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Rajiv Singh: on 2/24/17 at 6:07am UTC, wrote Dear Carlo Rovelli, The essay correctly identifies the difference between...

James Hoover: on 2/24/17 at 1:35am UTC, wrote Quite impressive, Carlo. You say "the structure could be generated...

Kigen Ekeson: on 2/20/17 at 13:19pm UTC, wrote Dear Dr. Rovelli, Thank you so much for your well-written and insightful...

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basudeba mishra: on 2/17/17 at 18:23pm UTC, wrote Dear Sir, Your paper was quite thought provoking. You have rightly...

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FQXi FORUM
February 28, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Meaning and Intentionality = Information + Evolution by Carlo Rovelli [refresh]
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This essay's rating: Community = 6.8; Public = 5.4


Author Carlo Rovelli wrote on Jan. 10, 2017 @ 21:50 GMT
Essay Abstract

Notions like meaning, signal, intentionality, are difficult to relate to a physical word. I study a purely physical definition of "meaningful information", from which these notions can be derived. It is inspired by a model recently illustrated by Kolchinsky and Wolpert, and improves on Dretske classic work on the relation between knowledge and information. I discuss what makes a physical process into a "signal".

Author Bio

Carlo Rovelli is a theoretical physicists working at the University of Aix-Marseille in France. His main interest is in quantum gravity.

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Lee Bloomquist wrote on Jan. 12, 2017 @ 02:57 GMT
Fred Dretske is also cited in "Information and Impossibilities" by Jon Barwise.

Another term of interest might be "self." For example in the equation of a non-wellfounded set: "self=(thinking, self)." Are you saying there are items on your list which do not depend on the existence of a "self"-- that something other than "self" would be the first step?

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Lee Bloomquist wrote on Jan. 12, 2017 @ 07:00 GMT
Dear Master Rovelli,

You write:

"As long as an organism is alive, S(xn) remains far lower than its thermal-equilibrium value Smax. This capacity of keeping itself outside of thermal equilibrium, utilising free energy, is a crucial aspects of systems that are alive. Living organisms have generally a rather sharp distinc- tion between their state of being alive or dead, and we can...

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Anonymous wrote on Jan. 12, 2017 @ 09:18 GMT
Dear Professor Rovelli,

thank you for an intriguing and original contribution to this debate. Your basic strategy strikes me as distantly related to the one championed by Terrence Deacon: while you focus on the notion of correlation, he frames things in terms of constraints, which are, to him, 'absences' that nevertheless may be causally efficacious. Of course, both notions are, in some...

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Jochen Szangolies replied on Jan. 12, 2017 @ 09:21 GMT
I'm not quite sure why the above comment doesn't show my name; I must've gotten logged out somehow. But anyway, anonymous above is me.

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Joe Fisher wrote on Jan. 12, 2017 @ 17:26 GMT
Dear Professor Rovelli.

As I have thoughtfully pointed out in my brilliant essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY, the real Universe consists only of one unified visible infinite surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light. There is no gap in any sensible person’s “understanding of the world” providing he or she avoids abstract complexity and practices simplicity.



Joe Fisher, Realist

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David Brown wrote on Jan. 15, 2017 @ 05:46 GMT
"We do not need something external to the workings of nature to account for the appearance of function and purpose." The preceding seems to me to be an important idea. "A signal is a physical event that conveys meaning." It seem to me that the preceding is a satisfactory definition for Einsteinian special and general relativity but not for the Copenhagen interpretation. I think that the definition should be: A signal is a physical event that conveys meaning or might convey meaning in a physical experiment long after the event. I say that that my 3 most important ideas are:

(1) Milgrom is the Kepler of contemporary cosmology.

(2) The Koide formula is essential for understanding the foundations of physics.

(3) Lestone's heuristic string theory is essential for understanding the foundations of physics.

I would appreciate any feedback concerning the 3 preceding ideas.

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Joe Fisher replied on Jan. 15, 2017 @ 15:12 GMT
Dear Brown,

Natural reality is not composed of complex abstract ideas. One real Universe must have only one reality. As I have thoughtfully pointed out in my brilliant essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY, the real Universe consists only of one unified visible infinite surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light. Reality am not a conundrum.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jan. 16, 2017 @ 22:22 GMT
Carlo Rovelli,

What you say is all very well, but you and other physicists like Kolchinsky and Wolpert have made a mistake in your most basic assumptions. Physics likes to claim that fundamental-level reality is mindless, but on the other hand physicists assumes that the universe somehow “knows itself”: the universe in some sense “knows” the law-of-nature regularities, the universe in some sense “knows” the parameter numeric values that are the unpredictable physical outcomes of quantum randomness.

Physics contains a hidden and unacknowledged assumption: that the universe has information about itself; that the universe already knows the same aspects of reality that we humans represent with law-of-nature equations and parameter value numbers.

But what “knows” the most primitive levels of reality? The universe is seemingly not a single entity, but a collection of interacting entities: particles, atoms, molecules, cells and other living things. These entities are the only candidates that could know, that could have information about (i.e. subjectively experience) reality.

Then you get to the question of whether there are 2 aspects of reality (physical reality and experience of physical reality, and a relationship between the 2 aspects) or only one aspect of reality (subjective experience of reality).

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Joe Fisher replied on Jan. 17, 2017 @ 17:12 GMT
Dear Ms. Ford,

Natural reality does not have abstract levels.

Simple natural reality has nothing to do with any abstract complex musings such as the ones you effortlessly indulge in. As I have thoughtfully pointed out in my brilliant essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY, the real Universe consists only of one unified visible infinite surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light. Reality am not as complicated as theories of reality are.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Jan. 17, 2017 @ 02:12 GMT
This is interesting. I will reread your paper in a couple of days. I seems though you are arguing for a sort of selection mechanism for quantum states. Maybe this is a way of getting a form of "pink noise" from quantum fluctuations, by selecting certain fluctuations, to promote information into the future.

LC

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Steve Dufourny replied on Jan. 20, 2017 @ 08:32 GMT
Hi Lawrence, happy to see you again on FQXi ,but where were you :) ?

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Jan. 17, 2017 @ 18:56 GMT
Carlo –

There are several things here that I find very good, e.g. your explanations of emergence and of signaling. It’s a particularly important idea that physics is “modal” – about structures of possibility, not just structures of given fact. This needs further development from a philosophical point of view, since we still tend to think of possibilities as facts that just...

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H Chris Ransford wrote on Jan. 18, 2017 @ 17:04 GMT
Dear Prof. Rovelli,

Very interesting - perhaps a bit too technical however for the purposes here (in other words, it's well above what would be deemed Scientific American material.)

Sometimes as scientists we write for colleagues, and sometimes to draw in a more 'lay' audience - as you did in your recent 'Reality Is Not What It Seems'

very well done anyway

Kind regards

H Chris

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Steve Dufourny wrote on Jan. 19, 2017 @ 18:43 GMT
Dear Mr.Rovelli,

I have liked a lot your papper and how you interpret these informations.One of my favorite,you are going to win a prize :)The technical method is relevant,I didn't know the works of Wolpert and others.I know the Shannon works a little.Thanks for sharing in all case,I learn in the same time these methods.

Good luck in this contest.

Regards

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Steve Dufourny replied on Feb. 6, 2017 @ 09:53 GMT
Mr Rovelli,

I see that you work about quantum gravity.I search also answers,I beleive in all humility that I found but of course I must formalise and test ,experiment.All this to tell you that we arrive so at what are the main gravitational codes of evolution.Of course we arrive at a debate about what is the meaning of informations and of our consciousness.The debate is also about what is the main cause,gravitational.So we arrive at a philosophical analyse.The sciences community is divided in two roads, a road considering a main cause creating an intelligent design if I can say and we have the atheists utilising the emergence of consciousness and lifes with others causalities.Personally I beleive strongly that a real understanding of what is infinite entropy above our physicality and gravitation is essential.We cannot encircle these steps of encoded particles waves énergies without this foundamental, but it is just my opinion of course.The main codes are gravoitational and our singularities are not approachables.The quantum gravitation does not seem to be an emergent electromagnetic force.The standard model is not sufficient in fact.We can so invent an AI but never a consciousness.It is due to our main gravitational codes.The electromagnetic encodings are just a step.We can try to formalise these informations and encodings with maths and variables but it is just electromagnetic.In all case it is a big puzzle, thanks still for sharing your work and good luck also in this contest.Best Regards from Belgium.

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Lee Bloomquist wrote on Jan. 21, 2017 @ 07:04 GMT
The idea comes from nonstandard analysis, in the works of Naval College Mathematics courseware instructor, Robert A. Herrmann, the great genius of a nonstandard world he calls "theNonStandardNatural" .model of the Universe, versus "theStandardNaturalNumber" Universe, where everybody else lives.

He writes about Relativity. I interpret him here.

There is a Universe of Time where everything in the Univese is an Object.

And then, there is the Universe where everything in the Universe is a Process.

Objects within the Universe of Objects speak a very different language from the language.spoken in the Universe of Processes.

Mysteriously, Einstein had correctly described an "infomorphism" between these two Universes.

And that, was his equation between "local Minkowski ProperTime," and "Coordinate Time."

But since it was an infomorphism, it was only half of the story.

Because an "infomorphism" has to connect to itself by two back and forth channels-- or functions-- or arrows. (Take your pick.)

The other half of the Infomorphism is the "Stream" that's the Universe of Time, where everything in that Universe is a "Stream."

And that's where I come from.

Seems there should be a lot more than just one equation involved!

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Lee Bloomquist replied on Jan. 21, 2017 @ 07:22 GMT
Objects and Processes swim in the Stream.

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Joseph J. Jean-Claude wrote on Jan. 21, 2017 @ 14:33 GMT
The author proposes that correlation between objects is ground for meaningful physical information. Meaningful information nurtures aims and intentions experienced by the living. If we can describe mathematically meaningful physical information, we then have found at the very least a remote mathematical description to aims and intentions, as I understand. The author further proposes a variation of the formula for entropy for said mathematical formulation. I should add that the author has asserted several key aspects of a physical definition of the living. In my sense, this thesis should be well received although the argument is somewhat weak. Several flaws in style and grammar should be noted.

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Jan. 21, 2017 @ 23:35 GMT
Dear Carlo Rovelli,

you made a nice effort to describe the first tender emergence of some ‘meaning’ on our planet, as you imagine it to have possibly happened, so i like to leave some comments about what came to my mind by reading your essay.

In your essay abstract you wrote „I discuss what makes a physical process into a "signal".” You also wrote in this abstract “I study...

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Lee Bloomquist wrote on Jan. 23, 2017 @ 01:11 GMT
In the Kyoto lecture of 1922, Einstein said:

"There is an inseparable relation between time and signal velocity."

Wikipedia states that: "The signal velocity is the speed at which a wave carries INFORMATION.

It describes how quickly…"

"…a MESSAGE can be communicated between two separated parties."

An "informationalist"— as I understand it— might read the...

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Jack Hamilton James wrote on Jan. 25, 2017 @ 23:30 GMT
Dear Prof Carlo Rovelli,

I very much enjoyed your essay and rated it very highly. I think you do an excellent job of narrowing in on the subject, as I have tried to do in my less formal entry. Perhaps you could take a look at this, I wonder what you think of Leslie Valiant's idea of ecorithms and there potentiall 'internal role'. You seem to present an alternative way in which meaning or intention arises from just physical relata. From my reasoning I couldnt determine a way in which this math of intention (information by your account) could be used to reveal consciousness.

Best,

Jack

"The definition of ‘meaningful’ considered here does not directly refer to anything mental. To have something mental you need a mind and to have a mind you need a brain, and its rich capacity of elaborating and working with information. The question addressed here is what is the physical base of the information that brains work with. The answer suggested is that it is just physical correlation between internal and external variables affecting survival either directly or, potentially, indirectly."

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James Arnold wrote on Feb. 2, 2017 @ 10:47 GMT
Carlo, although your essay is highly intricate, I fail to see any link or bridge between what you define as meaningful information and processes involving agency, purpose, or intentionality. Certainly, “downright crude physical correlation” can be compared with the cognitive interpretation of information, but to call a physical response to a stimulus a meaningful event, or to regard survival reflexes as purposeful behavior, is to trivialize what needs to be explained.

Intentionality involves a resourceful purpose to effect some end, which significantly, profoundly, does not yet exist – it precedes the end. The challenge here is to somehow reconcile intentionality with “mindless mathematical (physical) laws.” The correlation of stimulus and response is not adequate even to ground such a task.

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Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 12, 2017 @ 00:27 GMT
Dear Carlo Rovelli

A good essay nicely analyzing the information, meaning, signal, intentionality and these are not covered in Physics. And you are correct again…as in your words…”We are undoubtedly limited parts of nature, and we are so even as understanders of this same nature”

The real question is who programmed us to try to understand the nature itself……..?

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Member George F. R. Ellis wrote on Feb. 12, 2017 @ 06:24 GMT
Hi Carlo

nice thoughtful essay. I need to cogitate on how much I buy it, but it is a thoughtful piece of work that is useful to reflect on.

Best regards

George

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George Simpson wrote on Feb. 13, 2017 @ 19:23 GMT
Hello Carlo, I am enjoying studying your essay. Two of your books are by me, and I have taken a quote from "Seven Brief Lessons" as a subtitle for my own submission. Thanks for the inspiration.

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Yehuda Atai wrote on Feb. 14, 2017 @ 13:00 GMT
Dear Carlo Rovelli

I agree with you that there is a difference between meaning information and pure data. Meaning information is of the type of information that exists in the ratio (correlation) between two existants, where the information holds at least one mode of action (non action is also an action) to at least one existent in the relation. If there is no potential action associated with the meaning information there is no relations between the 2 existants. I do see the phenomenon occurs in ever changing present maintaining its uniqueness of its self organization. The meaning base information allows to choose an action which is potentially in the relation and convert it to a subjective action with the unique attributes it has in its movement. (see my essay) causality is a special case in the occurrence of the phenomenon.

Thanks for the fine essay.

yehuda atai

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Avtar Singh wrote on Feb. 14, 2017 @ 23:58 GMT
Dear Prof. Carlo Rovelli:

I enjoyed reading your thoughtful essay and was particularly impressed with your approach liking the meaningful information with Darwin’s Evolutionary survival as you say…….”The idea put forward is that what grounds all this is direct meaningful information, namely strictly physical correlations between a living organism and the external environment that have survival and reproductive value. The semantic notions of information and meaning are ultimately tied to their Darwinian evolutionary origin. The suggestion is that the notion of meaningful information serves as a ground for the foundation of meaning. That is, it could cover the link between the purely physical world and the world of meaning, purpose, intentionality and value. It could bridge the gap. “

What if your idea is extended from Darwin to the Universe evolution and survival? How could such an extended model be represented in an integrated physical theory of the matter, species, mind, and consciousness? This is described in my contest paper – " FROM LAWS TO AIMS & INTENTIONS - A UNIVERSAL MODEL INTEGRATING MATTER, MIND, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND PURPOSE by Avtar Singh. My paper investigates the physical reality of consciousness via integrating matter and consciousness described as the free-willed mechanism of the spontaneous decay of quantum particles that leads to the ultimate survival of consciousness in a fully-dilated space-time as a constant universal field (Zero-point State) of Oneness or connectivity that exists as a complimentary relativistic state to the matter dominated states within the unity of a single physical model that also predicts the observed empirical universe.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could please provide your comments on my paper and let me know if it gainfully and properly extends Darwin’s limited survival in a universal or cosmic sense rather than species on earth.

Best Regards

Avtar Singh

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Peter Jackson wrote on Feb. 15, 2017 @ 20:32 GMT
Carlo,

An excellent essay and analysis. Much is very close to my own which I hope you'll read and comment on.

I agree and expand your N/S pole example, with only left (L) OR right (R) 'curl' and hope you'll consider; If you encounter a sphere at it's equator and have to decide if the momentum is L or R can you decide? Yet a tangentially linear momentum is maximised there, tending to ZERO at the poles. Of course as Maxwell the rotation couples with both the Elec. and Mag. of EM.

But where did that second state go in QM's 'spin' (QAM) assumption!? I identify it as hidden before our eyes, re-appearing in actual findings as Diracs complementary 'offset' state, so included in QM's formulation. The classical analogue of QM then re-appears to remove a tranche of bizarre interpretations and allow logical teleological complexities. My essay analyses consequences.

But thank you for yours, which I found in wide fundamental agreement.

Best

Peter

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Gene H Barbee wrote on Feb. 15, 2017 @ 22:23 GMT
I am quite impressed with your standing in the scientific community and thoughts you expressed in your essay. May I ask you a question? There are many like myself (some on this website) that find ourselves powerless when trying to contribute in some small way. For example, I disagree with the WMAP and PLANCK conclusions regarding dark matter and dark energy. Is there any way to interact with them?

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basudeba mishra wrote on Feb. 17, 2017 @ 18:23 GMT
Dear Sir,

Your paper was quite thought provoking. You have rightly described Shannon’s “relative information” as “correlation” or as you say “downright crude physical correlation”. In a previous contest here in our paper “INFORMATION HIDES IN THE GLARE OF REALITY”, we had written “Information Theory is based on the concept of writing instructions that will make the...

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 16:46 GMT
Hi Carlo,

I greatly enjoyed this essay. I think that incorporating survival potential as a measure of fitness yields a good approximation of how useful or meaningful the information conveyed really is. I liked very much that you could adapt Wolpert's formulation to treat the essay question, and I agree that having a concrete definition for meaningful information could serve as a basis for future advances applying information theory to cognition.

Kudos for readability and making the technical concepts understandable. I think you communicated the meaning better than the last contest essay, and you show an increasing command of the English language. As with George's comment above; I am on the fence as to whether your formulation flies - but it certainly offers some valuable food for thought. I hope you fare well, this time around.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Kigen William Ekeson wrote on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 13:19 GMT
Dear Dr. Rovelli,

Thank you so much for your well-written and insightful essay. My own essay on complexity will be published soon and I suggest many of the same points that you do, although admittedly, not in such a polished and professional way. It's actually quite astounding to me, that the ideas about information and meaning that you touch upon are not common knowledge, i.e. their elegance and simplicity seems so apparent. My only suggestion for your work is to keep going. That is, I believe that there are lower levels of complexity/information that you might describe with equal eloquence. I wish you luck in the competition and would appreciate any comments you might share about my own essay.

Yours,

Kigen William Ekeson

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Feb. 24, 2017 @ 01:35 GMT
Quite impressive, Carlo. You say "the structure could be generated precisely by the structure of the very "meaningful information" we have been concerned with here." Wolpert and Kolchinsky speak of a correlation between the state of the organism and its environment and it’s this information that helps the organism stay out of equilibrium. What if the information breaks down in your equation: Meaning and Intentionality = info + evolution. The organic source of information, DNA, has errors over time and the renewal process yields flawed copies, especially after organisms and a flawed environment interact. What does this do to your equation?

Jim Hoover

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Rajiv K Singh wrote on Feb. 24, 2017 @ 06:07 GMT
Dear Carlo Rovelli,

The essay correctly identifies the difference between probabilistic correlation with an information, and the semantic value (meaning) of the information, and that it is the correlation with the specifics of information that is central. It also brings out the distinction that dealing with the quantity of information as per Shannon, is not the same as description of the semantics of the information. While, it correctly places bounds on the domain of information, yet it does not go all the way to specify or quantify the semantics of the same information. I do agree with the importance of information as a link between different structures in science, but the first level task is to lay down a general method of expressing the semantics of universally all possible expressions that convey information.

With respect to a DNA encoding the information on the structure of the organism, I suppose, at best, DNA can be said to encode the function and processes in highly specific contexts. It is entirely possible that in a different environment, different structure and phenotype may emerge. That is, the code is just one of the necessary elements for a specific structure to emerge.

I restate that the path Carlo Rovelli identifies to describe the meaning of information is in the right direction.

Rajiv

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