a3nm's blog

Information and its support

— updated

Information should be distinguished from its support, but most people seem unaware of this distinction. Here are two examples:

When someone says that they love a book, it can indifferently refer to a sequence of letters with some interesting properties, or to a pretty object with a nice leather cover and a pleasant smell. A book with blank pages can be a very pleasant object; likewise, you can read and enjoy a literary masterpiece even if all you have is a cheap paperback edition. The advent of ebooks will probably force people to understand this difference...
Postal mail.
People indifferently use mail to move physical objects around and to transmit information. While the first activity probably won't disappear any time soon, the second one has been obsolete for quite some time now, because sending beams of light through optical fibers or pushing electrons through wires is incredibly more efficient. Yes, I am aware that the postal service has an unexpectdly large bandwidth if you use it to move hard drives around, I don't mean to criticize the rare people who might be using it in that way; the thing I find depressing is that even today, massive important services like the government still need to carry pieces of paper across the country to send me data. (I am also perfectly aware of the security and reliability shortcomings of email, thank you, but there are ways to make things work.)

Interestingly, what I'm saying doesn't apply to music and movies anymore; people seem to have understood that these things can be stored in a hard drive rather than in a pile of physical artifacts. The same should happen for paper mail and books some day...

comments welcome at a3nm<REMOVETHIS>@a3nm.net