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Language, Ancient Internets, and LSD: An Interview with Richard Doyle

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   Četvrtak, 29 Kolovoz 2013 10:22

"Again, information is indeed physical. We can treat a sequence of information as abstraction and take it out of its context – like a quotation or a jellyfish gene spliced into a rabbit to enable it to glow. We can compress information, dwindling the resources it takes to store or process it. But “information, words, instructions” all require physical instantiation to even be “information, words, instructions.” Researcher Rolf Landauer showed back in the 1960s that even erasure is physical. So I actually think throbbing gels and oozes and slime mold and bacteria eating away at the garbage gyre are very important when we wish to “understand” life. I actually think Dawkins gets it wrong here – he is talking about “modeling” life, not “understanding” it. Erwin Schrodinger, the originator of the idea of the genetic code and therefore the beginning of the “informatic” tradition of biology that Dawkins speaks of here, knew this very well and insisted on the importance of first person experience for understanding.
So while I find these metaphors useful, that is exactly what they are: metaphors. There is a very long history to the attempt to model words and action together: again, John 1:1 is closer to Dawkin’s position here than he may be comfortable with: “In the Beginning was the word, and the word was god, and the word was with god” is a way of working with this capacity of language to bring phenomena into being. It is really only because we habitually think of language as “mere words” that we continually forget that they are a manifestation of a physical system and that they have very actual effects not limited to the physics of their utterance. The words “I love you” can have an effect much greater than the amount of energy necessary to utter them. Our experiences are highly tuneable by the language we use to describe them."

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