The title above indicates that information vectors are encapsulated. This part of the definition indicates that when we see a black sphere, our mind models the image as a complete black sphere — not as a billion tiny black particles arranged in a spherical alignment. When we hear the sound of a car horn that lasts two seconds, we perceive it as one sound that lasts two seconds, not as 20 million successive individual tones that each last one ten-millionth of a second.
This model is at odds with how a computer system would typically experience and record environmental events. Digital cameras utilize an array of sensors to represent the image they capture. This array is a two-dimensional x-y coordinate system. So if we took a picture of a red circle lying on a white table, the corresponding individual sensors in the camera’s arrays would record white or red appropriately. So in the camera’s model, the circle really is millions of red dots arranged in a circular pattern.
Sound is digitally recorded using an approach called sampling. The recording program takes many samples of the sound at a certain interval. In the case of audio CDs, about 44,000 samples are taken per second. At each interval, the “bit” of sound is recorded and the playback is the succession of all these sound bits. So if sampled, the two second car horn would be modeled as 88,000 successive sound bits, all with (roughly) the same volume and frequency.
In my internet searches, I stumbled across Gestalt psychology. Here is a quick synopsis of the Gestalt psychology as stated on Wikipedia: “the operational principle of Gestalt psychology is that the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies”. The Gestalt theory proposes how the arrangement of information (proximity, similarity, and so forth) causes the mind to perceive “whole” objects.
What wasn’t clear to me in my brief exposure to these ideas was: according to the Gestaltists, why does the mind perceive things in this holistic manner? I believe it is for reasons of efficiency. I think it is a form of compression.
In the world of computer data, compression involves algorithmically representing a file or message with fewer bits. This is the principle behind “zipping” large files to make them smaller. Here is a quick, simple example of using compression to reduce the size of a message:
Ned has a message that has to get to Ted. Ned is going to recite the message to me, I will pass it on to you and you will recite it to Ted. Ned gives me the message: he simply says the word “potato” one hundred times. Right, it’s a pretty stupid message. It takes about two minutes for him to deliver this message to me. I tell you to “just say the word ‘potato’ one hundred times and you understand what I mean and deliver the message correctly to Ted. We represented the message in a fraction of the time and word count and you deliver the message exactly as it was delivered to me. That is a simple example of the idea of compression.
So what does this have to do with information vectors? I believe that the mind has a natural tendency to model images, sounds, touches, and so forth as continuous items as opposed to many sequential or approximate pieces. This ability may take the mind some time to do as it evolves from its birthday but, I believe it is mechanically supported, not just learned. In other words:
So the mind represents the disk and the car horn as “whole” things rather than a collection of pieces of which each thing is assembled. This document will discuss the role of compression in other aspects of intelligence.
While discussing the encapsulation aspect of information vectors, I will also point out that information vectors have perceptible boundaries in space and time. For example, a recognizable shape is bounded in three dimensional space and an audible sound has a start and an end in time. Technically, information vectors need at least one boundary. If you saw line that began on the ground and ran high into the sky out of sight, you would be able to perceive that line. If an alarm sound began and continued for the remainder of your existence, you would perceive it, although you would probably not pay attention to it at some point. Imagine there was some sound, constant in frequency and volume, that was in place at the beginning of your existence and continued on. Would you recognize it? I argue that you would not because it just be part of the background context of your existence.
So in summary, the important point of this section is that an information vector is a holistic perception.