Humans Are Unique in Our Ability to Understand Things
Naval: The value is in the knowledge, and the knowledge is inside the observer and the creator, in other words, a human. It’s not inside the thing itself. For example, oil is useless unless you know how to refine it, burn it, and use it for combustion. Information is useless unless there’s a brain there to receive it.
There could be a signal broadcasting English into outer space, but if there isn’t a creature capable of understanding what that language is, how it works, and who’s conveying it, then it’s just modulated electromagnetic frequencies that don’t mean anything. So a lot of the information—a lot of the value—is within a particular knowledge-bearing entity.
As the reach of science grows, we have gotten to a very reductive science where we break things down to smaller and smaller pieces. Then we try and explain things on the basis of that. There is a counter-trend in science, complexity theory, where we talk about emergent properties and higher-level systems. They’re looking at systems as they operate chaotically and unpredictably at a micro-level; but at a macro-level we can make certain statements about them that do have explanatory power.
Humans are unique in our capability to understand things.