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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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Gertie
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Joined: January 7th, 2015, 7:09 am

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Gertie » November 24th, 2018, 10:35 am

Thanks BB
Generally speaking, but still couched in physical theory, information has been shown to be equivalent to energy. In that sense it is a thing in itself and not just a mental abstraction like an "adjective". However I will try to reveal how a dual aspect ontology can blur our understanding about the necessity of information to be encoded in a "physical substrate".

The reason we can equate information with energy is that it has been shown that any pattern/mathematical in matter can be shown to be convertible to work. In thermodynamics, information then can represent a dynamic system that is equivalent to entropy. Indeed there is confirmation that the 2nd law of thermodynamics can be based simply on the system's informational content. When a system loses encoded information its entropy increases.
I.m wondering if this position isn't begging the question.

If you're suggesting for example that Information Patterns (nouns, not adjectives) themselves are Somethings which have eg physical causal properties (such as entropy), but only when embedded in physical substrates... Then we have an explanation of physical laws for that already. So what IS this extra Information-Something (noun) and why is it required? It seems superfluous doesn't it?

Unless it's part of some more fundamental explanation below that of Physics, of Stuff and Fields and Forces? Which is possible, but speculative.

BigBango
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 24th, 2018, 3:46 pm

Gertie wrote:
November 24th, 2018, 10:35 am
Thanks BB
Generally speaking, but still couched in physical theory, information has been shown to be equivalent to energy. In that sense it is a thing in itself and not just a mental abstraction like an "adjective". However I will try to reveal how a dual aspect ontology can blur our understanding about the necessity of information to be encoded in a "physical substrate".

The reason we can equate information with energy is that it has been shown that any pattern/mathematical in matter can be shown to be convertible to work. In thermodynamics, information then can represent a dynamic system that is equivalent to entropy. Indeed there is confirmation that the 2nd law of thermodynamics can be based simply on the system's informational content. When a system loses encoded information its entropy increases.
I.m wondering if this position isn't begging the question.

If you're suggesting for example that Information Patterns (nouns, not adjectives) themselves are Somethings which have eg physical causal properties (such as entropy), but only when embedded in physical substrates... Then we have an explanation of physical laws for that already. So what IS this extra Information-Something (noun) and why is it required? It seems superfluous doesn't it?

Unless it's part of some more fundamental explanation below that of Physics, of Stuff and Fields and Forces? Which is possible, but speculative.
As usual you go right to the point.

Maybe it would help if I were more transparent as to my motives for this discussion. First of all, I do have my own wild speculative ideas that Greta summarizes as, at best, possibly being a blockbuster S.F. movie like the Matrix. I have posted about this in "The Fractal Generation of the Universe" Seems like only Wayne92587 was willing to engage me. So my strategy has changed and now I am trying to develop my position gradually by pointing out inconsistencies in current metaphysical theory.

I am currently attacking both the physical monists and the dual aspect theorists. I side mainly with the dual aspect theories, however there is a fault that most are guilty of that leads to the endless butting of heads with the physicalists.

The fault I am speaking of with the dual aspect theorists, and I am including Tamminen who I respect very much. is that the "mental" aspect has no nature at all that is accessible to science. I am afraid that this is a result of our academic philosophers having given over absolutely the task of making any new speculative metaphysical theories to science. At the same time, it just gives a free pass to scientists to care more about getting funding than to assert very speculative new theories.

The problem the physical monists have is accounting for the existence of experiential states. There is no question that "how we feel/folk psychology" about existence is informational in nature. The physicalist hopes he will eventually discover how that information is encoded in the familiar confines of our neurological structures.

Hence the physicalist needs to be called to task to explicate those neurological facts and not just wait for emergence to save his butt.

The dual aspect theorist needs to stop hiding behind analytical philosophy and tell science that there must be a "finer" physicality that constitutes part of what he has been calling the mental aspect or "subject".

Tamminen
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Tamminen » November 24th, 2018, 4:48 pm

BigBango wrote:
November 24th, 2018, 3:46 pm
The dual aspect theorist needs to stop hiding behind analytical philosophy and tell science that there must be a "finer" physicality that constitutes part of what he has been calling the mental aspect or "subject".
Whether I am a dual aspect theorist or not, you can never make me call the subject "a finer physicality". All physicality is transcendent whereas the subject is pure immanence, i.e. transcendental, which is the exact opposite of transcendence. In spite of the correlations between those two levels of being we must not confuse them and try to bring subjectivity under the unifying concept of physicality or something neutral. They are separate and will stay such. And this is not appealing to ignorance but something we can say in advance and a priori.

BigBango
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 24th, 2018, 5:47 pm

I guess Tamminen I wasn't clear. I am not saying the "subject" or mental aspect is just really a finer physicality. What I am trying to say is that the subject operates through a finer physicality than does the physicalists or science acknowledge. Leibniz said that the mental/monads are indivisible and the physical is infinitely divisible. However, we never find the mental/monads anywhere except within physical substance. If we are going to load up the subject with experiential states that are informational then we must hypothesize a finer physicality within which the subject materializes its experience.

Tamminen
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Tamminen » November 25th, 2018, 4:06 am

BigBango wrote:
November 24th, 2018, 5:47 pm
I guess Tamminen I wasn't clear. I am not saying the "subject" or mental aspect is just really a finer physicality. What I am trying to say is that the subject operates through a finer physicality than does the physicalists or science acknowledge. Leibniz said that the mental/monads are indivisible and the physical is infinitely divisible. However, we never find the mental/monads anywhere except within physical substance. If we are going to load up the subject with experiential states that are informational then we must hypothesize a finer physicality within which the subject materializes its experience.
We do not need a "finer physicality". The one we have fulfills its task of being the material basis of the concrete being of the subject. But the relationship between consciousness and its material basis needs some phenomenological research, and I guess it is not going to be an easy task.

BigBango
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 25th, 2018, 6:46 am

Tamminen wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 4:06 am
BigBango wrote:
November 24th, 2018, 5:47 pm
I guess Tamminen I wasn't clear. I am not saying the "subject" or mental aspect is just really a finer physicality. What I am trying to say is that the subject operates through a finer physicality than does the physicalists or science acknowledge. Leibniz said that the mental/monads are indivisible and the physical is infinitely divisible. However, we never find the mental/monads anywhere except within physical substance. If we are going to load up the subject with experiential states that are informational then we must hypothesize a finer physicality within which the subject materializes its experience.
We do not need a "finer physicality". The one we have fulfills its task of being the material basis of the concrete being of the subject. But the relationship between consciousness and its material basis needs some phenomenological research, and I guess it is not going to be an easy task.
That is the point I am trying to make. The relationship between consciousness and its material basis requires a finer physicality to account for the fact of its experiential states.

Belindi
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Belindi » November 25th, 2018, 8:47 am

Big Bango, thanks for your explanation. However I cannot see how the three sorts of monism i.e. physicalist, idealist, and dual aspect(neutral) together and separately do not account for matter and perceptions of matter.

I regret that your first paragraph is more than I can understand as I have not read the philsophers you mention.

I wonder if 'substrate' needs to be examined. For instance does 'substrate ' refer to psychological -developmental , historical, anthropological, or as I have been assuming ontological model?

Tamminen
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Tamminen » November 25th, 2018, 9:24 am

BigBango wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 6:46 am
That is the point I am trying to make. The relationship between consciousness and its material basis requires a finer physicality to account for the fact of its experiential states.
Maybe, but I would start by analyzing what an experience, for instance my perception of a tree, requires from the physical reality to be exactly this perception as it is experienced by me. The concept of information is perhaps the clue, as you suggest, but I would not start by trying to extend our theory of matter before we have even begun to make some phenomenological research on the basis of our current knowledge of physics and the relationship between its known phenomena and the phenomena of consciousness. What is your motive to bring the fractal structures into the picture? Besides, as I see it, it only leads to an infinite regress of explanations.

Gertie
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Gertie » November 25th, 2018, 7:56 pm

BB

I've read your ideas about fractals and previous civilisations, but the science/maths behind me even understanding them is beyond me I'm afraid, so I'll have to opt out of those discussions.

Here you just happened to bring up a personal bugbear of mine - they way people use the word 'information' as if it is an independantly existing...Something, which isn't really defined. I suspect that fuzziness can lead down alleys which would need more justification if using the term 'Information' didn't give a free pass. But I could be wrong, and simply be missing something.

But anyway!
''The fault I am speaking of with the dual aspect theorists, and I am including Tamminen who I respect very much. is that the "mental" aspect has no nature at all that is accessible to science. I am afraid that this is a result of our academic philosophers having given over absolutely the task of making any new speculative metaphysical theories to science. At the same time, it just gives a free pass to scientists to care more about getting funding than to assert very speculative new theories.''
Well I'd say it certainly seems like our current scientific toolkit and model aren't equipped to practically or conceptually address conscious experience. But then we've only very recently discovered QM for example, and are still grappling with that. Or there are clues which point to String Theory lying beneath QM. Such science might, as I think you're saying, provide a scientific (or 'physicalist' if you want to call such things that) finer-grained or more fundamental explanation. Maybe it will turn out a string vibrating in such n such a way will attune both the material and mental (neural correlation) or somesuch, who knows.

The problem is, without scientific theory and testing, all we have is observation of things like neural correlation, to speculate on. Hypotheses we don't know how test.

BigBango
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 6:15 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 25th, 2018, 10:20 pm

Gertie wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 7:56 pm

Here you just happened to bring up a personal bugbear of mine - they way people use the word 'information' as if it is an independantly existing...Something, which isn't really defined. I suspect that fuzziness can lead down alleys which would need more justification if using the term 'Information' didn't give a free pass. But I could be wrong, and simply be missing something.
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.

BigBango
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Joined: March 15th, 2018, 6:15 pm

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 26th, 2018, 9:16 pm

Tamminen wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 9:24 am
BigBango wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 6:46 am
That is the point I am trying to make. The relationship between consciousness and its material basis requires a finer physicality to account for the fact of its experiential states.
Maybe, but I would start by analyzing what an experience, for instance my perception of a tree, requires from the physical reality to be exactly this perception as it is experienced by me. The concept of information is perhaps the clue, as you suggest, but I would not start by trying to extend our theory of matter before we have even begun to make some phenomenological research on the basis of our current knowledge of physics and the relationship between its known phenomena and the phenomena of consciousness. What is your motive to bring the fractal structures into the picture? Besides, as I see it, it only leads to an infinite regress of explanations.
Tamminen, my background has included the programming of simulated neural networks to make character recognition of handwriting devices by Control Data Corp. That was years ago. However, my experience that I gained in that endeavor has remained with me into my retirement. What I can tell you, without overwhelming you with technical details, is that deeper fractal layers of simulation improve results. My point is that no matter how deep we simulated, there was no way to include the "subject", just deeper correlations.

My advice to you is that you need to begin the exploration of the emergence of consciousness with a richer paradigm. That is why I bring to your attention fractal levels of experience. Einstein needed to model the world with the geodesics of non-Euclidean geometry. If he did not do that he never would have collected the data that confirmed his model.

Personally, I have found that simulated fractal levels of consciousness seem to have roots in the world of busted galaxies that preceded the BB. But I will not press that point now.

BigBango
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by BigBango » November 26th, 2018, 11:44 pm

Tamminen, one other point, is the difference between a fractal structure and a Russian Doll structure, is that all levels of fractal structures are physically connected. If one pulled on a rivulet of a river it would pull on the whole structure. Likewise, if we pull on the fractal simulation of the cytoskeleton we pull on the whole network.

Tamminen
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Tamminen » 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.

Gertie
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Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Gertie » November 27th, 2018, 10:10 am

BB
BigBango wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 10:20 pm
Gertie wrote:
November 25th, 2018, 7:56 pm

Here you just happened to bring up a personal bugbear of mine - they way people use the word 'information' as if it is an independantly existing...Something, which isn't really defined. I suspect that fuzziness can lead down alleys which would need more justification if using the term 'Information' didn't give a free pass. But I could be wrong, and simply be missing something.
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.

Gertie
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Joined: January 7th, 2015, 7:09 am

Re: Does information need a physical substrate?

Post by Gertie » November 27th, 2018, 10:19 am

In a nutshell-

physical stuff and processes (Substrate) can apparently do what it does without introducing the concept of Information.

And only when consciousness is introduced does meaning and understanding come into the world, and the concept of Information is one of the ways we construct meaning and understanding.

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