The owls are not what they seem – according to the giant who appeared to Dale Cooper in the TV series “Twin Peaks”: the agent thought that owls were simply owls, but they were actually the embodiment of chthonic horror. Nothing is what it seems – a similar formula had been used by Socrates, when explaining to Glaucon the difference between speculation and reality in “The Republic”: if all you ever saw was the shadow of an owl, you would believe that the owl is its shadow. It was from this notion that Plato's reflections on the eidos began.
An eidos is an idea before it has taken shape in somebody's thinking: heliocentrism before Copernicus, universal gravitation before Newton, or relativity before Einstein. – Or, indeed, information before Shannon. The chain of cause and effect leads to the eidos; in order to get to the end, one must dismiss all fears: the fear of making a beginning, of groping around lost in the dark, or of going blind from sudden illumination. At the IITP they have been following this path for the last seventy years – from nine to six, five days a week.
The Institute for Information Transmission Problems was the brainchild of the Soviet technological visionary Alexander Kharkevich, who had picked up the ideas of the American engineer Claude Shannon – the father of mathematical information theory. Ever since, the Institute’s laboratories have woven a net to catch the next eidos – each with its own special section: telecommunications, intelligent computer systems, genomics, fundamental mathematics, and computer linguistics.
The IITP is the only Russian body participating in the work of the American Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ committee for the development of global Wi-Fi standards. Here they are busy carrying out the syntactic mark-up of the national corpus of the Russian language and analysing the sequence of nucleotides in the genome. Once made commercially available, the fruits of the IITP’s labours have been used to teach banking applications to speak more like real human beings, and train video cameras on toll roads to distinguish passenger cars from goods vehicles.
Claude Shannon might not have been the first to think about information as something that changes the probability of the actions of the person who possesses it, but he was the first to suggest measuring its value not in terms of content, but in bits. So, whether you try to reach out to someone by appearing in a vision or by sending them a telegram, owls really are not what they seem, and Agent Cooper is doomed to remain trapped for 25 years in the Black Lodge, waiting for the third season to finally come out.