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Measuring the Impact of Information on Complex Systems



Larry H. Reeker, Albert W. Jones


The application of power-driven machinery to manufacturing and other areas of human endeavor characterized the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. Measurement contributed in many ways to the increasing economic influence of these machines. Using formal or informal physical principles, metrics and measurement techniques were found that allowed the comparison of machine performance (evaluation), the development of machines with the needed qualities (engineering), and the coordination of machines within factories (integration). The required physical dimensions were space, time, and mass, and the common physical quantities derived from these three; and, for these quantities, measurement techniques were established. In the Information Revolution begun in the 20th Century, measuring information is also vital to the continued influence of machines. Unfortunately, information is not as well understood, as are physical constructs. It seems to have an unlimited number of dimensions, and no generally accepted metrics or measurement procedures. So how do we measure the impact of information in the 21st Century? This paper sketches research directions that may help to answer this question and it stresses the importance of obtaining an answer.
Special Publication (NIST SP) - 982
Report Number


evaluation, Information, integration, measurement, ontology


Reeker, L. and Jones, A. (2002), Measuring the Impact of Information on Complex Systems, Special Publication (NIST SP), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 27, 2024)


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Created June 1, 2002, Updated February 19, 2017