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

C. The Information Computation Turn

Dodig Crnkovic, Gordana and Raffaela Giovagnoli. Computing Nature – A Network of Networks of Concurrent Information Processes. arXiv:1210.7784. Online October 2012, Marardalen University, Sweden and Pontifical Lateran University, Rome philosophers introduce a volume of papers from the August 2012 Alan Turing event “Symposium on Natural/Unconventional Computing,” held at the University of Birmingham. Select papers from this meeting, such as Philip Goyal, and Hector Zenil, et al, (search) are being published in the web journal Entropy in a collection with this title. These extended quotes again convey the welling movement.

This book is about nature considered as the totality of physical existence, the universe. By physical we mean all phenomena - objects and processes - that are possible to detect either directly by our senses or via instruments. Historically, there have been many ways of describing the universe (cosmic egg, cosmic tree, theistic universe, mechanistic universe) while a particularly prominent contemporary approach is computational universe. (1)

Within pancomputationalist framework, the whole universe computes its own next state from its current state. What causes different processes in the universe is the interaction between its parts or exchange of information. The universe is a result of evolution from the moment of big bang or some other primordial state, through the complexification of the relationships between its actors by computation as a process of changes of its informational structure. (2) Conceptualizing the physical world as a network of information networks evolving through processes of natural computation helps us to make more compact and coherent models of nature, connecting non-living and living worlds. It presents a suitable basis for incorporating current developments in understanding of biological, cognitive and social systems as generated by complexification of physicochemical processes through self-organization of molecules into dynamic adaptive complex systems by morphogenesis, adaptation and learning—all of which are understood as computation (information processing). (3)

It is evident that natural computing/ computing nature presents a new natural philosophy of generality and scope that largely exceed natural philosophy of Newton’s era, presented in his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. Natural computation brings us to the verge of a true paradigm shift in modeling, simulation and control of the physical world, and it remains to see how it will change our understanding of nature and especially living nature and humans, societies and ecologies. (19)

Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana. Biological Information as Natural Computation. Vallverdu, Jordi, ed. Thinking Machines and the Philosophy of Computer Science. Hershey, PA: Information Science Reference, 2010. The Malardalen University, Sweden, scholar with double doctorates in physics and philosophy well articulates this frontier melding of somatic life and semantic literacy, since living systems are said to be most defined by their prescriptive and communicative essence. But this intense paper, and the whole volume, seems to beg translation from its many abstractions. Could a simple shift from mechanism to organism be able to admit and realize nature’s parent to child genetic code? Please visit the author’s website for more writings, and her letter invitation as guest editor of a special issue on “Information and Energy/Matter” for the online journal Information.

The dynamics of natural systems, and particularly organic systems, specialized in selforganization and complexity management, presents a vast source of ideas for new approaches to computing, such as natural computing and its special case organic computing. Based on paninformationalism (understanding of all physical structures as informational) and pancomputationalism or natural computationalism (understanding of the dynamics of physical structures as computation) a new approach of info-computational naturalism emerges as a result of their synthesis. This includes naturalistic view of mind and hence naturalized epistemology based on evolution from inanimate to biological systems through the increase in complexity of informational structures by natural computation. (Abstract, 36)

Combining informational structures as the fabric of the universe and natural computation as its dynamics leads to the idea of info-computationalism (info-computationalist naturalism), the framework which builds on two fundamental concepts: information as a structure and computation as its dynamics. (37) Processes like selfassembly, developmental processes, gene regulation networks, protein-protein interaction networks, biological transport networks, and gene assembly in unicellular organisms are at present studied as information processing. Understanding of biological organisms as information processing systems is a part of understanding of the universe as a whole as an information processing computational structure. (40)

Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana. IS4SI 2017 Summit DIGITALISATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY.. Proceedings. 1/3, 2017. In this new MDPI online journal, a posting from an International Society for Information Studies conference held Gothenburg, Sweden in June at Chalmers University of Technology. Its subtitle is Embodied, Embedded, Networked, Empowered through Information, Computation & Cognition. The event occurred amongst interlinked conceptual societies and meetings which have arisen across Europe for this information/computation turn, some links are in this issue. A core group seems to circulate such as Wolfgang Hofkirchner, Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic (search 2017), Mark Burgin, Pedro Marijuan, Joseph Brenner, Kun Wu, Martin Schroeder, Luciano Floridi, Annette Grathoff, and others. This subject meeting was attended by presenters from China with a similar interest. Within topical sessions are such entries as Information and Intelligence in the Living Cell, Evolutionary Systems: A Manifesto, Morphological Computing and Cognitive Agency, Physical Information Systems, The Floating Island Project: Self-Organizing Complexity, Water Origin Theory and Existence Question, The Universe is an Information Ecosystem, Transhumanism, Information as a Morpho-Ontological Process, Spiritual Life Awakening, Narrative Realities and Optimal Entropy, and some 150 more imaginaries.

Meaning is embedded within, and defined by, stories: narratives and rhetoric. This workshop will explore the use of the language of information in the stories of the digitalised society in order to enhance understanding, both of society and of information. ‘Smart cities’, ‘big data’ and ‘the internet of things’ constitute perhaps the most obvious examples of such stories, offering somewhat utopian views of a society enhanced through their application. The articulation of such views engages with the phenomenon of information and a shared, tacit understanding of its nature in order to generate meaning, rhetoric and the narratives themselves; reflexively, there is a need to also consider the role of rhetoric and narrative in the shift to a digitalised or informational conception of society. (Overall Theme)

Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana. Nature as a Network of Morphological Infocomputational Processes for Cognitive Agents. European Physical Journal Special Topics. 226/181, 2017. In an Information from Physics to Social Science issue, the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, natural philosopher (search) continues her wise articulation of a universe to human trajectory defined by these title qualities. In addition to matter and energy, vital physical/quantum information structures need be included. The cosmic to culture episodic scale then self-organizes by way of agental entities in relational community as it gains cognizant knowledge. A computational basis alludes to an emergent self-configuration, optimization, and healing with its own “context-awareness.” Albeit in abstract terms, a translation to a phenomenal organic, cerebral development with an intrinsic, genetic-like program seems apparent.

This paper presents a view of nature as a network of infocomputational agents organized in a dynamical hierarchy of levels. It provides a framework for unification of currently disparate understandings of natural, formal, technical, behavioral and social phenomena based on information as a structure, differences in one system that cause the differences in another system, and computation as its dynamics, i.e. physical process of morphological change in the informational structure. (Abstract) Recasting physical, chemical, biological and cognitive processes into the common framework of morphological computation provides a unified approach to the evolution of matter and life in infocomputational networks of agents communicating with given “languages” corresponding to their level of organisation – from elementary particles, atoms, molecules, cells, organisms, societies and ecologies. (4)

If computation is understood as a physical process, if Nature computes with physical bodies as objects while physical laws are governing the process of computation then the computation necessarily appears on many different levels of organization in nature. Natural sciences provide such a layered view of Nature. One sort of computation processes will be found on the quantum-mechanical levels of elementary particles, atoms and molecules; yet another on the level of classical physics. On the organizational level of biology, different processes (computation, information processing) are going on in biological cells, tissues, organs, organisms, and ecosystems. Social interactions are governed by still another kind of communicative/interactive processes. In short, computation on a given level of organization is implementation of the laws that govern the interactions between different constituent parts. (10-11)

Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana and Mark Burgin, eds. Information and Computation: Essays on Scientific and Philosophical Understanding of Foundations of Information and Computation. Singapore: World Scientific, 2010. A substantial volume to date that braces this welling turn to and realization of a natural primacy of these properties and their conveyance. Leading players such as Soren Brier, Greg Chaitin, John Collier, Barry Cooper, Marvin Minsky, Aaron Sloman, and Hector Zenil discuss shifting from physical mechanism sans any motive agency to a textual cosmos which, in so many words, emerges into structural reality by virtue of algorithms, so as to compute itself into complex sentient beings. Chapters by the lead editor, and by Wolfgang Hofkirchner on self-organization, are noted elsewhere. In a phrase: “Information is related to knowledge and data as energy is related to matter.”

Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana and Raffaela Giovagnoli, eds. Representation and Reality in Humans, Other Living Organisms and Intelligent Machines. International: Springer Praxis, 2017. The Malardalen University, Sweden, and UC Berkeley philosopher editors gather papers from meetings and writings which try to engage and grasp this significant information/computation turn. For a chapter survey, try Abstraction and Representation in Living Organisms (search D. Horsman), The Information-Theoretic and Algorithmic Approach to Human, Animal, and Artificial Cognition, Being Aware of Rational Animals, The Quantum Field Theory Dual Paradigm in Fundamental Physics, and Reality Construction in Cognitive Agents through Processes of Info-computation (GD-C). See also the editors own chapter, and one by Dominic Horsman herein.

This book enriches our views on representation and deepens our understanding of its different aspects. It arises out of several years of dialog between the editors and the authors, an interdisciplinary team of highly experienced researchers, and it reflects the best contemporary view of representation and reality in humans, other living beings, and intelligent machines. Structured into parts on the cognitive, computational, natural sciences, philosophical, logical, and machine perspectives, a theme of the field and the book is building and presenting networks, and the editors hope that the contributed chapters will spur understanding and collaboration between researchers in domains such as computer science, philosophy, logic, systems theory, engineering, psychology, sociology, anthropology, neuroscience, linguistics, and synthetic biology. (Springer)

Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana and Vincent Muller. A Dialogue Concerning Two World Systems: Info-Computational vs. Mechanistic. Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana and Mark Burgin, eds. Information and Computation. Singapore: World Scientific, 2010. In this volume noted above, Malardalen University, Sweden, and Anatolia College, Greece, philosophers contrast an older Ptolemaic paradigm based on physical objects alone to a 21st century Copernican view whereof an informational source serves to “compute” its complex animation. Nature is thus akin to a computer whose “software programs,” as they run, generate emergent “hardware-like” phenomena. As one peruses this exercise, and the whole book, might we actually be trying to express a genesis universe with its own, iterative, parent to child genetic code, if only this metaphorical shift and translation could be made?

What we begin to see at present is a fundamentally new paradigm of not only sciences but even a more general paradigm of the universe, comparable in its radically novel approach with its historical predecessors the Mytho-poetical Universe and the Mechanistic Universe. We identify this new paradigm as Info-Computational Universe.

Living organisms are complex, goal-oriented autonomous information-processing systems with ability of self‐organization, self-reproduction (based on genetic information) and adaptation.

Dyson, George. Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe. New York: Pantheon Books, 2012. The science historian tells a well-researched, engaging story about the post World War II project at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, led by John von Neumann, to fulfill Alan Turing’s (1912-1954) imagination of a vast computational machine. With a cadre of leading scientists such as Robert Oppenheimer and Norbert Weiner, the endeavor became a race between nuclear weapons and knowledge gained from such a device to control them. (In a June Book TV interview the author mused that this has largely been achieved, but a greater danger may be a computer take over of civilization.)

A deeper origin and import is conveyed. Dyson rightly extends this mission back to Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) whose similar concept was to discern nature’s alphabetic secret by way of monads or “little minds,” a binary coding akin to Chinese hexagrams, which could program a universal calculator to reveal a palliative wisdom of worldly creation. A significant offshoot is recorded via a 1953 IAS member, biologist Nils Barricelli’s attempt to perceive life this way and to write an artificial genetic code. In regard, his effort sought a digital and analog way to create “symbio-organisms.” A March 26, 2012 posting on the Edge.org site by George Dyson, “A Universe of Self-Replicating Code,” comments on such a “digital biology” which is inferred to have a “cosmological” cast.

There are two kinds of creation myths: those where life arises out of the mud, and those where life falls from the sky. In this creation myth, computers arose from the mud, and code fell from the sky. (ix) Only the collective intelligence of computers could save us from the destructive powers of the (nuclear) weapons they had allowed us to invent. Turing’s model of universal computation was one-dimensional: a string of symbols encoded on a tape. Von Neumann’s implementation of Turing’s model was two dimensional: the address matrix underlying all computers in use today. The landscape is now three-dimensional, yet the entire Internet can still be viewed as a common tape shared by a multiple of Turing’s Universal Machines. (x)

Order codes constituted a fundamental replicative alphabet that diversified in association with the proliferation of different metabolic hosts. In time, successful and error free sequences of order codes formed into subroutines – the elementary units common to all programs, just as a fundamental alphabet of nucleotides is composed into strings of DNA, then interpreted as amino acids and assembled into proteins, and finally, many, many levels later, cells. (re Barricelli, 238)

Ebeling, Werner. Physical Basis of Information and the Relation to Entropy. European Physical Journal Special Topics. 226/161, 2017. In an Information from Physics to Social Science issue, the Humboldt University theorist (search) advances this revolutionary view that something more and deeper than “condensed matter physics,” his original field, is going on and distinguishes a dynamic creative cosmos. Five major aspects of Rolf Landauer’s information is physical, Manfred Eigen’s information processing is biological in nature, Konrad Zuse’s cosmic cellular automaton, J. A. Wheeler’s it-from-bit evolution, and new quantum phenomena are joined. A common theme is a perception of an active “underlying primordial structure” beyond material objects, which then engenders life’s emergent self-organization.

view differing between bound and free information. The quantitative physical aspects of information flow are given by flows of entropy, which are closely related to the reduction of uncertainty and the predictability of events. Free information is considered as a quantity, which has intrinsic non – physical components, and is originally created by selforganization and evolution. Bound and free information are both represented by a matter carrier but not as tight – bounded like mass or energy. Free information is connected with information – processing; it is introduced as a binary relation between a sender and a receiver, which may have different carriers, it is essentially characterized by symbolic representations. Processing free information is originally created by selforganization on the early earth and is connected with the origin of life, therefore it is always at least indirectly related to living systems. (Abstract)

Ensslin, Torsten, et al. The Physics of Information. Annalen der Physik. 531/3, 2019. An MPI Astrophysics theorist introduces a special Physics of Information issue in this European journal in print since 1799. Some 320 years later this distinctive quality, not evident until our 21st century, has become a primary feature of what can be known as physical reality. In regard, the lead paper is Information and the Reconstruction of Quantum Physics by Gregg Jaeger (herein), see also Information Theory for Fields by T. Ensslin, and Entropic Dynamics: Quantum Mechanics from Entropy and Information Geometry by Ariel Caticha.

Information is virtual. It can be carried by speech, an image, scratches on a stone, patterns in a photon field, the connections of neurons in our brains or even by the wavefunction of an electron. Information does not depend on the actual means of transmission. Information is physical. It needs to be sustained by a physical substrate which requires energy or work. Without a physical world, information can not be stored, processed, or transmitted. Actually information about the physical laws governing our Universe can be found everywhere and in everything. Could it then be that the real fundamental elements of this world are tiny bits of information? (1)

Farnsworth, Keith, et al. Living is Information Processing; from Molecules to Global Systems. arXiv:1210.5908. As the information-computation turn rises, this October 2012 posting by mathematical biologists Farnsworth and John Nelson, Queen’s University Belfast, and Carlos Gershenon, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, describes a temporally stratified cosmos suffused with algorithmic programs from physical to ecological scales. In this software/hardware, 21st century scenario, nested, autopoetic organisms are seen to iteratively compute and evolve themselves. Informative patterns arise “spontaneously” as they are “instantiated” in animate, somatic form. A “major evolutionary transitions” sequence is then laid out across biomolecules, proto-cells, prokaryotic cells, microbial colonies, eukaryotes, multicellular organisms, and ecological networks.

The paper merits extensive excerpts to convey its reach and import. To avail a natural philosophy, in contrast to an arid string multiverse nothingness, along with other contributions herein, a second, immaterial generative source is added once again in a novel way. But sprinkled metaphors of gene regulatory machinery, cybernetics, biosphere as a network computer, persist. We’re getting closer, but not yet able to imagine an innately organic uniVerse, where such formative phenomena could take on the guise and visage of a cosmic genetic code – original and independent, universally exemplified, lately breaking through as conscious knowledge, languagome, by an ordained human witness.

We extend the concept that life is an informational phenomenon, at every level of organization, from molecules to the global ecological system. According to this thesis: (a) living is information processing, in which memory is maintained by both molecular states and ecological states as well as the more obvious nucleic acid coding; (b) this information processing has one overall function - to perpetuate itself; and (c) the processing method is filtration (cognition) of, and synthesis of, information at lower levels to appear at higher levels in complex systems (emergence). We show how information patterns, are united by the creation of mutual context, generating persistent consequences, to result in ‘functional information’. This constructive process forms arbitrarily large complexes of information, the combined effects of which include the functions of life. Molecules and simple organisms have already been measured in terms of functional information content; we show how quantification may extended to each level of organization up to the ecological. In terms of a computer analogy, life is both the data and the program and its biochemical structure is the way the information is embodied. This idea supports the seamless integration of life at all scales with the physical universe. (Abstract)

Information is therefore not just stored in nucleotides: it is the whole biological system that embodies effective information, hence biocomplexity as a whole is the storage of effective information in living nature. (9) The total of global ecological processes may be interpreted as a network computer, whose input is the physical and chemical environment of the planet and the output is a computed adjustment of these to maintain equilibrium. Seen this way, life is a computer running a model of itself in order to control its interior state so as to perpetuate itself in a changeable environment. This view, which goes beyond cybernetic self-regulation to reveal autopoietic computation, is closely allied to a growing thermodynamic understanding of living processes in which energy accountancy is integrated with informational interpretations. (16)

The information perspective shows life to be a) continuous with the abiotic universe and b) the consequence of a spontaneous increase in complexity through repeated combination of formative patterns such that they give context and thence function to one-another. (17) Considering life as information processing (computation) where the subject of computation is life, we are faced with a ‘program’ running on itself, the function of which is to output itself. Such recursion is familiar and much exploited in computer science. It highlights the fact that for life, there is no distinction between the ‘machine’ and the program - both are information; they are the same information, ordering and re-ordering matter and energy so as to persist. It would not be right to think of life as a biochemical structure on which a program is run, because life is the program and the biochemical structure is its embodiment. This is why we say that information is not just in DNA, but is in the whole biological system. (17) Now that functional information content can be quantified at every level of life, we anticipate its use in further deepening our understanding of life and its place in the physical universe. (17)

Feistel, Rainer. Self-Organization of Symbolic Information. European Physical Journal Special Topics. Online December, 2016. The Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research physicist (search) continues his project since the 1980s, often with Werner Ebeling (search each), to achieve a theoretical explanation from cosmic structural, thermodynamic, and informational properties for life’s subsequent evolutionary emergence unto our retrospective human sapience. Into the mid 2010s a coherent scenario is becoming evident by way of innate, constant, self-organizing processes which result in a cumulative increase, storage, and practical veracity of knowledge. By this view a natural text-like narrative, as the quotes note, is seen to rise with and pass through organic development to our late articulation. By turns the physical universe gains a literary base, with which our linguistic intelligence can be connected and sourced. A further gloss might be to imagine a self-deciphering, reading, comprehending genesis, by way if its own genetic code, in order to commence our own future edition.

Information is encountered in two different appearances, in native form by arbitrary physical structures, or in symbolic form by coded sequences of letters or the like. The self-organised emergence of symbolic information from structural information is referred to as a ritualization transition. Occurring at some stage in evolutionary history, ritualization transitions have in common that after the crossover, arbitrary symbols are issued and recognized by information-processing devices, by transmitters and receivers in the sense of Shannon's communication theory. Symbolic information-processing systems exhibit the fundamental code symmetry whose key features, such as largely lossless copying or persistence under hostile conditions, may elucidate the reasons for the repeated successful occurrence of ritualization phenomena in evolution history. Ritualization examples are briefly reviewed such as the origin of life, the appearance of human languages, the establishment of emergent social categories such as money, or the development of digital computers. In addition to their role as carriers of symbolic information, symbols are physical structures which also represent structural information. (Abstract)

As the narrative historical may plausibly suggest, also for the general case, symbolic information is originally obtained from ambient structural information. Symbolic information has a purpose, namely the prediction of effects of future activities, derived from experience gathered in the past and safely stored away. Biological species carry symbolic information in their genes, collected over billions of years during the evidently successful struggle for existence of all ancestor generations back to the very originof life in order to equip recent offspring with inherited symbolic information as a recipe for their survival in the future. This method of transmitting information from the past to the future, using symbols as a “time capsule,” was overly successful in the biological, social, scientific and technological evolution. (2)

In this article, ritualization is understood quite generally as a universal qualitative transition from basic structural to the emergent symbolic information properties of signals or coded sequences of letters, in the course of evolution processes. Reitualzation had been defined previously in several ways such as the development of signal-activity from use-activity of animals, or as the self-organized emergence of systems capable of processing symbolic information. (3-4) The very first self-organized symbols appeared at the molecular level, namely as RNA and DNA chain molecules in protocells during the origin of life. (7)

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