I believe our brains and minds are "difference engines".
The real question is the ontological status of the 'nothing' in that last sentence. I am starting to believe that the true nature of the 'fundamental' beneath qualia is not only about the 'stuff', but is actually about all of it. That is, the 'stuff' and the 'not stuff'.
So. Anyone care to comment on the ontological status of 'not thing'?
What they do is respond in a feedback loop with perceptual signals in such a way as to
continually sort things, by the single rule of "this is more different from that than it is from that",
so I'll represent that comparative level of difference (in a compact way that can be stored and retrieved
In other words, it organizes its internal representation of "what's out there" so
that the "more different, less different" relations between representational symbols in the brain
are as close as possible to mirroring the "more different, less different" relations among chunks
of "reality". Objects in the world, for example, are individuated (their boundaries from other objects
determined, and thus the extent that their identity applies to) on the basis of a rigorously
mathematical, and simple, algorithm of "these are the best clusters of all kinds of similarities"
and their boundaries are where the most differences (of many kinds) occur.
This individuation by difference-measurement applies equally well when turned inward on itself
to create abstract theories of abstract domains (e.g. higher math and logic, language about thoughts).
I would contend that notions like abstraction into generalization-specialization hierarchies of
"noun" and "verb" ("thing" and "relationship") concepts emerge spontaneously if you simply
mix a "represent the differences" principle with an "achieve most compact representation" principle.
So what does all this musing about conceptualization of the world have to do with the world
(universe) itself, or what that universe really "is" ? That's a hard one.
The best I could come up with is that the "multiverse" or "plenitude" is "the capacity for
all differences and configurations of differences to manifest themselves." Most parts of that
will be "ungrokable" by brains like ours because only those parts which have organized
configurations of differences exhibiting space-time-like locality, energy, matter etc which
behave within limits that allow formation of emergent systems of "bigger", observable,
simple configurations of differences will be observable universes (to difference-engine brains
like ours that were lucky enough to emerge as one of those emergent systems in a
hospitable energy regime.
-- "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde