Dear Loet,

Thanks for these comments. I very consciously avoided opening up my
argument to include anything psychological for many of the reasons you
cite as interesting and troublesome. But mainly because I wanted to
avoid allowing tacit homuncular assumptions to do any of the
explanatory work.  And because my primary aim is to argue that
information in the full sense (involving reference and significance)
need not be treated as taboo in the physical and natural sciences.
Currently we talk about information in the shadow of a kind of tacit
methodological dualism: think of the common use of the term
'mind-brain' that shows up in much modern consciousness talk. Such a
move as I try to make here is essential if we are to legitimate
biosemiotic and neurosemiotic sciences, for example. And although
Shannonian-inspired approaches to issues of human communication—such
as in the computational analysis of language structure—have yielded
remarkable insights, they basically just treat reference and
significance as unanalyzed givens and never addresses these issues
directly. Teleo-semantic issues may not be seen even to be worth
quibbling about in psychology but there are many in other domains who
consider representational theories to be unscientific.

So my goal in this case is quite modest, and yet perhaps also a bit
foolhardy. I want to suggest a simplest possible model system to use
as the basis for formalizing the link between physical processes and
semiotic processes. Perhaps someday after considerably elaborating
this analysis it could contribute to issues of the psychology of human
interactions. I hope to recruit some interest into pursuing this goal.

— Terry

On 1/12/15, Loet Leydesdorff <> wrote:
> Dear Terry and colleagues,
> I read the discussion paper with interest. Much of it makes sense to me,
> but I am not sure whether I follow everything. Thank you for this
> contribution.
> My main interest is with the special case (p. 8) of non-passive information
> media; particularly in the relation to psychological systems, and social
> and cultural ones. In the latter, perhaps even more than the former, one
> can begin to see the contextual conditions to interact among themselves;
> for example, when expectations are expected such as in the double
> contingency among reflexive persons. As Parsons expressed it: Ego expects
> Alter to entertain expectations about Ego and Alter such as one’s own ones.
> It seems to me that the systems then are layered: biological ones on top of
> physical ones, but with a teleogical dimension of the entropy (or a
> next-order loop, in other words); psychological ones on top of some
> biological systems; and social and cultural ones processing exclusively in
> terms of references (e.g., symbols). The time-subscripts of expectations
> refer to a next moment in time (t+1). In the theory and computation of
> anticipatory systems one finds the further distinctions between systems
> which refer both to their own past and their own current or next state, and
> systems which operate exclusively in terms of expectations of next-moment
> of time states. The former are considered incursive, whereas the latter are
> hyper-incursive ones. One can easily write the equations, and then it is
> obvious that the dynamics are very different from biological systems.
> Hyper-incursive systems operate against the arrow of time.
> Whereas the teleological dimension is only one among various dynamics in
> the case of biological and psychological systems, an additional degree of
> freedom is available when the teleological constraints can interact among
> them such as in the case that different value systems collide to various
> extents. For example, political discourse entertains meanings with a
> codification different from scholarly discourse. Since these
> hyper-incursive systems operate entirely with reference to future states
> (in terms of models), they generate redundancies instead of Shannon
> entropy, by enlarging the set of possible states continuously. The
> psychological carriers of these exchanges of expectations relate the
> redundancies thus generated reflexively to their teleology as discussed in
> your paper.
> In summary, it seems to me that you perhaps too easily jump from biological
> teleology to next-order systems and thus introduce a biologism in studying
> the dynamics of references. The substrates of mediation can change with
> each turn. One can perhaps distinguish the system layers by answering the
> question of what is mediated (how and why) in each layer? For example, a
> biology is generated when molecules are exchanged instead of atoms (as in
> chemistry).
> The dynamics of the physical medium at the bottom lose relevance when one
> moves upwards, whereas the Shannon-dynamics remains relevant since
> statistical, potentially also with reference to next-order media. However
> paradoxical this may sound, one can study the variation of the redundancy
> generation or, in other words, the interactions among the conditions, using
> entropy calculus because the latter is not constrained to the physics
> domain. Thus, your distinction of the Shannon and Boltzmann entropies
> provides room for a wider use of the Shannon entropy.
> Let me posit that the specification of the medium in terms of what is
> communicated (atoms, molecules, words, meaning, etc.) provides us with room
> for each time a special theory of communication; for example, the
> communication of molecules in a biology, whereas the mathematical theory of
> communication (Shannon, etc.) enables us to specify the differences and
> similarities among the special theories. This is a rich source of
> heuristics and algorithms. I sense a tendency in your discussion paper to
> ground all the theory in physics (thermodynamics) as a meta-theory or grand
> theory of communication. Is this erroneous? Can the special cases further
> develop with a next-lower level as the noise generating medium?
> Best,
> Loet Leydesdorff
> Professor Emeritus, University of Amsterdam
> Amsterdam School of Communications Research (ASCoR)
> Honorary Professor, SPRU, <>University of
> Sussex; Visiting Professor, ISTIC,
> <>Beijing;
> Visiting Professor at Birkbeck, University of London; Guest Professor
> Zhejiang University, Hangzhou;

Professor Terrence W. Deacon
University of California, Berkeley

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