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What is Information? Reality as Information – Is there Intrinsic Meaning? Sentient Life & Bits

Dolors Jou Torras: I think all one needs to do is redefine information and then it all clicks into place. Information: a perceived difference that can make a difference. You start with an awareness of a difference (reality differentiating itself and becoming aware of it). Then you move on to an awareness of a difference which in turn makes a difference (this awareness of differentiation enables learning, growth, knowledge, etc).

At some point this ability to perceive a difference becomes able to not only perceive a difference (of states) but can also perceive a difference in such a way that order can be assigned (as in before / after). Time is born – or rather, it evolves (= the ability to perceive a difference + assign order and duration).

You escalate this ability to perceive differences, etc, to an information field which can model consciousness (consciousness being defined in line with self-awareness, ability to self-modify, intelligence, ability to evolve, etc).

Then you get to the point where “physical” universes can evolve (within consciousness “space”) and so space-time and matter evolve… This goes hand in hand with the evolution of individual conscious observers experiencing this physical universes

So the paradigm goes like this: information—> consciousness & time —> laws of physics—> individual observers + space-time & matter

Craig Weinberg: I agree with what you are saying, especially the part about adding the qualifier of “a perceived” to “difference”. I would say though that that makes this capacity to perceive more fundamental than what is perceived. Even if we understand that of course information must be perceived, I still think that the word information carries an implicitly objective connotation. All that information can be is an experience in which some sensory context is informed. This capacity to perceive is already awareness, so that even though we could say that the term ‘consciousness’ refers to an awareness of awareness, I don’t see that such an awareness requires any information at all. All that is required is a quality of awareness in which the presence of awareness is felt. There is no feeling of the absence of awareness, so it is not a matter of discerning a difference or being informed about anything, it is simply an expectation of persistence and participation.

I like to break down the word information into three parts: “in” (which is input-output of sensory-affect/motor-effect), “form” (which is material shapes divided by space), and “ation” (which is recursive functions united through time). Where we are at now I think is to overlook the “in” part entirely and treat formations as the primitive context, when in fact the formations are the objects of appreciation and participation of the true primitive capacity for sense.

Dolors Jou Torras: Defining information and consciousness differently is what makes the descriptions of what is ultimately primary different… I completely understand what you are saying, when I put myself inside your theoretical framework Don’t disagree at all, but I can see that it all boils down to the precise details of how one defines information, awareness, consciousness and so on.

Craig Weinberg: Yes, for most contexts it is more useful to talk about information in the traditional sense. I think it’s only when we need to really get a maximum close up on that boundary between firstness and secondness or between the front and back end of the snake who is eating its tail. We are very much on the same page about the semiotic relation. I would suggest to consider that information is not non-physical, so much as physics is experiential and information is part of experience.

What makes an experience seem ‘physical’ is that it is out of bounds of our intimate sensory range. That which is too fast, too slow, too large, too small, or too unlike us in another sense is experienced in increasing degrees of dissimilarity to experience. Experience is the sense of who we are and the motive of why we do what we do, but matter is bodies nested within larger bodies. Matter is the what and how, the re-presentation of first person presentations.

Information is when one level of experience exploits another, more distant (and therefore more matter-like; discrete positions, subject to public inspection, etc) level. We take a sheet of cellulose molecules, which on their own level are holding on to each other, oxidizing slowly, etc and we inscribe a quantity of ink (also an experiential reality on its native fluid-molecular level). This inscription can be modeled as a trade off of entropy, we are fixing our private ideas and expressions on various levels, conscious and subconscious in public spacetime. Public spacetime freezes private sense into public form and private motive into public function. The information entropy of the writer’s idea is discharged in the act of writing, a process to be revisited in reverse when the reader understands what has been written. The low entropy signal of the written word is traded for an aesthetic entropy increase in the reader’s experience – they imagine, they think, their mental experience reverberates and ‘warms up’, creating novelty and creativity. This is significance. Significance lights up previous memories and pulls them together, bringing a sense of integration within. (Understanding = entero-standing…inner settling).

information is not physical in the sense that the effect of being informed is experiential, but information media is physical, which means that it is down-rev experiential, so to speak. We use experiences which are dumber and smaller than we are to carry our messages. Thinking of it this way brings matter, mind, and meaning together as one ecosystem of sense-making.

Dolors Jou Torras: I will cover the physical vs non-physical debate in another video soon, but defining information as essentially non-physical has to do with several factors:

– I relate information to qualia (perception, experience)

– That in this “physical” universe, in general we need to embed or engrave information in physical matter or energy via symbols or signs, does not make information itself physical.

The laws of physics do not preceed information hence information is not bound by physical laws (information is primary)

There is compelling evidence, in my opinion, that non-local effects point in the direction that our physical universe (space-time plus matter) is a subset of a larger reality. What is “physical” is a moving target

Information (in theory) can be used as a basic currency to describe any reality, not only what our current physics can describe (or is attempting to describe).

Information therefore can be used to move away from duality… “Physical” vs “non-physical” is not a matter of substance dualism; these are purely subjective terms that we mostly associate with what our current science can measure with its instruments.

Craig Weinberg:

“defining information as essentially non-physical has to do with several factors:

– I relate information to qualia (perception, experience)”

I agree in the conventional sense of ‘physical’, information would be non-physical, but I think that in an absolute sense, the physical and non-physical can only be different perspectives (private-facing and public-facing orientations) of the same thing. What I am trying to pioneer is the idea that this thing is sense: the universal capacity for aesthetic participation, aka the capacity to generate, experience, and appreciate qualia.

“- That in this “physical” universe, in general we need to embed or engrave information in physical matter or energy via symbols or signs, does not make information itself physical”

Right, symbols or signs are independent of matter, but not independent of the capacity to experience (sense). A particular piece of information, such as a page in a book, can obviously exist without my experience of it, but it cannot exist without some capacity for interpretation somewhere in the universe.

The question that I put to you, however, is ‘can awareness exist without information?’. I think that it can. I think that a feeling need not inform us. I think that information is always a reflection or representation of sense, and never the genuine presentation itself. Eating a meal is not simply an information processing event where knowledge of nutritional conditions are stored in the body and in our understanding, it is a concretely visceral, mouth watering, chewing, gobbling, licking, swallowing orgy of sensual participation. We can extract information from the experience, but when we do, that extraction is inevitably reductive. It is an accounting of events from a hypothetical voyeur’s perspective rather than the genuine and indispensable experience.

In my view, qualia is not a representation, it is a presentation – an aesthetic presence. Information is a particular kind of qualia, a presentation in which another presentation has been abstracted as an a-signifying, quantifiable figure. Such a figure is public-facing and communicable, so long as the receiver of the communication can re-signify some of what has been frozen as a spatial-form/temporal-function.

“The laws of physics do not preceed information hence information is not bound by physical laws (information is primary)”

Because you are including the aesthetic experience of information as information, I agree with you here too. Matter-Space/Energy-Time would be types of information (Form-Sense/Function-Motive). If we conflate information with sense, however, then we would have to explain why sentience does not emerge from information itself. Why can’t we write a story which has feelings itself? Why do we react unfavorably to impersonated entities like mannequins and automatons (uncanny valley effect)? Part of my contribution here is to get very specific and show how the relation between sense, information, and matter can be juxtaposed to yield unity or contrast but that sense is the essential commonality. Information can be forged and copied, it is generic and implicitly impossible to truly own. Sense is absolutely proprietary and authentic, ineffable, unreproducible.

Information is the manifestation of the intention to circulate publicly, but sense is the private anchoring of a disposition between the sensor/self and the universe. This opposition relation of sense and information is recapitulated and exteriorized as the relation between matter and energy, and matter-energy/space-time. It’s the same theme of reflection through orthogonal juxtaposition. It’s very tricky of course, because we can toggle foreground/background from any perspective. Einstein grabbed mass-energy and it gave him space-time. If you grab information-sense, it gives you physical machines and non-physical machines. My proposal is to grab sense-motive and get all of the others: form-matter-space::function-energy-time. Square that and you get public entropy::private significance.

“There is compelling evidence, in my opinion, that non-local effects point in the direction that our physical universe (space-time plus matter) is a subset of a larger reality. What is “physical” is a moving target”

I agree completely, although I think that the larger reality is the sum-total of all sensory experiences in the history of the universe. The larger reality is experiential while space+matter is a frozen slice – a tokenized representation of part of that reality as experienced from a particular perspective and presented as a public context. Physical to means only that something is intended as a concrete presentation rather than a pure representation. The idea of a train is physical, in the sense that ideas are physical experiences, but the train which is confabulated within the idea is not physical. Non-local? Certainly. Locality is a low level sense protocol. I think that’s part of what the atoms are doing on the microcosm, sending each other messages (we call quantum) to generate locality through spacetime coordinates. The universe is inside the big bang/Abolute, and all space is a presentation within it’s sense.

“Information (in theory) can be used as a basic currency to describe any reality, not only what our current physics can describe (or is attempting to describe).”

Yes, but only if you are assuming that information includes sense. Think of how the same information on a DVD can be heard as music or seen as a video though. A computer reads that DVD anesthetically, as data. Low level electronic sensation in all likelihood, but the data is not giving the DVD player an experience of watching a movie.

“Information therefore can be used to move away from duality… “Physical” vs “non-physical” is not a matter of substance dualism; these are purely subjective terms that we mostly associate with what our current science can measure with its instruments.”

Yes, in the absolute sense, but if we don’t explain that subjective polarization and connect it to public and private presentations, then we have not really explained the universe that we live in. With my view, all dualisms, monisms, and multiplicities fall out naturally from the capacities of sense and motive to diffract entropy spatiotemporally and recover significance experientially.

  1. July 4, 2013 at 11:02 pm

    Fascinating post! A plethora of innovative philosophical ideas presented in an engaging take on the classic dialectic form. Of course, now that my own information system has been challenged from up down and sideways… I’m going back to basics and will henceforth exist in a physical world that will only extend a centimeter beyond my physical self. A universe of information beyond direct contact with my sensory organs just seems too overwhelmingly complicated after reading this~wink.

    • July 4, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      Haha, thanks. Yes, after a while it’s important to lower the control rods into the old brain 🙂

      • July 5, 2013 at 10:10 pm

        Now that it’s Friday, my reactor is officially offline for the next 72 hours! Have a great weekend~

      • July 6, 2013 at 12:12 am

        You too!

  2. Joseph McCard (really)
    July 5, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    I loved the video. Now on to the dialectic.

  3. Joseph McCard (really)
    July 6, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    OK. Paragraph #1 good. : )

    • Joseph McCard (really)
      July 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm

      The one starting with, “Craig Weinberg: Yes, for most contexts it is more useful…”

  4. Joseph McCard (really)
    July 7, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Given your rant in the previous post, there is really no reason to comment further. So, I’ll be hiding over at jcs-online if you want to find me.

    Otmar (maybe) : )

    • July 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      When you lob inane accusations my way, you think that it’s just something I should learn to deal with. When I point that out, you accuse me of ranting. Your retreat here is to protect your ego, not because of any fake exasperation.

  5. July 18, 2013 at 1:56 am

    First I want to say that I love this blog! You are very well researched in a topic that could not interest me more, especially dealing with perception and awareness. I plan on going through more of this when I get a chance but the one thing that stood out to me most was the question; ‘can awareness exist without information?’. This one is cooking my noodle. Would it make sense if the word “information” was traded for “communication”? If all information is up to interpretation then would it make the information less relevant than the communication? And if there is no projection of that information than does it even exist? Kind of like matter not existing if there is no movement/vibration. I was about to say that I agreed that awareness would exist without information because information is received externally and we can be aware of what we create internally (though what is created internally could be considered information still), but when I look at it as communication I think there would be no awareness without some communication. Information is like a variable determined by the communication just like matter is a variable determined by the vibration. I am sure I am way behind on this research and I do apologize, but my interest is not letting me go lol! I look forward to reading many more of your posts and this is my new favorite blog!

    • July 18, 2013 at 2:33 am

      Thanks very much, I appreciate it! It gets tricky when we try to imagine ‘which came first’ scenarios at the Absolute primitive level. My view is that since sense ‘precedes’ time, it would be more of a tessellated juxtaposition relation than a first and second…however…if there could be information without awareness, I don’t think that it is plausible that awareness could ever arise. The only way it seems to work ultimately is if we begin with awareness as the capacity not merely to receive data but to appreciate it ‘personally’. There has to be participation which perceives and perception which participates ‘before’ there can be any ‘before’, and before there can be any ‘things’ or signs about things.

      Thanks for finding MSR. Feel free to ask questions, argue, collaborate…

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