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Does information need a physical substrate?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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BigBango
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 27th, 2018, 9:50 pm

Tamminen wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 5:26 am
BigBango wrote:
November 26th, 2018, 9:16 pm
My point is that no matter how deep we simulated, there was no way to include the "subject", just deeper correlations.
That is the point. You cannot find the subject there, because it is already there. You cannot find anything but deeper correlations. Our starting premises seem to be totally different.
BigBango wrote:
November 26th, 2018, 9:16 pm
My advice to you is that you need to begin the exploration of the emergence of consciousness with a richer paradigm.
You still seem to think that consciousness emerges from something. I say that the subject-world relationship emerges from nothing, from its necessity of being. The being of the subject needs no explanation. The correlations are interesting, and the phenomenology of the relationship.
I could not agree with you more. The confusion comes from my poor choice of words. I did not mean to imply that "consciousness" or the "subject" emerges from neural networks. That is what the contemporary researchers are hoping. I have been there, done that, and it does not work. I really should have said that you need to have a richer paradigm to understand how the "subject" instantiates itself in our world. What that enterprise is intended to do is reveal the extent to which we are still infused with the subject that created us and to what extent we are simply hard wired bots.

BigBango
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 27th, 2018, 10:43 pm

Gertie wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 10:10 am
BB
BigBango wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 10:20 pm


I want to clear that up for you. the only way that our thought, nouns and adjectives etc. get encoded in the physical is by representing those thought things with an agreed upon symbol or written language. When transmitting those symbols to remote places those symbols are converted to agreed upon strings of 0s and 1s. Now as physical things in themselves they don't really stand for what we mean by them anymore (except to another human interpreter). What those symbols do stand for to other physical things is their energy content or entropic state, the pattern repetitions. DNA is such a good example its implicit order is understood by the other entities in the cell and therefore never was produced as a code by humans. In fact it is from very hard work that we have deciphered its code. But despite who created the code or what it might mean, it has a physical energy that determines its entropy as simply a physical system. Shannon used these facts to develop automatic error correctors for communication devices. In the process he proves that coded information follows the 2nd law of thermodynamics and he restated that law in informational terms.
Here's how I see it.

We understand the physics of the relationship between graphite and paper which allows us (conscious critters) to use those media to transfer symbolic representations of our thoughts, opinions, facts, etc. To transfer information with each other. Likewise we (well some peeps if not me) understand the physics of how computers work, using 0s and 1s as symbolic representations. I could write a load of meaningless content-free nonsense on a piece of paper, the physics would be the same, whether or not I'm communicating information. Likewise in nature we understand the physics of DNA (in principle if not all the details), and how evolutionary fitness plays a part.

In all cases, what actually exists, are the physical processes. All we can point to are physics and forces, we can't put 'information' under a microscope.

And to say for example that DNA 'codes information' is a type of metaphor, using a theoretical model of function and purpose. But it's just stuff and forces doing what they do. The patterns and maths are patterns and maths of stuff and forces, ways of describing how it works. The notion of Information is unnecessary, outside of the ways we like to construct models which bring our own meanings into the picture. It is apparently not intrinsic to the processes themselves.

If we think about Searle's good old Chinese Room, we might metaphorically call what computers do 'information processing', but the process itself has no meaning or understanding, it's just physics. Meaning and understanding, what Searle calls the semantic content rather than the syntactic process, requires a conscious encoder and decoder, a person. Who understands what the symbols represent, their de-coded meaning, and in that way is dealing with information.

Tho as I said, it might be there is something going on more fundamental than our current scientific understanding, which is related to some notion of information, but there it gets speculative.
Yikes Gertie, sorry for talking down to you. I see you have a solid understanding of the issues. My only criticism is that you have a somewhat anthropomorphic interpretation of what is "Information". DNA is "information" for the other entities in the cell. No human is required. On the other hand, my use of the word "information" does suffer from your analysis. I don't rally know what to do about that. I realize I am stretching the meaning of the word "information" but yet it is the fact that it takes patterns to create symbols and that introduces order into an otherwise high entropic state of the physical world.

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Burning ghost
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Burning ghost » November 28th, 2018, 4:29 am

Can someone define a “Non-physical Substrate”?

Given that the term “substrate” clearly is in line with physicality how are we meant to understand the title of this OP without benig free and easy with our use of words?
AKA badgerjelly

Gertie
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Gertie » November 28th, 2018, 5:19 pm

BigBango wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 10:43 pm
Gertie wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 10:10 am
BB



Here's how I see it.

We understand the physics of the relationship between graphite and paper which allows us (conscious critters) to use those media to transfer symbolic representations of our thoughts, opinions, facts, etc. To transfer information with each other. Likewise we (well some peeps if not me) understand the physics of how computers work, using 0s and 1s as symbolic representations. I could write a load of meaningless content-free nonsense on a piece of paper, the physics would be the same, whether or not I'm communicating information. Likewise in nature we understand the physics of DNA (in principle if not all the details), and how evolutionary fitness plays a part.

In all cases, what actually exists, are the physical processes. All we can point to are physics and forces, we can't put 'information' under a microscope.

And to say for example that DNA 'codes information' is a type of metaphor, using a theoretical model of function and purpose. But it's just stuff and forces doing what they do. The patterns and maths are patterns and maths of stuff and forces, ways of describing how it works. The notion of Information is unnecessary, outside of the ways we like to construct models which bring our own meanings into the picture. It is apparently not intrinsic to the processes themselves.

If we think about Searle's good old Chinese Room, we might metaphorically call what computers do 'information processing', but the process itself has no meaning or understanding, it's just physics. Meaning and understanding, what Searle calls the semantic content rather than the syntactic process, requires a conscious encoder and decoder, a person. Who understands what the symbols represent, their de-coded meaning, and in that way is dealing with information.

Tho as I said, it might be there is something going on more fundamental than our current scientific understanding, which is related to some notion of information, but there it gets speculative.
Yikes Gertie, sorry for talking down to you. I see you have a solid understanding of the issues. My only criticism is that you have a somewhat anthropomorphic interpretation of what is "Information". DNA is "information" for the other entities in the cell. No human is required. On the other hand, my use of the word "information" does suffer from your analysis. I don't rally know what to do about that. I realize I am stretching the meaning of the word "information" but yet it is the fact that it takes patterns to create symbols and that introduces order into an otherwise high entropic state of the physical world.
No worries BB, always appreciate you taking the time to explain things :)

I agree that it takes patterns to create symbols, and that's a good point that it introduces order. But what are you saying follows from that?

I'd say there's a significant difference between patterns which result from stuff and forces doing their thing, and a conscious critter intervening to create a pattern of symbols in order to communicate or represent their thoughts, feelings, facts, etc.

If a pencil falls off a table owing to gravity and its point makes a mark on a piece of paper below, that's just Stuff + Forces, Physics. Likewise DNA cells, brain neurons, their interactions are all apparently explicable in terms of Physics. Adding the term 'Information' doesn't add anything to what's going on that I can see, there's no extra Information-Something playing a role. A cell doesn't 'understand' information or instructions, as far as we know.

But conscious critters like us do. We consciously encode thoughts, instructions, etc, and another conscious critter who knows the code understands the symbols. Calling that Information adds to our understanding that something else is going on besides the Physics of graphite on paper. Your laptop doesn't understand or give meaning to what it's displaying now, you have to do that, you bring the extra Informational layer of the process via your ability to understand and give meaning to the pattern. Or if you're a meerkat, you'll understand at some level, that one type of squeak is a warning call, but another type isn't.

Because only conscious critters seem to have properties of meaning and understanding, or similar concepts like function and purpose.

Now we know patterns of neurons create physical representations of the world, apparently just by following the laws of Physics and evolutionary fitness. So for example a certain pattern of neural activity will represent an image of a red apple. But without the correlating conscious experience, its just Physics. Describing it as say 'information processing' adds nothing to our understanding of what's going on, so 'Information' doesn't seem to be a Something In Itself (noun). Until we introduce consciousness. With a conscious person the physical interactions become meaningful and informational to that person. There's a red apple over there. I'm hungry, I'll eat it.

blah blah ;) I think we might just have to agree to disagre!

BigBango
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 29th, 2018, 9:23 pm

Gertie wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 10:10 am
BB

Here's how I see it.

We understand the physics of the relationship between graphite and paper which allows us (conscious critters) to use those media to transfer symbolic representations of our thoughts, opinions, facts, etc. To transfer information with each other. Likewise we (well some peeps if not me) understand the physics of how computers work, using 0s and 1s as symbolic representations. I could write a load of meaningless content-free nonsense on a piece of paper, the physics would be the same, whether or not I'm c

I agree that it takes patterns to create symbols, and that's a good point that it introduces order. But what are you saying follows from that?

I'd say there's a significant difference between patterns which result from stuff and forces doing their thing, and a conscious critter intervening to create a pattern of symbols in order to communicate or represent their thoughts, feelings, facts, etc.

If a pencil falls off a table owing to gravity and its point makes a mark on a piece of paper below, that's just Stuff + Forces, Physics. Likewise DNA cells, brain neurons, their interactions are all apparently explicable in terms of Physics. Adding the term 'Information' doesn't add anything to what's going on that I can see, there's no extra Information-Something playing a role. A cell doesn't 'understand' information or instructions, as far as we know.
I see your position and I suggest that you do not quite understand what the true nature of what is just stuff "Forces, Physics". You seem to think that "order and pattern" can just be the result of "Forces and Physics". That can be possible for short durations of time as a coincidence. However, the 2nd law of thermodynamics, says that over time the entropy(order) of a closed physical system always decreases. This is even true of organisms which are anti-entropic in nature. What I mean by that is that they maintain, even increase, the order within themselves, however that is at the expense of the order in their environment. They "eat" order around them in order to increase or maintain their own energy/order. Of course, the entropy of the closed system always goes up.

Understanding this helps us to differentiate between coincidental instances of patterns and the tracks of pattern making organisms. For example the tracks of ants are understood by other ants as potential sources of food. Bee dances within a nest identify to other bees the exact location of sources of pollen. I could go on and on. Please Gertie do not be a species racist that thinks only patterns that we understand are "information". :bored:

I have enjoyed this exchange, Gertie. Maybe we can only agree to disagree, but I am going on a cruise and will be incommunicado for a couple of weeks and then will be back at you.

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Eduk » November 30th, 2018, 4:55 am

Enjoy the cruise BB
Unknown means unknown.

Gertie
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Gertie » November 30th, 2018, 6:35 am

BB

Bon Voyage! May your cruising patterns be happy ones :). I'll reply, but don't worry about getting back to me.
I see your position and I suggest that you do not quite understand what the true nature of what is just stuff "Forces, Physics".
Very true. I'm woefully ignorant when it comes to maths and science, I'm afraid. This is why I wonder if I'm missing something significant when people use the term 'Information' as if it is a Thing In Itself, or has some causal effect, for example when it comes to consciousness. My suspicion is that it isn't, and talking as if it is leads to blind alleys. Which is why defining how you use the term is important imo. But my ignorance means I'm persuadable...
You seem to think that "order and pattern" can just be the result of "Forces and Physics". That can be possible for short durations of time as a coincidence. However, the 2nd law of thermodynamics, says that over time the entropy(order) of a closed physical system always decreases. This is even true of organisms which are anti-entropic in nature. What I mean by that is that they maintain, even increase, the order within themselves, however that is at the expense of the order in their environment. They "eat" order around them in order to increase or maintain their own energy/order. Of course, the entropy of the closed system always goes up.
Gotcha, thanks.
Understanding this helps us to differentiate between coincidental instances of patterns and the tracks of pattern making organisms. For example the tracks of ants are understood by other ants as potential sources of food. Bee dances within a nest identify to other bees the exact location of sources of pollen. I could go on and on. Please Gertie do not be a species racist that thinks only patterns that we understand are "information".
Sure. We don't know if bees and ants consciously 'understand' such coded signals (their physical nervous systems might be doing it all), but larger animals with more complex brains seem capable of something akin to what we call understanding. I mentioned meerkats recognising different sound signals mean different responses are appropriate, for example. My dog recognised my code word for 'sit' (it was ''sit''!) and knew what I wanted her to do. She also seemed to understand something about other dogs' pee which eludes me. She knew how to let me know she wanted a door opening, etc. That was informational, involving understanding and meaning via conscious signals back and forth. I don't think it's speciesist, it's more about drawing a distinction between natural processes (eg crystals forming ordered patterns) and what I'd call Information - which to me implies meaning and understanding, as I've said. Which requires conscious experience.

So if you call say a pattern of ripples on a pond when a stone falls in 'Information', imo that's something different. I'd say that's an abstract metaphorical description of the natural processes involved, which adds nothing. (Tho of course noting the patterns and drawing conclusions about the natural processes involved can be informational to us, because we're conscious critters). But before conscious critters evolved, that abstract concept simply didn't exist, and ponds still had ripples.

So to get back to the relationship between between 'Information' and consciousness. My position is that Information is always associated with already conscious critters, it's not an inherent property of stuff and processes. Patterns of stuff and processes exist independently from us, but they only become informational when there's a conscious critter to understand and find meaning in them.

Unless your definition of Information is different?

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Belindi » November 30th, 2018, 7:37 am

Gertie wrote:
If a pencil falls off a table owing to gravity and its point makes a mark on a piece of paper below, that's just Stuff + Forces, Physics. Likewise DNA cells, brain neurons, their interactions are all apparently explicable in terms of Physics. Adding the term 'Information' doesn't add anything to what's going on that I can see, there's no extra Information-Something playing a role. A cell doesn't 'understand' information or instructions, as far as we know.
This discussion takes me towards deterministic theory of causality . I thought, Gertie, that adding 'information' would be better stated as adding 'nomic connection'. A nomic connection is a lawlike connection. My excuse for using such an esoteric term is that there are other causal connections. You yourself, Gertie, mentioned the accident of the falling pencil. The contributory cause of the pencil event , gravity, is nomic and the other causes are causal chains or causal circumstances. (I get these terms from the philosopher Ted Honderich)

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Gertie » November 30th, 2018, 3:04 pm

Belindi wrote:
November 30th, 2018, 7:37 am
Gertie wrote:
If a pencil falls off a table owing to gravity and its point makes a mark on a piece of paper below, that's just Stuff + Forces, Physics. Likewise DNA cells, brain neurons, their interactions are all apparently explicable in terms of Physics. Adding the term 'Information' doesn't add anything to what's going on that I can see, there's no extra Information-Something playing a role. A cell doesn't 'understand' information or instructions, as far as we know.
This discussion takes me towards deterministic theory of causality . I thought, Gertie, that adding 'information' would be better stated as adding 'nomic connection'. A nomic connection is a lawlike connection. My excuse for using such an esoteric term is that there are other causal connections. You yourself, Gertie, mentioned the accident of the falling pencil. The contributory cause of the pencil event , gravity, is nomic and the other causes are causal chains or causal circumstances. (I get these terms from the philosopher Ted Honderich)
Nomic is a new one on me Belinda. My framing here is that all the surrounding events to the pencil falling would similarly be nomic in the sense of Stuff and Forces following predictable patterns, which we can call laws.

Unless there's the presence of a conscious critter involved.

For example, lets say that's the pencil I used yesterday to write a letter. The words in the letter would be coded information, representing my thoughts. Describing the word-symbols in terms of information recognises there is this extra Something going on in that process, involving meaning and understanding, traits only conscious critters seem to have. But describing the mark made by the falling pencil as Information adds nothing, because it's not describing anything that isn't already accounted for by the physical description of the processes.

The question of whether we conscious agents are cogs in a physically determined universe, or have some kind of free will which consciousness imbues us with, is an open question. Both positions have problems, and we don't know enough about consciousness and the mind-body relationship to say. For me this points to the need for a more fundamental explanation than our current scientific model offers.

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Belindi » December 1st, 2018, 4:22 pm

Gertie, I don't believe in Free Will which I believe is an invention by those, typically priests and Conservative politicians, who would have us believe that people are the causes of their own misfortunes. Belief in Free Will is thus politically right wing.

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Intellectual_Savnot » February 26th, 2019, 1:57 pm

Information clearly does not need to rely on anything physically existence. Information as interpreted and created, if with precision, must already be defined before input is introduced to the system. Input doesn't even need to have something physically existing involved.

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Intellectual_Savnot » February 26th, 2019, 2:00 pm

Hol' up, BigBango , understanding non informational ANYTHING doesn't even make sense, that is just a straight up fallacy. I really hope you can take a moment to consider this, I don't want to have to write a whole page talking about how you can't understand something without being informed....

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by The Beast » February 27th, 2019, 1:16 pm

In the scope of human nature, I am the result of information encoded in the DNA or as it was described originally: ‘the principle of transformation’. So, in this context, reality is imputed into the DNA and output as a transformative action. In the case of a rock, reality is imputed into its essence. That is what exists, or it exists. What is-not could only exist as imagination of the transformative action and it is stored within the structure created by the DNA. It is also stored in secondary devices created by the transformative action. In this context, information can be created by the transformative action and stored in the DNA as the Evolution or in secondary devices as opinions and theories… and beliefs that can be use in future transformations of the DNA. Bottom line: Reality/information created the transformative action. The transformative action inputs reality/information and produces reality or mini-reality if we considered previous allusions at its size. The transformative action can make reality what previously was imagination. We are favored (over the rocks that suffer decay over millennia) to use change. As for the many variables of reality, we leave this to the pondering… this pondering could be non-informational if it is forgotten or not as it travels as a microwave towards the infinite as information that does not exist or it exist because we say so.

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » February 28th, 2019, 6:53 am

Belindi wrote:
December 1st, 2018, 4:22 pm
Gertie, I don't believe in Free Will which I believe is an invention by those, typically priests and Conservative politicians, who would have us believe that people are the causes of their own misfortunes. Belief in Free Will is thus politically right wing.
Well, it's not their fault they're right wing.

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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BelieveNothing » May 16th, 2019, 9:34 pm

ThomasHobbes wrote:
October 7th, 2018, 5:31 am
Show an example where "information" might have been transmitted or preserved without a physical substrate, and I'll consider the question as a serious one.

Even the slightest suggestion of a scintilla of a possibility that information does not need a physical presence......
just a suggestion..

consider the possibility that everything is merely an idea in god's mind. Would you then have to class god as a substrate?
Reality is not all in your mind.

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