The opposite action of abstraction is called instantiation. Abstraction is obtained by removing some details, instantiation is obtained by filling in some details.
Choosing an example of something is a form of instantiation.
Applying a technique under specific circumstances is instantiating the technique.
Abstractions of larger information sets are obtained by the replacement of some of its elements by already existing abstractions of these elements.
Instantiation is obtained by assigning a concrete element to each of the abstract elements. Once all elements are instantiated, the abstract information set behaves as the instantiation.
Instantiated abstract information behaves like concrete information.
A good actor playing a role in a movie behaves as the person he or she represents in the movie. The true nature of the actor can only be derived by observing the actor when playing many different roles.
An employee performing a specific task in a company has instantiated his or her abstract capabilities to the specific task. When another person with less abstract skills imitates the first person, it would not be possible to distinguish the behavior until circumstances change and by this, the person is obliged to change his or her role.
The full meaning of a word can only be extracted from many different examples of the use of the word.
We tend to use elements of the current context when trying to instantiate abstract information.
Remember the abstract rule "information is spreading." Because we are talking about languages as an example of information, we tend to take the expression "language is spreading" as the first example of the abstract rule.
Complex information sets are organizations of smaller abstract elements. These smaller abstract elements are often quite standard components used by many complex information sets.
When we learn something and we understand it right away, we almost immediately forget about the words used in the explanation. The used words give immediately rise to the abstract elements which are memorized.
During reasoning, we consecutively apply different abstract knowledge structures. These abstract structures use often the same abstract elements. When a new abstract structure makes use of recently used smaller abstract components, the instantiation of the smaller elements tend to maintain their instantiation. This effect is called conditioning, it is the base for short term memory.
When I mention a brown and green stick, you notice that the general notion of a stick in your mind is still conditioned to instantiate into a witchcraft stick because of the examples in the previous chapter.
Conditioning is removed quickly when an attempt to use conditioned information fails.
We store complex information as a combination of several more universal abstract information components. This facilitates the access of the memorized information when similar but not equal conditions are met. The mechanism has been used to anticipate the effects of actions in similar conditions long before the ability of remembering a full context developed.
Retrieval of concrete information which is stored as a combination of abstract elements requires a mechanism to reconstruct the possible origin of the memorized set. This retrieval is more complex than the instantiation of an abstract information in a given context because the context is only defined by the combination of the abstract elements. Each context element must fulfill a task in the instantiating of one or more abstract elements without being in conflict with another element of the abstract set.
The remembering process is similar to the construction of a story with a number of abstract elements given.
For example: Built a story for children (first abstract requirement), regarding animals (second abstract element), to make the children to respect animals (third abstract element).
The instantiation of each of these elements is restricted by the possible instantiations of the other elements. We have a complex mental mechanism to accomplish such tasks.
A class in classification can now be described as all possible instantiations of an abstract element. Each abstract element defines a class of less abstract elements. One concrete element can belong to several classes. Because of overlaps, it is possible to specify a concrete element by a combination of several abstract elements. This is the same mechanism as described above from a slightly different point of view. It demonstrates again the close relation between classification and abstraction. The overlaps cause that there is a choice in making an abstraction from a given concrete element.
A similarity between two phenomenon suggests the existence of a more abstract element applied in both phenomenon. The relation we have discovered between the phenomena is always indirect, via the more abstract element.
When classifying information, the relation between the elements of the same class is based on the more abstract element.
Any element of information can be considered as an instantiation of something more abstract and, at the same time, as an abstraction of some more concrete elements.
Statement: "Jokes are spreading."
The statement could be an abstraction of: "The joke of the two fools on the moon is spreading" and "The joke of the American and the Scot is spreading."
At the same time, the statement is an instantiation of: "Information is spreading."
The previous section suggests the existence of a hierarchy of abstractness of information. If we could measure the abstractness of elements of information, it would be possible to classify all information in an absolute way. This is not possible. The reasons why this is not possible are multiple :
The last two difficulties are caused by the fact that information is always instantiated. We could suggest to remove all instantiation before attempting to classify it but than all information would be infinitely abstract and by this useless for classification.
More in next chapter on Mapping
This is Chapter 5; Instantiation of Behavior
Author: Luc Claeys. All comments welcome, mail to lcl at this site: nanohome.be
Last updated on Nov 12, 1997