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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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Earth Life Emerge
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III. Ecosmos: A Fertile, Habitable, Solar-Bioplanet Lifescape

C. The Information Computation Turn

Crofts, Antony. Life, Information, Entropy, and Time. Complexity. 13/1, 2007. A University of Illinois biochemist attempts to expand the philosophical envelope of thermodynamic thinking in the 21st century to include an inherent semantic essence. This genotype-like quality is seen to infuse and distinguish nature as it manifestly ascends with evolution’s intricate phenotype. However in its passage, termed a ‘chronognosis,’ the immaterial message or meanings do not expend a thermodynamic budget, i.e. increase entropy. By way of a thought through argument, akin to Alwyn Scott’s The Nonlinear Universe, a novel appreciation of Bergson’s ‘elan vital’ can be reintroduced. At the present time, as humankind coalesces an extra-somatic global intelligence, a ‘supra-phenotypical’ phase can lately be discerned. But Crofts holds to the tacit view that these goings on occur as ‘machinery.’ The grand step or leap, which this nascent worldwide mind is making to admit an obvious organic genesis, is not taken.

Cuffaro, Michael and Samuel Fletcher. Physical Perspectives on Computation, Computational Perspectives on Physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. As the title implies, this wide-ranging, authoritative collection covers the on-going cross-synthesis of physical, condensed matter, and quantum phenomena with an algorithmic-informational basis. As this fertile merger proceeds, an epic revolution appears to be coming to fruition in our collaborative, worldwide midst. To wit, it may be possible to at last aver, as long intimated, that this cosmic and Earthly existence is distinguished by a double, generative dimension. Typical chapters are Ontic Pancomputationalism by Gualtiero Piccinini and Neal Anderson, On Characterizing Physical Evolution as Information Processing by Owen Maroney and Christopher Timpson, and The Natural Science of Computation by Dominic Horsman, et al. An Abstract for Quantum Theory as a Principle Theory by Adam Koberinski and Markus Mueller is appended next.

We give a condensed and accessible summary of a recent derivation of quantum theory from information-theoretic principles, and use it to study the consequences of this and other reconstructions for our conceptual understanding of the quantum world. Since these principles are to a large extent expressed in computational terminology, we argue that the hypothesis of "physics as computation", if suitably interpreted, attains surprising explanatory power. Similarly as Jeffrey Bub and others, we conclude that quantum theory should be understood as a "principle theory of information", and we regard this view as a partial interpretation of quantum theory. (AK & MM Abstract)

D’Ariano, Giacomo Mauro. Physics Without Physics: The Power of Information-Theoretical Principles. International Journal of Theoretical Physics. 56/1, 2017. In a special Quantum Relativity issue in honor of David Finkelstein (1929-2016) the innovative Georgia Tech theorist and once editor of this journal, the University of Pavia physicist (search) advances a paradigm shift from an earlier particulate phase to rightly include nature’s computational creativity, a revolution that DF long advocated. Something is in the air, and in the cosmos, due to realizations of a universe to human circuitous course by way of various “bit to it” digital program operations. Along with papers by Stephon Alexander, Lee Smolin, Heinrich Saller, and others is The Life Machine: A Quantum Metaphor for Living Matter by Mario Rasetti.

David Finkelstein was very fond of the new information-theoretic paradigm of physics advocated by John Archibald Wheeler and Richard Feynman. Only recently, however, the paradigm has concretely shown its full power, with the derivation of quantum theory and of free quantum field theory from informational principles. The paradigm has opened for the first time the possibility of avoiding physical primitives in the axioms of the physical theory, allowing a refoundation of the whole physics over logically solid grounds. In addition to such methodological value, the new information-theoretic derivation of quantum field theory is particularly interesting for establishing a theoretical framework for quantum gravity, with the idea of obtaining gravity itself as emergent from the quantum information processing, as also suggested by the role played by information in the holographic principle. (Abstract)

Davies, Paul. The Demon in the Machine: How Hidden Webs of Information are Solving the Mystery of Life. London: Allen Lane, 2019. The British physicist and popular author is now at Arizona State University as director of the BEYOND Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. This latest volume since 2010 draws upon collegial projects and papers, plus meetings with many co-investigators such as Gregory Chaitin, Stuart Kauffman, Steven Benner, David Chalmers to Lee Cronin, Philip Ball, Giulio Tononi, Michael Levin, and more so to range from cosmos to consciousness. The result is a clearest glimpse to date of a 21st century integral reunion of biology and physics, human and universe, via a missing generative, informative principle.

At the outset, two main predecessors are James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) whose familiar demon of sorts served as an ordering agency and Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961, (search) who in his 1943 What is Life? held that some “source code” must be in active effect. At the cusp of 2020, as this site tries to report, a worldwise cumulative intelligence (which is noted (102) in coherent groupings) seems to be coming altogether into a credible synthesis. In regard, the work joins the frontiers of evolutionary creativity, complex self-organization, algorithmic computation, network theory, integrative consciousness, morphogenesis, quantum biology, and further afield. As the second quote says, while olden material physics does not show signs of life, if such a bevy of novel principles is added to cosmic nature, it increasingly reveals an organic essence and human persons whom are indeed written in.

A lot of the ideas I present here originate with my colleague Sara Walker at ASU who has greatly influenced my thinking over the past five years. Sara shares my enthusiasm for seeking a grand unified theory of physics and biology organized around the concept of information. “Life is the next great frontier of physics” she declares. (2)

There is no evidence that the known laws of physics are rigged in favor of life. But what about the new informational laws of the sort I am conjecturing here? My hunch is that would not be so specific as to foreshadow biology as such, but they might favor a broader class of complex information managing systems of which life as we know it would be a striking representative. It’s an uplifting though that the laws of the universe might be intrinsically bio-friendly in this general manner. If the emergence of life, and perhaps mind, are etched into the underlying lawfulness of nature, it would bestow upon our existence as living, thinking beings a type of cosmic-level meaning. (217)

Davies, Paul and Niels Gregersen, eds. Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Another prescient volume from a Templeton conference whose History, Physics, Biology, Philosophy and Theology sections provide a good entry to a waxing 21st century shift from matter-energy only to include, once again, a primacy of Logos word and creative content. In addition to the editors, contributors include Ernan McMullin, Philip Clayton, Seth Lloyd, John Maynard Smith, Terrence Deacon, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Holmes Rolston, Keith Ward, John Haught. But 18 men in all, surely closer to truth but still constrained by computer and machine analogues. For some entries, Paul Davies’ “Universe from Bit” draws on John Archibald Wheeler’s self-observing and selecting reality, which is gaining currency. Biochemist and theologian Arthur Peacocke finds the new complexity sciences to provide scientific support for a “panentheistism” that reveals both an active transcendence and fertile immanence.

Impressive evidence for the naturalistic view of language seems to be found in the language-like arrangement of genetic information. Thus, as is well known, the genetic alphabet is grouped in higher-order informational units, which in genetic handwriting take over the functions of words, sentences, and so forth. And, like human language, genetic information has a hierarchical structure, which is unfolded in a complex feedback mechanism – a process that shows all the properties of a communication process between the genome and its physical context. (Brend-Olaf Kuppers, 175)

De Castro, Leandro Nunes. Fundamentals of Natural Computing. Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall/CRC, 2006. A 650 page compendium by a Catholic University of Santos, Brazil, computer scientist which provides a good overview of attempts to limn from a greater creative nature its broad repertoire of computational processes, so as to avail and continue in computer designs. Our interest is to then note what kind of “nature” is assumed, which de Castro expands beyond Darwinian evolutionary algorithms. General Concepts are thus drawn from the complexity sciences such Agents, Interactivity, Connectivity, Self-Organization, Emergence, and onto Fractal Geometry. In regard, examples in genetic, neural and immune systems along with swarm intelligence, artificial life, and quantum phenomena are inclusively reviewed. By these lights, a nonlinear, self-organizing universe is engaged, but without yet recognizing this represents a significant shift and discovery.

Deutsch, David. The Fabric of Reality. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1997. A work of physics and philosophy which finds the central character and measure of the universe to be an increase in relative knowledge as lately embodied in intelligent human beings. This perception, based on four strands of quantum theory, evolution, epistemology and computation, goes on to join life as “knowledge-bearing matter” with the developmental cosmos.

Deutsch, David. The Beginning of Infinity. New York: Penguin, 2012. Some 15 years after The Fabric of Reality, in the midst of his Constructor theory work, the Oxford University polymath physicist offers a unique, engaging meditation upon our awesome reality, aided by chapter summaries. To wit, the objective physical world does contain real knowledge which is amenable to human discovery. In regard peoples are “universal constructors” thus meant to learn and continue the project, with a true “anthropocentric” identity. And David does not disappoint with quanta and multiverse pyrotechnics, akin to Max Tegmark.

In this important new book, David Deutsch, an award-winning pioneer in the field of quantum computation, argues that explanations have a fundamental place in the universe. They have unlimited scope and power to cause change, and the quest to improve them is the basic regulating principle not only of science but of all successful human endeavor. This stream of ever improving explanations has infinite reach, according to Deutsch: we are subject only to the laws of physics, and they impose no upper boundary to what we can eventually understand, control, and achieve. In his previous book, The Fabric of Reality, Deutsch describe the four deepest strands of existing knowledge-the theories of evolution, quantum physics, knowledge, and computation-arguing jointly they reveal a unified fabric of reality. In this new book, he applies that worldview to a wide range of issues and unsolved problems, from creativity and free will to the origin and future of the human species. (Publisher)

In this book I argue that all progress, both theoretical and practical has resulted from a single human activity: the quest is uniquely human, its effectiveness is also a fundamental fact about reality at the most impersonal, cosmic level – namely that it conforms to universal laws of nature that are indeed good explanations. This simple relationship between the cosmic and the human is a hint of a central role of people in the cosmic scheme of things. (vii)

Deutsch, David and Chiara Marletto. Constructor Theory of Information. arXiv:1405.5563. The Oxford University, Center for Quantum Computation, theorist is joined by an Oxford condensed matter physicist to enter a latest view upon a quantum universe better understood by way of primal, emergent, ever reiterated programs. To gloss, natural meta-laws do indeed exist which as they run serve to sequentially generate (construct) universe and now observant, participator human. The project website constructortheory.org cites an earlier version (search) and popular articles. All of which begs translation.

We present a theory of information expressed solely in terms of which transformations of physical systems are possible and which are impossible - i.e. in constructor-theoretic terms. Although it includes conjectured laws of physics that are directly about information, independently of the details of particular physical instantiations, it does not regard information as an a priori mathematical or logical concept, but as something whose nature and properties are determined by the laws of physics alone. It does not suffer from the circularity at the foundations of existing information theory (namely that information and distinguishability are each defined in terms of the other). It explains the relationship between classical and quantum information, and reveals the single, constructor-theoretic property underlying the most distinctive phenomena associated with the latter, including the lack of in-principle distinguishability of some states, the impossibility of cloning, the existence of pairs of variables that cannot simultaneously have sharp values, the fact that measurement processes can be both deterministic and unpredictable, the irreducible perturbation caused by measurement, and entanglement (locally inaccessible information). (Abstract)

Diaz Nafria, Jose and Rainer Zimmermann. Emergence and Evolution of Meaning: The General Definition of Information (GDI) Revisiting Program. Information. 3/472, 4/240, 2013. Published as Part I: The Progressive Perspective: Top-down, and Part II: The Regressive Perspective: Bottom-up, University of Leon, Spain, and Munich University of Applied Sciences engineers (Google each for more credits and papers) contribute to this mostly European project to advance theoretical understandings of a cumulative, significant knowledge as a prime natural quality. With such a properly explained physical basis, an evolutionary emergence from a cosmic origin to human societies can be defined as a progressive, biosemiotic codification of its meaningful, edifying content. That is, in translation, are we simply trying to say as if a parents to children genetic code?

In this second part of our inquiry into the emergence and evolution of meaning, the category of meaning is explored from the manifestation of reality in its corresponding level of interaction towards the interpretation of such reality (the first part deals correspondingly with an appropriate top-down approach). Based on the physical constraints of manifestation through electromagnetic waves, which constitutes the base of animal vision, we analyze the limits of the meaning-offer of such a manifestation, which allows us, on the one hand, to compare the efficiency of natural evolution in the reception of such meaning-offers; on the other hand, to analyze the conditions of developing agency able to acknowledge the reality underlying its manifestation. (Abstract, Part II)

In this first part of the paper, the category of meaning is traced starting from the origin of the Universe itself as well as its very grounding in pre-geometry (the second part deals with an appropriate bottom-up approach). In contrast to many former approaches in the theories of information and also in biosemiotics, we will show that the forms of meaning emerge simultaneously (alongside) with information and energy. (Abstract, Part I) Upon these new insights in physics, energy and information might be regarded as two aspects of a same underlying primordial structure of the world, which does not imply a reduction of beings to its physicals constituents, but an attempt to give an account of the emergence of irreducible beings throughout the ladder of complexity in a progressive perspective—in chemical structures, in organisms, in cognition, in consciousness, in societies. (Part I, 474)

Dodig Crnkovic, Gordana. Alan Turing’s Legacy: Info-Computational Philosophy of Nature. www.idt.mdh.se/~gdc/work/cie-2012-dodig-8.pdf. As the presentation by the Serbian-Swedish philosopher physicist to the premier “How the World Computes” Turing Centenary Conference, June 2012, at the University of Cambridge. The essay is accessible online at the above speaker’s website. Our certain interest, likewise for Gennaro Auletta, is the allusion that such a “universe as informational structure” gets closer to fulfilling a famously prophesized mathematical book of nature. Such a natural scripture, finally “genetic” in its generative kind, is imperative to right and guide this climatic and climactic century.

Alan Turing’s pioneering work on computability, and his ideas on morphological computing support Andrew Hodges view of Turing as a natural philosopher. Turing’s natural philosophy differs importantly from Galileo’s view that the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics (The Assayer, 1623). Computing is more than a language of nature as computation produces real time behaviors. This article presents the framework of Natural Infocomputationalism as a contemporary natural philosophy that builds on the legacy of Turings computationalism. (Abstract)

It presents a framework for the development of a unified approach to nature, with common interpretation of inanimate nature as well as living organisms and their social networks. Computing is information processing that drives all the changes on different levels of organization of information and can be understood as morphological computing on data sets pertinent to informational structures. The use of info-computational conceptualizations, models and tools makes possible for the first time in history the study of complex self-organizing adaptive systems, including basic characteristics and functions of living systems, intelligence, and cognition. (Abstract)

Dodig Crnkovic, Gordana. Physical Computation as Dynamics of Form that Glues Everything Together. Information. Online April 26, 2012. The “Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute” website is www.mdpi.com/journal/information. The Malardalen University, Sweden, philosophical physicist is a leading theorist and articulator of the Information-Computation turn, for which this paper achieves a succinct overview. Along with a parallel effort to reconceive quantum realms, natural reality is no longer a one-dimension materialism, but possesses an implicate depth of “protoinformation networks.” By a further integration of complex systems science, an evolutionary cosmos is seen to compute, iterate and organize itself into nested emergent, cognitive scales. But terminologies do conflate, a section heading is: Gluing it all Together: Information/Computation – Matter/Energy – Structure/process in an Organic Whole. But we seem closer to truth, a living genesis with its own procreative code. For a 2015 update see The Architecture of Mind as a Network of Networks of Natural Computational Processes in the online journal Philosophies (1/111).

The framework is proposed where matter can be seen as related to energy in a way structure relates to process and information relates to computation. In this scheme matter corresponds to a structure, which corresponds to information. Energy corresponds to the ability to carry out a process, which corresponds to computation. The relationship between each two complementary parts of each dichotomous pair (matter/energy, structure/process, information/computation) are analogous to the relationship between being and becoming, where being is the persistence of an existing structure while becoming is the emergence of a new structure through the process of interactions. (Abstract, 204)

Conceptualizing the physical world as an intricate tapestry of protoinformation networks evolving through processes of natural computation helps to make more coherent models of nature, connecting non-living and living worlds. It presents a suitable basis for incorporating current developments in understanding of biological/cognitive/social systems as generated by complexification of physicochemical processes through self-organization of molecules into dynamic adaptive complex systems by morphogenesis, adaptation and learning. (Abstract, 204)

However, we know from the accumulated common experience of humanity that the world exists and is remarkably stable on human time scales. That is why we are able to reproduce physical experiments under given conditions. The stability of the world governed by “natural laws” is the basis for every epistemology and indeed a precondition for life as well. What we call “matter” appears to be a recursive structure of the Russian dolls down to elementary particles. (206)

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