Dear Howard and FIS colleagues,
Many thanks for your exciting comments; dealing first with Koichiro's
intriguing point on action and probabilities, I think it links with the
Quantum Bayesianism we discused last year in the list (von Baeyer's FIS
New Year Lecture), and also with Karl Frinston's distributions /
representations of probabilities in cerebral areas within an overarching
entropy-minimization principle (it is not a physical entropy, and
reminding Loet's comment, I think he was quite right with his
contentious message of 15 June!). Action is but the forgotten other side
the epistemic coin. Not to forget that a motor-centered epistemology has
been recently discussed too.
Responding to Howard's below, rather than making further interleaving, I
will continue with a unitary text.
In my view, the new informational thinking is slowly taking shape in a
variety of fields, and the reference to Witzany's work on the viruses'
social dynamics, is an excellent exponent on how carefully following the
very dynamics of life, we may arrive at similar conceptual scenarios. My
point is that biological communication (as well as human) does not occur
in a vacuum where whatever combinatory game may be played. The life
cycle of the entity is the big watcher of communication, not just
passively waiting for some stimulus passing by, but actively deploying a
series of molecular or supramolecular actions that for instance conduce
to receive the appropriate information/communication or to engage in
locomotor exploration. In general, action stemming out from the cycle
--or "propensity" to action-- comes first, regarding the possible
information gathered and the responses to be observed later on. Each
life cycle has capability to deploy autonomously a very vast repertoire
of adaptive actions / behaviors / communications that overall should
conduce to its own advancement. So, the reliance on "stimulus-response"
becomes a dubious way of lumping together the animate and the inanimate
(a mere electromagnetic relay would also provide S-R behavior), leaving
aside the most precious stuff of life: its informational organization in
an autonomous, self-propelled life-cycle. It is a life-cycle that
besides, has to take place in a highly complex and challenging
ecological niche and within a tricky social environment. To reiterate
the main point: the living is not S-R mechanistic, is "informational".
And what is information? I agree with Howard's "relative" approach to
information. I think that, together with Marcin, we must organize a
future discussion-session in the list to analyze this most integrative
stance. I think that this view now is mature enough to be publicly
discussed (and has already appeared in the literature occasionally). My
personal contention is that a similar relative conceptualization may be
extended to other "informational entities" (viruses, cells, organisms,
brains, social groups and institutions, societies at large...) that also
communicate in order to advance their self-production processes.
Precisely in economy, we may understand that prices emerge as the
information which connects and integrates the ACTIONS of producers and
consumers allowing the self-organization of the whole. Obviously, the
market information is exchanged in order to improve the condition of the
individuals, and in aggregate to advance their own life cycles.
Similarly, in physiological "markets" between cells, molecular signals
--really an information flow-- would also be exchanged to coordinate the
actions emerging from the ongoing life-cycles.
If we consider that biological communication, and in general the
communication of "informational entities" is tied to the maintenance and
advancement of their self-production processes, the discussion of
meaning follows quite naturally. Meaning becomes the impact of the
information received upon the self-production process itself. In
bio-molecular terms, meaning may be exactly enacted through a vastly
used procedure, microarray experiments. By knocking down a particular
receptor,or continuously keeping it "on", we see the "meaning" effects
that the specific signaling condition has on gene expression, on the
whole cellular self-production. Meaningful communication begets relevant
self-production changes. Then, lets generalize that informational
entities are those that systematically intertwine the information
(communication) flows and the energy (self-production) flows. The
information derived from communication widely circulates and gets mixed
with the inner self-production processes, adaptively changing the
ongoing operations that constitute the "metabolic life" of the entity.
That's the existential fate of all informational entities: they are
adaptive, structurally always in the making, and in the dismantling.
And the "dismantling" connects very nicely with the conditions that
Howard establishes for the functioning of a "collective learning
machine", a global brain. The quintet of essential conditions includes:
conformity enforcers, diversity generators, inner-judges, resource
shifters, and intergroup tournaments (herein I am responding to another
off-line exchange). Depending on the different kinds of informational
entities, those conditions appear in some way or in another. For my
taste, they could also be expressed in less Darwinian a way, also with
emphasis in the cooperative dynamics and the associate behavioral
propensities--bonding, enjoyment, love, sociotype making... which I
think is more balanced and realistic. In any case, for our times, it is
very important to openly establish and discuss --from new premises,
looking for new principles-- the biological and social underpinning of
informational phenomena at large. Whether the inanimate may be
accommodated or not within this new way of thinking, I think it can be
done. Time will tell.
In a message dated 6/17/2015 8:30:33 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
Dear Steven and FIS Colleagues,
Your message has arrived to the list perfectly: fears are
There is no censorship in this list --and never will be any (well, as
the movie tells "never say never again"!). Anyhow, I would
the discussion. The Vienna conference has been very exciting and
oral discussions that somehow continue now. Quite many of those good
ideas have been rediscussed in the exchanges of these days.
my taste, the essential connection between information and life
properly surfaced yet.
hb. have you seen Guenther Witzak's When Competing Viruses Unify
or my book The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates? both
have clues to the relationship between information and life. mere
clues. but a good start.
The explosion of complexity in the living and the
explosion of complexity in modern societies is clearly depending on
information and communication flows (or whatever we may denominate).
Comparatively with the complexity of merely physical systems,
no point about that. Apart from following the physics, most of the
alternative approaches so far discussed go for the discursive,
conceptual domain as the place where information should be
ascertained... What if information belongs to action,
hb: good question. what is the relationship between information
and action? what is the relationship between stimulus and
response? another topic in The God Problem.
to the adaptive
changes arranged by the living and socioeconomic agents, to the
tentative advancement of their life cycles, to the difficult
of their fitness in an ever changing environment as communicating
members of bigger entities and societies... then we are leaving that
action track of life just as a fragmented scenario of multiple
specialized points of view--or tying it unpropery. As Goethe put in
Faust "At the beginning was the deed" Helas not the Verb!
In Vienna I agreed with Marcin's pragmatic approach to the
of information. Maybe it is too long to argue, and sure he can do
than me. But getting to terms with the factic undefinability of
may help quite a bit to the practice of information science
people with empirical and naturalistic orientation.
hb: from The God Problem: "information is anything that a receiver
can decode. Information is anything a receiver can translate.
Information is anything that a reciever can understand.
Information is in the eyes of the beholder." how do we know when
information has hit home? stimulus and response. action. the verb.
One should not feel
forced to define a fundamental concept (on a pair with "time" and
"space"--basic forms of information indeed)
hb: this is intriguing. how do you interpret time and space as
information? they do tell particles where to go. and particles
respond by moving. is that it?
plus a cohort of other
"impossible" related terms (meaning, knowledge, intelligence)
hb: from the god problem re the meaning of meaning: "If meaning is
anything that a receiver can understand, if meaning is anything
that an entity can interpret, if meaning is in the eye of the
beholder, then how do you know when a thing or a person
“understands” something? Follow the B.F. Skinner rule. Watch his
or her behavior. Watch for the signs of stimulus and response.
Watch to see if the receiver does something in response to the
stimulus. Watch to see if the receiver moves. Quarks exchange
meaning with stimulus and response. So do gas whisps competing to
swallow each other. And so do would-be planets using their
gravity to snag and cannibalize comets and space debris. How do
we know the receivers get the meaning? All of them respond to the
signals they receive. They move. They move toward each other."
one more word. from the work of Valerius Geist, author of Life
Strategies. all communication comes down to two elements:
attraction cues and repulsion cues.
to practice good info science research. Acknowledging that, could
first step to achieve a consensus on some basic principles of
information science that would allow the disciplinary construction
all the multiple diversity within. It will take time and patience.
our "market of conceptual exchange" should continue unabated.
Particularly, continuing the debate on the 4 th Great Domain of
can help us to have a big picture where our more immediate,
goals might one day dovetail.
hb: i'm a newcomer to these discussions. what is the fourth great
domain of science?
with warmth and oomph--howard
Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud
Centro de Investigación Biomédica de Aragón (CIBA)
Avda. San Juan Bosco, 13, planta X
50009 Zaragoza, Spain
Tfno. +34 976 71 3526 (& 6818)
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