Next stage: Q4, Q5, Q6

From: John Collier <>
Date: Sun 30 Jun 2002 - 11:44:08 CEST

Dear FISers,

We now enter the next stage. Following Peter's lead, I will pose three
questions prompted by the papers for this stage. The papers are:

R. Lahoz-Beltra and Vieri Di Paola, Towards a computational view of cell:
do cells bear a resemblance with computers?

Jerry LR Chandler, Organic Communication I. Conceptual Background

Christophe Menant, Information and Meaning

As we have seen from the discussion so far, there is not a lot of agreement
on the meaning of 'information'. However, we have been able to communicate
fairly well, despite diverse views on the matter. This suggests that the
definition of 'information' is far less important than the enthusiasm about
the correct definition of the term might lead one to believe.
Two uses of the idea of information that arose ("emerged" is far too
strong) primarily in the latter half of the 20th Century are that of
"information processing" and "communication theory". Both deal solely with
syntactic or formal aspects of information, but have had a powerful impact
on our conceptions of information in general. These applications of the
idea of information are essentially technological, notwithstanding their
highly formal nature, and were developed primarily by engineers, or those
working in an engineering environment.

This history raises two very general questions: 1) How much can technical
applications tell us about information "in the wild"?, and 2) How far can
we go with formal and mechanical models of the properties of information?

All three of these papers deal, at least implicitly, with these two
questions. For focus, I suggest the following questions concerning each
paper. These are just suggestions, and should not be thought of as intended
to limit discussion.

R. Lahoz-Beltra and Vieri Di Paola say:

2. The 'hardware + software' dualism leads to a misleading conception
of cell. In cells 'biomolecule + function' are inseparable elements in
contrast with computers. For instance, it is possible to have a computer
without operating system and software. Of course, it is not useful but in
cells it is impossible to have biomolecules without biological function.

Q4. How important is this difference, and does it have any bearing on the
issue of whether a formal system can have a semantics that is not implied

Jerry LR Chandler says:

A central hypothesis is that correspondence relations between algebraic
species and organic species generate a robust basis for message specificity
and sensitivity. I presuppose that category theory is a suitable
mathematical framework for a general theory of communication.

Q5. Must this correspondence be such that organic species resemble
computational "agents" as used in Alife programs, in which communication is
fully formalized in terms of explicit rules ("methods")?

Christophe Menant says:

A meaning is an information representing the connection between an incident
information and the constraint of the system.

More completely:
"A meaning is a meaningful information that is created by a system
submitted to a constraint when it receives an external information that has
a connection with the constraint. The meaning is formed of the connection
existing between the incident information and the constraint of the system.
The function of the meaningful information is to participate to the
determination of an action that will be implemented in order to satisfy the
constraint of the system".

Q6. Is this characterization of meaning formalizable, and in particular is
the notion of the constraint of the system formalizable?

Obviously, I have assumed that people have read the relevant abstracts. Do it!

I'll be in Yalta until July 9th, trying to help organize self-organization.
Please try to avoid requiring moderation until then :-), but do post your


Dr John Collier
Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research
Adolf Lorenz Gasse 2 +432-242-32390-19
A-3422 Altenberg Austria Fax: 242-32390-4
Received on Sun Jun 30 11:45:08 2002

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