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III. Ecosmos: A Fertile, Habitable, Solar-Bioplanet Lifescape

C. The Information Computation Turn

Nicolis, Gregoire and Vasileios Basios, eds. Chaos, Information Processing and Paradoxical Games. Singapore: World Scientific, 2015. A collection in remembrance of the John Nicolis, a University of Patras professor and pioneer complex systems theorist. Chapters include Fractal Parameter Space of Lorenz-like Attractors (Tingli Xing, et al), Historical Contingency in Controlled Evolution (Peter Schuster), and Long Range Order and Fractality in the Structure and Organization of Eukaryotic Genomes (Dimitris Polychronopoulos, et al).

Nunez, Paul. Brain, Mind, and the Structure of Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Reviewed more in Current Vistas, a good case for our imminent, imperative revolution to a cognizant and informed genesis cosmos.

Oller, John. The Antithesis of Entropy: Biosemiotic Communication from Genetics to Human Language with Special Emphasis on the Immune Systems. Entropy. 12/4, 2010. In a journal that actually serves as a venue for progressive vistas, the University of Louisiana medical linguist expounds at length on waxing perceptions of an innate, informational organization that which works to wind the universe up, as opposed to an inevitable wearing out.

Overman, Dean. A Case for the Existence of God. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009. I realize this is not “science,” the author is a scholarly lawyer, but it does provide a heuristic exercise. After dipping into quantum physics, a proposal is made that information indeed ought to be seen as foundational as a way to counter a materialist atheism.

The standard interpretation of the quantum world is based in information as the irreducible seed of the universe and all physical existence; such an interpretation is inconsistent with a strict reductionist materialism. (85)

Padmanabhan, Thanu and Hamsa Padmanabhan. Cosmic Information, the Cosmological Constant and the Amplitude of Primordial Perturbations. arXiv:1703.06144. A father-daughter team of a Pune University, India, theoretical physicist, and an ETH Zurich post-doctoral cosmologist contribute to realizations of an informational quality as the fundamental, distinctive essence and arbiter of physical evolutionary spacetimematter.

A unique feature of gravity is its ability to control the information accessible to any specific observer. We quantify the notion of cosmic information ('CosmIn') for an eternal observer in the universe. Demanding the finiteness of CosmIn requires the universe to have a late-time accelerated expansion. Combining the introduction of CosmIn with generic features of the quantum structure of spacetime (e.g., the holographic principle), we present a holistic model for cosmology. We show that (i) the numerical value of the cosmological constant, as well as (ii) the amplitude of the primordial, scale invariant, perturbation spectrum can be determined in terms of a single free parameter, which specifies the energy scale at which the universe makes a transition from a pre-geometric phase to the classical phase. For a specific value of the parameter, we obtain the correct results for both (i) and (ii). This formalism also shows that the quantum gravitational information content of spacetime can be tested using precision cosmology. (Abstract)

Guided Self-Organisation. www.prokopenko.net/IDSO. These quotes, c. 2010, are from the author’s web postings, a Principal Research Scientist for Information and Communication Technologies at CSIRO, Sydney, Australia. They pose another instance of budding efforts to articulate and understand what is going on, whereof it seems such an informational feature is a crucial clue.

Information-Driven Self-Organisation (IDSO) is a specific instance of GSO, where the guidance places constraints on information dynamics. Many evolutionary and self-organisation pressures can be characterised information-theoretically not only because it's an approximation useful in designing biologically-inspired systems, but also because numerous optimal structures evolve/self-organise in nature when information transfer within certain channels is maximised - i.e., evolution operates at a certain error threshold.

The strong IDSO view maintains that if such "lingua franca" is possible then it is likely that the evolution/self-organisation (and eventually human designers) discover it, and put to use. According to this view, maximization of information transfer through certain channels is one of the main evolutionary pressures.

Roederer, Juan. Information and its Role in Nature. Berlin: Springer, 2005. A volume in the Springer Frontiers Collection which considers the many aspects of a programmatic self-organization of life and complexity. The quote is from its web page. And how might we appreciate such a quality as genetic in kind? For a 2016 update by the University of Alaska geophysicist see Pragmatic Information in Biology and Physics in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A (374/2063, 2016).

Information and Its Role in Nature presents an in-depth interdisciplinary discussion of the concept of information and its role in the control of natural processes. After a brief review of classical and quantum information theory, the author addresses numerous central questions, including: Is information reducible to the laws of physics and chemistry? Does the Universe, in its evolution, constantly generate new information? Or are information and information-processing exclusive attributes of living systems, related to the very definition of life? If so, what is the role of information in classical and quantum physics? In what ways does information-processing in the human brain bring about self-consciousness?

Roederer, Juan. When and Where did Information First Appear in the Universe? Seckbach, Joseph and Eitan Rubin, eds. The New Avenues in Bioinformatics. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic, 2004. An example of how researchers are trying to fathom an endemic informational activity. To this geophysicist, information is a real quality which emerges gradually as the physical universe grows more complex. But it is not “pre-existing,” nor is evolution goal-directed or purposeful. So a confusion of terms and interpretations persists.

Rose, S. P. R. Communication: From Neurons to People; From Present to Future. Biochemical Society Transactions. 31/1, 2003. On the significance of information and signaling as a salient organizing factor at every level of the biological hierarchy from microbes to societies.

Rovelli, Carlo. Relative Information. www.edge.org/response-detail/27074. An answer to the 2017 annual question posted by John Brockman’s Edge website by the Aix-Marseille University physicist and author. We note because it evinces a shift by a leading theorist to recognize material reality as fundamentally distinguished by an informational content and conveyance. For a sample of other responses: Networks Sheizaf Rafaeli, Complementarity Frank Wilczek, Non-ergodic Stuart Kauffman, Reciprocal Altruism Margaret Levi, Common Sense Jared Diamond, Parallel Universes of Quantum Mechanics Frank Tipler, Power Law Luca de Biase, The Anthropocene Jennifer Jacquet, DNA George Church, Included Middle Melanie Swan, The Big Bounce Paul Steinhardt, and Cumulative Culture Cristine Legare.

Since the world is a knit tangle of interacting events, it teams with relative information. Twenty-four centuries ago Democritus suggested that the atoms are “like the letters of the alphabet”: There are only twenty or so letters but, as he puts it, “It is possible for them to combine in diverse modes, in order to produce comedies or tragedies, ridiculous stories or epic poems.” So is nature: Few atoms combine to generate the phantasmagoric variety of reality. But the analogy is deeper: The atoms are like an alphabet because the way in which they are arranged is always correlated with the way other atoms are arranged. Sets of atoms carry information. What occurs in the atoms of your brain is not any more independent from what is happening in the atoms of mine: we communicate. The world isn’t just a mass of colliding atoms; it is also a web of correlations between sets of atoms, a network of reciprocal physical information between physical systems. (Rovelli edited excerpt)

Rovelli, Carlo. Relative Information at the Foundation of Physics. Aguirre, Anthony, et al, eds. It From Bit or Bit From It?: On Physics and Information. Berlin: Springer, 2015. A prize winner in this 2013 Foundational Question Institute essay contest by the Centre de Physique Theorique, Marseille, physicist and philosopher. In just a few pages are woven a profound natural synthesis that joins discrete atomic and integrative network phases by way of their content and conveyance of information. By this perception, it is worth notice that the physical universe to us emergence becomes understood in textual, narrative terms.

In fact, Democritus's idea was more subtle than the fact that everything is just atoms. Democritus says that three features are relevant about the atoms: the shape of each individual atom, the order in which they are disposed, and their orientation in the structure. And Democritus uses then a powerful metaphor: like twenty letters of an alphabet can be combined in innumerable manners to give rise to comedies or tragedies, similarly the atoms can be combined in innumerable manners to give rise to the innumerable phenomena of the world. (2)

This is why, I think, from the basis of genetics, to the foundation of quantum mechanics, to the basis of thermodynamics, all the way to sociology and to quantum gravity, it appears that the notion of information has a pervasive and unifying role. The world is not just a blind wind of atoms, or generally covariant quantum fields. It is also the infinite game of mirrors reflecting one another formed by the correlations among the structures formed by the elementary objects. To go back to Democritus metaphor: atoms are like an alphabet, but an immense alphabet so rich to be capable of reading itself and thinking itself. (3)

Sebeok, Thomas. Global Semiotics. Rauch, I. and G. Carr, eds. Semiotics Around the World. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1997. The leading thinker in the field finds life to be most distinguished by a ‘semiosis’ manifest in its various genetic, immune, metabolic and neural codes.

If the universe is perused with signs, is there a cosmic ‘semiophysics’ concerned with a broader quest for significant forms, a general theory of intelligibility transcending life? (118)

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