field of linguistics. He developed the semiotics theory which is meant to measure both the uncertainty of message as well as its susceptibility to error. Nowadays this system is used to analyze written texts as well as human speech. It is applicable in translation industry when forming online dictionaries or crafting new translation tools. The theory helped understand the language deeper, reveal its patterns and imperfections.
The theory has also had a great impact on the field of biology and genetics in particular. For instance, the DNA code can be viewed in terms of bits of info decoded to form a holistic system. Just like in linguistics, DNA bits create a message for a human body to form certain proteins and facilitate particular processes. DNA letters are symbols which are used to simplify the greater truth – the truth of human life.
The Role in the World
It comes as no surprise that Claude Shannon is often introduced as the father of the digital age. His ideas, although deeply theoretical, gave a start to the invention of very practical material things which any person now uses on a regular basis.
Thanks to Claude Shannon’s deep understanding of the ways info can be shared and the communicating processes involved, now humanity can enjoy tremendous benefits only possible in the modern times. Claude Shannon showed what a simple act of communication consists of and what aspects are involved. He revealed that noise is the infinite enemy of any message and has to be eliminated or at least diminished. Shannon put in concrete terms concepts which most people feel on a subconscious level.
Thanks to Claude Shannon you now have a privilege of reading this article on a highly complex system called computer which is connected to another intricate system aptly named the Internet. Widely unknown, he is, in fact, the creator of the modern life as you know it.
It is quite a challenge to craft a good essay on this highly complex and often convoluted topic. Thus, my main tip here is, of course, to immerse yourself into the research and only get to writing after you are confident in your comprehension.
It is always a good idea to form a peer group or ask a teacher if any difficulty arises. There is no shame about it as the topic is not easy in its core. Do not settle for one article or just one book. Trying various sources may help you view the issues from different perspectives, thus facilitating the learning process.
Finally, recognize the importance of this highly talented genius scientist. Without Claude Shannon, none of the inventions you are constantly resorting to today would have been possible. Thus, give credit to the man who was not afraid to think far beyond his time and imagine the future.