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.

Best--Pedro wrote:
In a message dated 6/17/2015 8:30:33 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

    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
    full of
    oral discussions that somehow continue now. Quite many of those good
    ideas have been rediscussed in the exchanges of these days.
    However, for
    my taste, the essential connection between information and life
    has not
    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,
    there is
    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
    the term
    may help quite a bit to the practice of information science
    research by
    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.
in order
    to practice good info science research. Acknowledging that, could
    be a
    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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