Question: How is a bee like a postman?

To answer that question, we need to look at what they both do. First, let’s consider the postman.

A sender has information he wants to communicate to a recipient, so he puts his information in a letter, addresses the envelope, and puts it in the letterbox. The postman delivers the letter to the recipient’s address. The recipient reads the letter and responds according to its contents. Simple! The postman cares nothing for either sender or receiver, and knows nothing of the contents of the letter, but he was essential to the process—he delivered information.

What does a bee do? She collects pollen from a flower, and delivers it to another flower. The pollen grain contains information about how to grow a new plant. The receiving flower responds to the contents of the information by combining it with some of its own information, and then producing seed which can grow into a new plant and produce new flowers to repeat the process. Just like the postman, the bee has delivered information. Simple!

But is it really so simple? If we examine this process more carefully, we find it raises some profound questions which need answering if we are to understand our world. The questions concern information.

In the case of the letter, we know that the message began with thoughts in the mind of an intelligent being. (Information always begins that way.) That being (person) had an intention (to inform the recipient), and expected a response in the form of some action (such as paying a bill, or turning up to the party). He formed his information into a code (which we call language) which he knew his recipient would understand because of the agreed conventions of the code (that is, they speak the same language). He then converted the language in his mind into a physical form—in this case ink on paper, though he could have used an electronic binary code and sent it by email, or he could have used a sonic code and used the telephone. The code and its physical form don’t matter—only the information. The postman carried the physical form of the information to the recipient, who then had to decode the information so he could respond….

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