Dear Lou and All,
Mark Burgin deserves credit for having started a discussion in which 
contrasting points of view are clearly delineated, and where some new 
convergences can appear. Karl critiques my views as philosophy, but says that 
numbers support them. Arturo critiques Bruno's view of numbers, and I critique, 
in the same spirit, Arturo's unqualified reliance on the physical. "Otherwise 
we are doing philosophy and logic, not science".
But Lou says, "we must not sever philosophy and logic from science", where 
logic is independent of substrate.
I propose inverting this statement: "science must not be severed from 
philosophy and logic", but the logic cannot be what is usually understood by 
that term. The logic must NOT be topic-neutral and does not have to be 
dependent on precise and repeatable methods of measurement. In order to serve 
science, however, any such logic must be grounded in the underlying physical 
structure of the universe, about which we know much more today thanks to 
So Lou, pace Ludwig, with a logic of real process systems, one can say 
something more about significantly, that is for me dynamically, related pairs 
of opposites, namely, about the patterns of evolution or change.
The energetic and non-energetic aspects of information constitute such a pair 
of significantly related opposites.
Best regards,
----Message d'origine----
De :
Date : 27/04/2018 - 12:35 (PDT)
À :
Cc :
Objet : Re: [Fis] Is information physical? OR Does the information exist        
without the carrier?
Dear Folks,
I suspect I am past quota for the week. Apologies for that.
1. Work in logic and mathematics is scientific even if mathematicians and 
logicians sometimes deny being scientists.
2. Exact work is logical work coupled with precise and repeatable methods of 
3. The point about mathematics and logic is that it is independent of the 
substrate on which it is apparently performed. 
This is what I mean by statements such as “all computations exist independently 
of the existence of anything physical”.
You may say, yes, but computations or reasonings cannot occur without some 
I almost agree, but point out to you that since you use reasoning, concept and 
observation to conjecture and verify the properties of substrates 
(physical or even conceptual) there is a circularity here.
4. We come to know substrates such as physicality through reason and 
We come to know reason and measurement through the support of our physical and 
biological substrates.
We come to investigate both reason and physicality through each other and our 
ability to sense and feel.
Sensing and feeling and measurement are our terms for those places where 
concept and the physical arise together in our perception.
5. Beyond those places where significant related pairs of opposites that cannot 
be separated (complementarities) occur there is our (in at least my tradition)
personal reality of unity — whereof nothing can be said. 
6. We cannot sever philosophy and logic and reason from science, AND for 
science we must open to the largest possible access to precision and 
On Apr 27, 2018, at 4:38 AM, wrote:
Dear Bruno, 
You claim: "all computations exists independently of the existence of anything 
I never heard, apart probably from Berkeley and Tegmark, a more untestable, 
metaphyisical, a-scientific, unquantifiable claim.  
Dear FISers, we NEED to deal with c!  Even if information is (as many FISers 
suggest) at least in part not physical, we NEED to focus just on the testable 
part, i.e., the physical one.  And, even if physics does not exist, as Bruno 
states, at least it gives me something quantifiable and useful for my pragmatic 
Even if information is something subjective in my mind (totally untestable, but 
very popular claim) who cares, by a scientific standpoint?
If I say that Julius Caesar was killed by an alien, the theory is fashinating, 
but useless, unless I provide proofs or testable clues.  
Inviato da Libero Mail per Androidvenerdì, 27 aprile 2018, 10:10AM +02:00 da 
Bruno Marchal
Hi Lou, Colleagues,
On 25 Apr 2018, at 16:55, Louis H Kauffman <> wrote:
Dear Krassimir and Mark,
Let us not forget the intermediate question:
How is information independent of the choice of carrier?
This is the fruitful question in my opinion, and it avoids the problem of 
assigning existence to that which is relational.
The same problem exists for numbers and other mathematical entities. Does the 
number 2 exist without any couples?
The mathematical answer is to construct a standard couple (e.g. { { }, {{}} } 
in set theory or two marks || in formalism) and say that 
a collection has cardinality two if it can be placed in 1-1 correspondence with 
the standard couple. In this way of speaking we do not have to 
assign an existence to two as a noun. The Russelian alternative  — to take two 
to be the collection of all couples — is a fascinating intellectual move, but
I prefer to avoid it by not having to speak of the existence of two in such a 
way. Two is a concept and it is outside of formal systems and outside of the 
except in that we who have that concept are linked with formalism and linked 
with the apparent physical.
And let us not forget the other question.
What is "the physical”?
What we take to be physical arises as a relation between our sensing (and 
generalized sensing) and our ability to form concepts.
To imagine that the “physical” exists independent of that relation is an extra 
assumption that is not necessary for scientific work, however
attractive or repelling it may seem.
Indeed, the existence of a physical ontology is an hypothesis in metaphysics, 
and not in physics. It was brought mainly by Aristotle and even more by its 
What can be shown, is that if we assume Digital Mechanism in the cognitive 
science, then the physical cannot be ontological, and physics has to be reduced 
to the psychology, or better the theology of the digital machine. My 
contribution shows this testable, and the physical observations, up to now,  
favour the non existence of primary matter (as amazing and counter-intuive this 
could seem).
What many people seem to miss is that the notion of universal machine and the 
notion of computations (Turing, Post, Church, Kleene) are purely arithmetical 
notion. Anyone who is able to believe that (3^3) + (4^3) + (5^3) = (6^3) is 
necessarily either true or false even without verifying which it is, should be 
able to understand that all computations exists independently of the existence 
of anything physical, and then a reasoning can show that it is easier to 
explain the illusion of an otological matter to complex number relation, than 
to explain the numbers in term of complex relation between primary matter. In 
fact it is impossible, and the notion of primary matter adds unnecessary 
insuperable difficulties in the “mind-body” problem.
Now, Landauer, and others, have given some evidence that some notion of 
information is physical (like quantum information). That does not contradict 
the idea that information is not physical. The illusion of physical appearances 
is real, obeys laws, and physics is eventually reduced into an internal 
statistics on all computations in arithmetic, and that can explain some special 
form of physical information (and indeed the quantum one is already explained 
in some testable way).
The origin of information comes from the fact that aTuring machine cannot 
distinguish the physical reality from the arithmetical reality (which emulates 
all computations) except by observation. The machines are distributed in 
infinitely many exemplars in arithmetic, and that defines a sort of indexical 
differentiating consciousness flux, leading to (collective) sharable deep 
dreams which we call the physical.
Now, all this is long to explain, and I’m afraid this can look too much 
provocative, if I do not add the proofs and much more explanations. People can 
consult my papers, but needs to study a bit of mathematical logic.
Physicalism/materialism is a long lasting habit of thought, and, as I have 
experienced my whole life, some materialist defend the dogma with more 
integrism and violence than some (pseudo)-religious radicals in history. 
Once we assume mechanism, all we need to assume to get both mind and matter is 
*any* universal machine or machinery, and then the usual platonic 
epistemological definitions can be used (but they can also be motivated through 
some thought experience). 
For the universal machinery, I use (very) elementary arithmetic, because 
everyone is familiar with them, and can accept that “17 is prime” is true 
independently of them, which would not be the case with ((K K) K) = K in 
combinators theory (generally not known). But we can derive arithmetic, and the 
physical dreams from just very small theories, like
((K x) y) = x
(((S x) y) z) = ((x z) (y z))
(Axioms of the SK-combinators: that is Turing Universal!)
Or, very elementary arithmetic (Peano arithmetic without induction, + the 
predecessor axiom), i.e, classical logic +
0 ≠ s(x)
s(x) = s(y) -> x = y
x = 0 v Ey(x = s(y))    
x+0 = x
x+s(y) = s(x+y)
That is already a Turing Complete theory.
So information/numbers are independent of the carrier, and the carrier becomes 
only an appearance from some self-referential modes of the universal number or 
“machine”. Pythagorus was right, at least provably so in the frame of the 
Mechanist Hypothesis. Primary Matter is perhaps the last phlogiston of the 
human mind. With mechanism, weak materialism is false, and physics is not the 
fundamental science. The physical reality appearance has a 
*reason*/*explanation* relying on the notion of (Turing) universality.
All the best!
Lou Kauffman
P.S. With this letter, I reach my quota for the week and will remain silent 
until next Monday.
If anyone wants a private email conversation, I shall be happy to carry on in 
that fashion.
On Apr 25, 2018, at 2:20 AM, Krassimir Markov <> wrote:
Dear Mark and Colleagues,
Very nice “simple question”:  “Is information physical?”
I agree that “letters, electromagnetic waves and actually all physical objects 
are only carriers of information”.
The brain is carrier of information, too. 
Now, I think, what we need to clear is another “simple question” closely 
interrelated to yours:
Does the information exist without the carrier?
In other words, can the color, speed, weigh, temperature, time, etc., exist 
without objects which these characteristics belong to and may be measured by 
other objects. 
To understand more clearly, let see the case of “time”.
Does the time really exist?
Does the time exist without real regular processes which we may reflect and 
The time is falling drops of water, the movement of the pendulum, etc.
One may say, the time is information about all these processes.
OK! But, if these processes do not exist, will we have “time”?
I think, we have a question in two interrelated explanations: 
- Is information physical?
- Does the information exist without the carrier?
Friendly greetings
From: Burgin, Mark
the movement of the pendulum
falling drops of water
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 4:47 AM
Subject: Re: [Fis] Is information physical?
Dear Colleagues,
I would like to suggest the new topic for discussion
                                      Is information physical?
My opinion is presented below:
   Why some people erroneously think that information is physical
   The main reason to think that information is physical is the strong belief 
of many people, especially, scientists that there is only physical reality, 
which is studied by science. At the same time, people encounter something that 
they call information.
   When people receive a letter, they comprehend that it is information because 
with the letter they receive information. The letter is physical, i.e., a 
physical object. As a result, people start thinking that information is 
physical. When people receive an e-mail, they comprehend that it is information 
because with the e-mail they receive information. The e-mail comes to the 
computer in the form of electromagnetic waves, which are physical. As a result, 
people start thinking even more that information is physical.
   However, letters, electromagnetic waves and actually all physical objects 
are only carriers or containers of information.
   To understand this better, let us consider a textbook. Is possible to say 
that this book is knowledge? Any reasonable person will tell that the textbook 
contains knowledge but is not knowledge itself. In the same way, the textbook 
contains information but is not information itself. The same is true for 
letters, e-mails, electromagnetic waves and other physical objects because all 
of them only contain information but are not information. For instance, as we 
know, different letters can contain the same information. Even if we make an 
identical copy of a letter or any other text, then the letter and its copy will 
be different physical objects (physical things) but they will contain the same 
   Information belongs to a different (non-physical) world of knowledge, data 
and similar essences. In spite of this, information can act on physical objects 
(physical bodies) and this action also misleads people who think that 
information is physical.
   One more misleading property of information is that people can measure it. 
This brings an erroneous assumption that it is possible to measure only 
physical essences. Naturally, this brings people to the erroneous conclusion 
that information is physical. However, measuring information is essentially 
different than measuring physical quantities, i.e., weight. There are no 
“scales” that measure information. Only human intellect can do this.
   It is possible to find more explanations that information is not physical in 
the general theory of information. Sincerely,
Mark Burgin
On 4/24/2018 10:46 AM, Pedro C. Marijuan wrote:
Dear FIS Colleagues,
A very interesting discussion theme has been proposed by Mark Burgin --he will 
post at his early convenience. 
Thanks are due to Alberto for his "dataism" piece. Quite probably we will need 
to revisit that theme, as it is gaining increasing momentum in present 
"information societies", in science as well as in everyday life...
Thanks also to Sung for his interesting viewpoint and references.
Best wishes to all,
Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
Libre de virus.
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