“message” that contains nothing but randomly generated characters? If we think of the message in terms of how “surprising” it is, the answer is obvious: a randomly-generated string has *maximally high Shannon entropy*. That’s a problem if we’re to appeal to Shannon entropy to characterize complexity: we don’t want it to turn out that purely random messages are rated as even more complex than messages with dense, novel information-content, but that’s precisely what straight appeal to Shannon entropy would entail.

Why not? What’s the problem with calling a purely random message more complex? To see this point, let’s consider a more real-world example. If we want Shannon entropy to work as a straight-forward measure for complexity, it needs to be the case that there's a tight correlation between an increase (or decrease) in Shannon entropy and an increase (or decrease) in complexity. That is: we need it to be the case that complexity is *proportional* to Shannon entropy: call this the *correlation condition*. I don't think this condition is actually satisfied, though: think (to begin) of the difference between my brain at some time *t*, and my brain at some later time *t _{1}*. Even supposing that we can easily (and uncontroversially) find a way to represent the physical state of my brain as something like a message,

^{[1]}it seems clear that we can construct a case where measuring Shannon entropy

*isn't*going to give us a reliable guide to complexity. Here is such a case.

Suppose that at *t*, my brain is more-or-less as it is now—(mostly) functional, alive, and doing its job of regulating the rest of the systems in my body. Now, suppose that in the time

- ↑ Mitchell (op. cit.) points out that if we’re to use any measure of this sort to define complexity, anything we wish to appropriately call “complex” must be put into a form for which Shannon entropy can be calculated—that is, it has to be put into the form of a
*message*. This works just fine for speech, but it isn’t immediately obvious how we might go about re-describing (say) the brain of a human and the brain of an ant messages such that we can calculate their Shannon entropy. This problem may be not be insurmountable (I’ll argue in**2.2**that it can indeed be surmounted), but it is worth noting still.

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