May 2023 release.

Homo Falsus – Lying Man: Physics, Consciousness, Language, Information, and I. By Boris Rusakov:

October, 2022

Information is a product of consciousness

By Boris Rusakov


The existing definitions of information are rebutted as self-contradictory and/or failing to reflect information’s main feature which is its meaning for the recipient. In most of these definitions information is considered as an absolute entity contained in a signal and independent of any particular recipient. I assert that such definitions deal with the mere encoding of a signal in a way that reflects the encoder’s or sender’s expectation of what an unspecified recipient should derive from the signal. I argue that information is not at all contained in a signal external to consciousness of a recipient but is a product of a recipient’s consciousness itself. Namely, it is a set of concepts activated by a signal that triggers the response of the recipient’s nervous system. The response is analyzed by nervous system for its conceptual content. Information is a result of this analysis and is a vector of concepts, i.e. conceptogram of a signal for a specific consciousness at a specific moment. A concept as defined in [1] is an abstract common property of different observables, and physically is a unique sensation encoded in the human nervous system as a sensory and visual image. As a result, not only different recipients receive (i.e. produce) different information from the same signal, but even same recipient receives different information from same signal at different moments in time.


Despite the roaring development of Information Technology, Artificial Intelligence, as well as all the sciences related to the study of consciousness, brain, and neural networks, there is no consistent definition of the main subject of all of these sciences, which is information.  Nevertheless, all of us constantly use this word, and intuitively somehow understand its meaning, although it varies depending on the application area.

A brief glance at the existing definitions of Information demonstrates their inconsistency and inadequacy. Here are just few among many responses Google returns on ‘definition of information’ query:

1): Facts provided or learned about something or someone. 2): What is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things.

Merriam-Webster: (1): Knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction. (2): intelligence, news. (3): facts, data. Knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance.

Cambridge English Dictionary: Information is an uncountable noun meaning ‘facts about someone or something’.

Free Dictionary: Information is facts that you learn or discover.

TechTarget: Information is stimuli that have meaning in some context for its receiver.

Wikipedia: Information is an abstract concept that refers to that which has the power to inform. At the most fundamental level information pertains to the interpretation of that which may be sensed.

Most of them define Information through its synonyms that are equally ill-defined (‘knowledge’, ‘facts’), and thus are not definitions at all, or (correctly) refer to the process of transmission (such as ‘provided’, ‘learned’, ‘conveyed’, ‘communicated’, ‘received’) but fail to mentioned to whom it is ‘provided’ or ‘conveyed’, or by whom it is ‘learned’ or ‘received’. The definition given at TechTarget does mention ‘receiver’ and ‘meaning’ but nevertheless states that information is stimuli, i.e. a signal, and thus is independent of the receiver. Only Wikipedia (the least expected) got close[1] by using ‘interpretation of that which may be sensed’, just falling short to explain what the ‘interpretation’ is and by whom it may be ‘sensed’.

It is understandable why all these definitions carefully avoid mentioning the recipient. Because as soon as it is done, the definition loses universality since all recipients are different, and thus Information cannot be considered anymore as something absolute, or at least independent of who receives it. I intent to show that this is a mistake, and that there is only one way of understanding and defining Information, which is to admit that it does not exist as an absolute entity and is a product of recipient itself, while the external signal (and data it may contain) is only a trigger of this production.

Information and Concepts.

We are accustomed to think that information is contained in a received message, in a newspaper, in a file, in a photograph, i.e. in the outside world, and is independent of the recipient. Every day and minute we reinforce this delusion with the help of our language: “I received (obtained) information”, “I was given information”, “The message contains important information”, “The book contains a lot of useful information”, and so on and so forth.

Now imagine this whole outside world without recipients of information. What is the meaning of all of these messages, files, photos, if no one can ever see, decode, or understand them, and how do they differ from other artifacts of inanimate nature? The answer is none, zero, in no way, they do not, and there is no information in them. The encoded message that is never going to be decoded contains no information. On the contrary, if someone convinces us that those breathtaking shapes of Arizona Monuments are actually a coded birth certificate of John Smith from Alpha Centauri, we will rush to decode them. But if there is no recipient, then even a real birth certificate of a real John Smith from Kentucky carries no more information than the curves of the mountains. If no one is there who knows what it is and how to decode it, it’s just an artifact of inanimate nature. It is no better than peculiar shapes of some mountains.

Therefore: for information to exist there must be a recipient who has a concept of such information, who knows (or at least can assume) what it is, or what it is about, how to decode it, and has concepts of its components. As discussed in [1], concepts are everything human consciousness consists of and operates with. In the example above, the concepts are birth, date, name, gender, encoding method, and many others. If you don’t know what birth is, have no concept of date, of names, or simply cannot read, then the birth certificate bears no information for you. In addition, these concepts are functions of culture, language and time. For example, in some cultures, at certain times, a birth certificate contained ethnic and religious affiliation of each of the newborn’s parents. In other cultures, a birth certificate contains height and weight of the newborn.

We know very well that two people talking to each other in a foreign language unknown to us are sharing information with each other, while for us their conversation is a noise. Sometimes we don’t even understand our own language. Go to a seminar of theoretical physics or mathematics at the university if you are not physicist or mathematician. You will see people who speak your language, and exchange apparently valuable information, but you get nothing of it. This is a shock I experienced when I first attended such a seminar as a third-year student. You seem to understand all the words, but cannot even grasp the meaning of what is being said. So it’s not just the language. It is a lack of relevant concepts.

The phrase “That’s not what I said” (or “That’s not what I meant to say”) sounds familiar to everybody. You thought you encoded certain information in a message, but the message produced very different information within the recipient.  “If you said the same thing with a different tone I would understand it” – also sounds familiar. Thus, even the tone in which it is said carries a lot of value and can change the result to completely opposite. Needless to say that written messages are often even worse, and understood by our recipients not as we intended.

If you spent most of your life in a city, or your native place is located among forests, I guarantee you will be lost if you find yourself in the polar snowy desert. However, a local guide, having a quick glance at what looks to you an impenetrable white plain, would instantly determine your location and a way out. For him, the slightest curves of snow hills carry a lot of information, while for you they mean nothing and you do not even see them. Your mind is not used to it, while his mind deals with it all the time.

Thus, the information for one recipient may not be information for another. One can continue indefinitely and recall countless examples in which the same “information received”, or rather the same signal, or message, produces completely different information in different people, and even in the same person at different times.

Therefore, if we attempt to define information as something contained in a signal, we have to admit that the signal contains an infinite number of “informations” at the same time.  Thus, it is clear that to define information as something that exists outside a recipient is just as meaningless as to claim that any cubic centimeter of space contains all the information about the entire Universe and every piece of it, you just need to be able to extract it from there. In a sense, of course, this is true. But in order to extract the same recipient is needed.

The claim that information cannot be defined as something objectively existing has nothing to do with solipsism. We do not deny the existence of an objective reality outside our consciousness. But information about this reality, unlike reality itself, requires the presence of a “recipient of information” for whom this “information” makes sense. That’s why I put quotation marks here, because I claim that there is no “information” outside the “recipient”.

The only role of an external signal is that by interacting with sensors of the recipient it can trigger a response within recipient that is interpreted by the recipient as certain information. But again, it may not trigger it at all as we saw in the examples above, as well as the triggering may produce no information, as we saw in these same examples.

Moreover, the information may be produced even without external signal. For example, you expected an event that did not happen, or the signal you expected did not come. Is it information?  No doubt. I guarantee that if the sun does not rise tomorrow, this will cause a tremendous flurry of news, literally a bombshell of information. One can certainly say that absence of information is information about its absence, thus confirming once again that information is a product of consciousness as only consciousness can interpret absence of information as information about its absence. No external signal is needed.

Not only is information a product of consciousness but the very ability to produce it is a sign of consciousness. To produce information from a signal the recipient has to be 1) teachable (able to learn) and 2) able to conceptualize, to interpret. The first is the common property of all animals while the second is unique to humans [1].

We know perfectly well that the same external signal or message that we receive during our life produces more and more information in our minds over time, whereas in early childhood they did not produce any. What happened? We have learned. The signal received for the first time did not “give” us any information. But we remembered it, and the next time it turned out that the same signal produces information, and the further, the more. If we were not able to learn, each new reception of a signal would have the same effect as the first time, and this would not change throughout our life.

The ability to learn implies the presence of memory, the ability to recognize, as well as the ability to correct, improve one’s reaction to the subsequent receipt of the same signal. All animals possess this ability to varying degrees.

But to produce information, learning alone is not enough. One also needs the ability to conceptualize and interpret the received signal.

From observing animals, it would appear that they also have concepts. By the dog’s reaction to other dogs, to its owner, to cats, one could assume that it has the corresponding concepts such as ‘dog’, ‘cat’, ‘owner’, ‘friend of the owner’, ‘stranger’, and etc. But this is only the appearance. What we see as a dog’s reaction is just a result of its trainability. Animals cannot extract a concept from an object and apply it to a different object, in a different situation. For example, you can teach your dog to give you a paw, but it would not give a paw to another dog. It is we who interpret reactions of the dog as a sign of the dog having concepts, which is another illusion of our human consciousness.

Returning to information, we now understand that it is produced by our consciousness as a reaction to the signal received. The signal can be either external or internal, i.e. generated by the nervous system itself. The information is a result of analysis by consciousness of conceptual content of the response. By analysis we mean decomposition of the response into conceptual components. Thus, consciousness is an analyzer of conceptual content of a signal, and the information is the conceptual content, or conceptogram of a signal.

Just as a medical laboratory analyzes your blood sample to produce the values ​​of various components (concepts), such as the level of glucose, the level of red cells, the level of cholesterol, etc., so the consciousness decomposes the signal (more precisely, the nervous system’s response to it) into all possible known to it today (and in the future they will be different and there will be many more) concepts and their values. At the same time, the rest of the body perceives these results through tabulated sensations (each concept has its own sensory template [1]).

In our everyday language, information is the interpretation by the human mind of the meaning of a received signal.

Here, once again, we imply that: 1) the “received” signal means our brain’s response to either an external or internal signal, 2) “meaning” is a set of concepts invented by us with the values ​​assigned to them by us in this case, and 3) “Interpretation” is the process of decomposing into concepts and assigning values. At the same time, it is clear that in another consciousness, or in our own consciousness at another time, the result of “interpretation” or “meaning” will be different.

It is hard to imagine how many concepts we have not yet come up with and, accordingly, how much new information people of the future will find in the same signal. Most likely they will assume that we knew nothing, or were mistaken in everything.

In mathematical language one can say that Information is a vector of concepts, whereas each concept can be considered as a dimension of an informational space.


  1. Information is a product of consciousness and is a conceptogram of a signal for a given recipient.
  2. In plain language Information is interpretation or meaning of a signal for a given recipient.
  3. In math language Information is a vector of concepts (of consciousness of given recipient).
  4. To produce information a recipient has to be teachable and capable of conceptualization.


I am grateful to Lev Neyman for discussions during this work. I am grateful to Professor Vitaly Polunovsky for enlightening me on certain aspects of modern genetics and for discussions of various issues related to this writing.

I am grateful to the Journal of Consciousness Studies for consideration of an earlier version [2] of my article [1] and to its anonymous referees for their reviews, which greatly influenced this writing. Their reviews demonstrated that misunderstanding of Information is so deep in the scientific community that one cannot simply provide a correct definition and ignore the incorrect ones. In particular, I have learned from their criticism that if one mentions word ‘information’ it has to be accompanied by mentioning Shannon and others. Hereby I do. Unfortunately, I cannot cite their works because I did not use any of their findings in my writing.[2] A brief glance at them reveals that what they call Information is actually Data, data structure, signal encoding, and similar. At most, their relation to information can be viewed as informational potential of a signal, i.e. amount and/or structure of data that a signal contains and may potentially trigger within some imaginary consciousness. It certainly does not make these works less important or wrong, or useless. The only claim I am making is that they incorrectly identify the subject of their research as Information while in fact it is either data structure or signal processing or signal encoding, or similar.


[1] Boris Rusakov, “Concepts as Elementary Constituents of Human Consciousness”, arxiv: 2208.09290, 2022

[2]   Boris Rusakov, “Concepts as Building Blocks of Information and The Structure of Consciousness, unpublished

[1] Let us ignore its first sentence that is pure tautology: “… refers to that which has the power to inform”. It is like “Deed is the doing by someone who does”.

[2] Similarly, I did not cite Bible or mentioned God in my article [1] where I described possible scenarios of origin of humans, not because I meant to diminish the religion but simply because I was not compelled to use it in any way.