more portuguese gaita. as promised a long time ago, we will begin exploring the implications of this information model in minds. we will start with simple, brainless, minds. note that this means that my definition of mind is a bit broader than usual.
previously we saw how structure is a property of the arrangement of things. this structure can be quantified using information theory, which actually measures a quantity similar to entropy. we will avoid adding wholes to our parts, since after what i explained previously, that would create issues with infinite information quantities. the information of a whole is the information of its parts. we will consider this as the base principle from now on.
we discussed how complexity can be quantified, but we didn’t discuss how it can be created. this stretches back to some of my early posts. through work (in the physical sense), we can increase the structure of things, provided that this work is fed by some external energy source. gravity for example, during transitory astronomical stages (like the accretion period of planet formation), clumps these things together into more specific arrangements of things. it is arguable whether this is the first case of work or if it is just a property of reality. but in practice, besides clumping things together, it increases the information of a given region in space, versus every other. for example, in the volume of the solar system, information is present in high density areas (planets, sun) and low to no density (empty space). some excellent questions pop up, such as dark matter and so on. all principles are consistent if instead of using matter, we use some other, lower level, organization quantity. for the sake of the argument, it is irrelevant whether dark matter exists or not (but not for the absolute quantities of information).
we can hardly call gravity a mind, or our planet a mind, but it is an example of structured matter that tends to become more and more structured, and by analyzing its structure, we can know factors of the external reality. for example, if a planet could think (which it can’t), it could tell that its heavier bits were more to its center, and that its lighter bits were more to its edge. this implies that there is something that causes these differences, and that the planet actually represents information about its reality. i.e., the matter of the planet is affected by external things (e.g., gravity, electromagnetism), and this causes its shape to change, representing the consequence of these external forces. this means that a planet is a crude, but subjective, observer of its reality. why subjective? because different sections of space have different elements, and planets cannot observe (incorporate) elements that do not exist within its gravitational pull. now, it does not process it, i.e., doesn’t do work on its own structure (e.g., a planet doesn’t suddenly turn all its iron and nickel into hydrogen out of free will), yet the reality around it has consequences on it and these define its own information, versus a random arrangement. so arranged matter is a mindless observer of reality, in the sense that it only collects information about reality (the information collected is its own particular arrangement), but does not act on it (does not do work cycles to change this information).
for example, three things emerge from elements a and b, aa, ab and bb. we know that ab, thanks to the electrical force, will be able to remain together. we also know that aa and bb can’t stay together for long in their environment for the same reason. this means that in the next nearest moment, it is more likely to find the arrangement ab than aa or bb. reality has shaped the structure of these things by virtue of its own laws, and by consequence, ab not only exists, but any other group doesn’t. this narrowed (or structured) the things themselves into a more specific arrangement. it also means that ab has in it an observation of the laws of reality around it, it is a mindless observer of reality.
this brings us to the simplest, and the first, mindful observers of reality. the difference between a mindless observer and a mindful observer is that the latter can do work to change its structure or its environment’s, versus being passively changed by reality. i will start with self-replicating molecules. a self-replicating molecule has both a particular structure and the structure that causes it, thanks to external reality, to replicate. i.e., it is an observer (collects information from reality in the form of its particular constituents and their positions), and it is an agent (by being immersed in an environment it is capable of affecting its structure and the structure of things around it). this implies that its actions have a prior knowledge of reality and how to affect it. by simply copying itself and making mistakes, a molecule will optimize its structure versus its environment for the simple fact that the ones that don’t optimize their structure versus their environment won’t be able to copy themselves. these primitive minds don’t think, thinking is the act of processing internal and external information into different internal and external information. in this case, the thinking is done by the laws of nature. this might seem confusing, but let’s see an example.
two things, c and d, are immersed in reality and made of a and b. thing c, thanks to its molecular structure, can, through the physical interactions occurring around it, take its two constituents from the environment and cause them to turn into another c. thing d cannot. start with a “bath” of many a s and b s, and one c and one d. as a s and b s bump into each other and into c and d, whenever c, a and b are together, another c is formed. no such thing happens with d. whenever c is formed, an a and a b are consumed. so our soup of letters soon will have many c s and only one d. if there is any chance of d breaking down into a s and b s (dying), it will again be more likely for it to become a c than a d. what we see here is the laws of nature doing the work that represents the thought. this simple thought is no more than the information required to process information flowing from reality and back: a and b come together close to c, another c emerges. this implies that c not only has information (a and b), but also changes information around it (causes other a s and b s to turn into c s). since it is not capable of doing this on its own, the thoughts are carried by the forces of nature. but this simple thought could be written as “if a and b are close to me they will become c”, and it occurs whenever a b touch a c and turn it into c. i separate knowledge (internal information) and thought (work done on information) from each other because a self replication might not need all its information to do work. for example, it may be that only b causes c to appear, but since a is required to make a c even though it doesn’t contribute to its replication, it gets copied too, i.e., b does all the work, but needs an a to make a c.
this demonstrates the first working mind, using reality as the carrier of its thoughts. i’ll give a slightly more elaborate example, that i referred previously. a sunflower has in it the information required to make a sunflower, and its structure interacting with the environment cause it to replicate, we saw above how this works. genes and cells are like the above example, they use time as the extra dimension for their thought process. but it also has a solar-tracking feature that i want to use as an example. does the fact that a sunflower track the sun mean it “knows” where the sun is? according to my definition of minds, yes! the sunflower has: a) information about the world around it; b) does work according to that information working on itself accordingly and/or the world around it.
as an argument for a), consider an alien from a starless planet could use the sunflower as a way to know what a star is by simply analyzing the bit of its constituents that reacts to sunlight and makes it grow faster. the alien could induce that the plant was in an environment where sunlight existed, even though he never saw one. and though the alien might induce an incorrect description of the sun observed by the sunflower, he could do better than guessing.
as an argument for b), consider that the sunflower cells grow faster on the areas excited by the sun, making it turn. now, it turns because these areas grow faster when in sunlight, but the reason why they grow faster is because, by thinking using evolution, the plants that turned did better than the ones that didn’t. this thinking was done over many iterations of its structure until it reached this point, where the implicit understanding that the sun moves is can be induced from the explicit motion of the plant. if a plant didn’t understand the sun and its motion, it could not turn accordingly. now, it doesn’t fully understand the sun (neither do we), since it is still subject to, for example, being fooled by artificial human lights. but we have to understand that evolutionary thoughts take thousands of generations to reach conclusions. so it would be like learning how to read in english and then being given a transliterated japanese text and say “but they are the same letters”. the letters here are light, english is the sunlight, and japanese is the artificial light. since through evolutionary thought the sunflower only learned english, it won’t learn japanese instantly. but if given long enough, it might.
i know that observer planets and thinking plants and molecules sounds a bit exotic and silly. so i’ll finish for now. we are not dealing with elaborate thoughts. in fact, if you take the sunflower example, its thoughts would be something like “sun is here” “sun is there” “sun is nowhere”. not very elaborate thoughts, but they are proto-thoughts nevertheless, that themselves require some subjective internal representation of the world and action according to this interpretation. my opinion is that by broadening the definition of thought and mind, it might be easier to understand more complex structures. we’ll do that in the coming parts.