Dear FISers,
It was an interesting discussion, in which many highly intelligent and creative individuals participated expressing different points of view. Many interesting ideas were suggested. As a conclusion to this discussion, I would like to suggest a logical analysis of the problem based on our intrinsic and often tacit assumptions.

To great extent, our possibility to answer the question “Is information physical? “ depends on our model of the world. Note that here physical means the nature of information and not its substance, or more exactly, the substance of its carrier, which can be physical, chemical biological or quantum. By the way, expression “quantum information” is only the way of expressing that the carrier of information belongs to the quantum level of nature. This is similar to the expressions “mixed numbers” or “decimal numbers”, which are only forms or number representations and not numbers themselves.

If we assume that there is only the physical world, we have, at first, to answer the question “Does information exist? “ All FISers assume that information exists. Otherwise, they would not participate in our discussions. However, some people think differently (cf., for example, Furner, J. (2004) Information studies without information).

Now assuming that information exists, we have only one option, namely, to admit that information is physical because only physical things exist. If we assume that there are two worlds - information is physical, we have three options assuming that information exists:
- information is physical
- information is mental
- information is both physical and mental

Finally, coming to the Existential Triad of the World, which comprises three worlds - the physical world, the mental world and the world of structures, we have seven options assuming that information exists:
- information is physical
- information is mental
- information is structural
- information is both physical and mental
- information is both physical and structural
- information is both structural and mental
- information is physical, structural and mental

The solution suggested by the general theory of information tries to avoid unnecessary multiplication of essences suggesting that information (in a general sense) exists in all three worlds but … in the physical world, it is called *energy*, in the mental world, it is called *mental energy*, and in the world of structures, it is called *information* (in the strict sense). This conclusion well correlates with the suggestion of Mark Johnson that information is both physical and not physical only the general theory of information makes this idea more exact and testable. In addition, being in the world of structures, information in the strict sense is represented in two other worlds by its representations and carriers. Note that any representation of information is its carrier but not each carrier of information is its representation. For instance, an envelope with a letter is a carrier of information in this letter but it is not its representation. Besides, it is possible to call all three faces of information by the name energy - physical energy, mental energy and structural energy.

Finally, as many interesting ideas were suggested in this discussion, may be Krassimir will continue his excellent initiative combining the most interesting contributions into a paper with the title
*Is information physical?*
   and publish it in his esteemed Journal.

   Mark Burgin

On 5/11/2018 3:20 AM, Karl Javorszky wrote:
Dear Arturo,

There were some reports in clinical psychology, about 30 years ago, that relate to the question whether a machine can pretend to be a therapist. That was the time as computers could newly be used in an interactive fashion, and the Rogers techniques were a current discovery. (Rogers developed a dialogue method where one does not address the contents of what the patient says, but rather the emotional aspects of the message, assumed to be at work in the patient.)

They then said, that in some cases it was indistinguishable, whether a human or a machine provides the answer to a patient's elucidations.

Progress since then has surely made possible to create machines that are indistinguishable in interaction to humans. Indeed, what is called "expert systems ", are widely used in many fields. If the interaction is rational, that is: formally equivalent to a logical discussion modi Wittgenstein, the difference in: "who arrived at this answer, machinery or a human", becomes irrelevant.

Artistry, intuition, creativity are presently seen as not possible to translate into Wittgenstein sentences. Maybe the inner instincts are not yet well understood. But!: there are some who are busily undermining the current fundamentals of rational thinking. So there is hope that we shall live to experience the ultimate disillusionment, namely that humans are a combinatorial tautology.

Accordingly, may I respectfully express opposing views to what you state: that machines and humans are of incompatible builds. There are hints that as far as rational capabilities go, the same principles apply. There is a rest, you say, which is not of this kind. The counter argument says that irrational processes do not take place in organisms, therefore what you refer to belongs to the main process, maybe like waste belongs to the organism's principle. This view draws a picture of a functional biotope, in which the waste of one kind of organism is raw material for a different kind.


< <>> schrieb am Do., 10. Mai 2018 15:24:

    Dear Bruno,
    You state:
    "IF indexical digital mechanism is correct in the cognitive science,
    THEN “physical” has to be defined entirely in arithmetical term,
    i.e. “physical” becomes a mathematical notion.
    ...Indexical digital mechanism is the hypothesis that there is a
    level of description of the brain/body such that I would survive,
    or “not feel any change” if my brain/body is replaced by a digital
    machine emulating the brain/body at that level of description".

    The problem of your account is the following:
    You say "IF" and "indexical digital mechanism is the HYPOTHESIS".
    Therefore, you are talking of an HYPOTHESIS: it is not empirically
    tested and it is not empirically testable. You are starting with a
    sort of postulate: I, and other people, do not agree with it.  The
    current neuroscience does not state that our brain/body is (or can
    be replaced by) a digital machine.
    In other words, your "IF" stands for something that possibly does
    not exist in our real world.  Here your entire building falls down.

    Inviato da Libero Mail per Android

    giovedì, 10 maggio 2018, 02:46PM +02:00 da Bruno Marchal <>:

        (This mail has been sent previously , but without success. I
        resend it, with minor changes). Problems due to different
        accounts. It was my first comment to Mark Burgin new thread
        “Is information physical?”.

        Dear Mark, Dear Colleagues,

        Apology for not answering the mails in the chronological
        orders, as my new computer classifies them in some mysterious way!
        This is my first post of the week. I might answer comment, if
        any, at the end of the week.

        On 25 Apr 2018, at 03:47, Burgin, Mark <
        <>> wrote:

        Dear Colleagues,

        I would like to suggest the new topic for discussion

        Is information physical?

        That is an important topic indeed, very close to what I am
        working on.

        My result here is that
        *_IF_* indexical digital mechanism is correct in the cognitive
        *_THEN_*  “physical” has to be defined entirely in
        arithmetical term, i.e. “physical” becomes a mathematical notion.

        The proof is constructive. It shows exactly how to derive
        physics from Arithmetic (the reality, not the theory. I use
        “reality” instead of “model" (logician’s term, because
        physicists use “model" for “theory").

        Indexical digital mechanism is the hypothesis that there is a
        level of description of the brain/body such that I would
        survive, or “not feel any change” if my brain/body is replaced
        by a digital machine emulating the brain/body at that level of

        Not only information is not physical, but matter, time, space,
        and all physical objects become part of the universal machine
        phenomenology. Physics is reduced to arithmetic, or,
        equivalently, to any Turing-complete machinery. Amazingly
        Arithmetic (even the tiny semi-computable part of arithmetic)
        is Turing complete (Turing Universal).

        The basic idea is that:

        1) no universal machine can distinguish if she is executed by
        an arithmetical reality or by a physical reality. And,

        2) all universal machines are executed in arithmetic, and they
        are necessarily undetermined on the set of of all its
        continuations emulated in arithmetic.

        That reduces physics to a statistics on all computations
        relative to my actual state, and see from some first person
        points of view (something I can describe more precisely in
        some future post perhaps).

        Put in that way, the proof is not constructive, as, if we are
        machine, we cannot know which machine we are. But Gödel’s
        incompleteness can be used to recover this constructively for
        a simpler machine than us, like Peano arithmetic. This way of
        proceeding enforces the distinction between first and third
        person views (and six others!).

        I have derived already many feature of quantum mechanics from
        this (including the possibility of quantum computer) a long
        time ago.  I was about sure this would refute Mechanism, until
        I learned about quantum mechanics, which verifies all the most
        startling predictions of Indexical Mechanism, unless we add
        the controversial wave collapse reduction principle.

        The curious “many-worlds” becomes the obvious (in arithmetic)
        many computations (up to some equivalence quotient). The weird
        indeterminacy becomes the simpler amoeba like duplication. The
        non-cloning of matter becomes obvious: as any piece of matter
        is the result of the first person indeterminacy (the first
        person view of the amoeba undergoing a duplication, …) on
        infinitely many computations. This entails also that neither
        matter appearance nor consciousness are Turing emulable per
        se, as the whole arithmetical reality—which is a highly non
        computable notion as we know since Gödel—plays a key role.
        Note this makes Digital Physics leaning to inconsistency, as
        it implies indexical computationalism which implies the
        negation of Digital Physics (unless my “body” is the entire
        physical universe, which I rather doubt).

        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
        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.
        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.

        OK. The reason is that we can hardly imagine how immaterial or
        non physical objects can alter the physical realm. It is the
        usual problem faced by dualist ontologies. With Indexical
        computationalism we recover many dualities, but they belong to
        the phenomenologies.

        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.

        OK. I think all intellect can do that, not just he human one.

        Now, the reason why people believe in the physical is always a
        form of the “knocking table” argument. They knocks on the
        table and say “you will not tell me that this table is unreal”.

        I have got so many people giving me that argument, that I have
        made dreams in which I made that argument, or even where I was
        convinced by that argument … until I wake up.

        When we do metaphysics with the scientific method, this “dream
        argument” illustrates that seeing, measuring, … cannot prove
        anything ontological. A subjective experience proves only the
        phenomenological existence of consciousness, and nothing more.
        It shows that although there are plenty of strong evidences
        for a material reality, there are no evidences (yet) for a
        primitive or primary matter (and that is why, I think,
        Aristotle assumes it quasi explicitly, against Plato, and
        plausibly against Pythagorus).

        Mechanism forces a coming back to Plato, where the worlds of
        ideas is the world of programs, or information, or even just
        numbers, since very elementary arithmetic (PA without
        induction, + the predecessor axiom) is already Turing complete
        (it contains what I have named a Universal Dovetailer: a
        program which generates *and* executes all programs).

        So I agree with you: information is not physical. I claim that
        if we assume Mechanism (Indexical computationalism) matter
        itself is also not *primarily* physical: it is all in the
        “head of the universal machine/number” (so to speak).

        And this provides a test for primary matter: it is enough to
        find if there is a discrepancy between the physics that we
        infer from the observation, and the physics that we extract
        from “the head” of the machine. This took me more than 30
        years of work, but the results obtained up to now is that
        there is no discrepancies. I have compared the quantum logic
        imposed by incompleteness (formally) on the semi-computable
        (partial recursive, sigma_1) propositions, with most quantum
        logics given by physicists, and it fits rather well.

        Best regards,

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