1. Choice – Life & Matter, Mind & Body

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Synopsis

The author’s Theory of Attention is at the center of the controversy surrounding the notion of Choice. The Materialist Perspective holds that Choice is an illusion. This perspective is based upon the assumption that everything, including Life, is a function of Matter. Matter/Body obeys the deterministic laws of Material Mathematics; therefore Life/Mind ultimately obeys these same laws – goes the reasoning.

In contrast, humans generally act as if they have the ability to make decisions. Further many scholarly disciplines start with the implicit assumption that humans regularly make choices. We call this the Common Sense Perspective.

The Theory of Attention provides a mathematical foundation for the Common Sense Perspective, i.e. humans have the capacity for Choice. A lifetime of personal research indicates that the rhythms of Attention are entrained to the mathematical rhythms of Data Stream Dynamics (DSD). This Math/Data synergy implies the existence of the Choice complex, which includes Intention, Attention, and Feelings.

Matter has none of these features. Further DSD is not a subset of Material Mathematics. These differences between Matter and Attention/Life imply that they occupy separate yet interacting realms of existence.

To provide a larger context for the controversy regarding Choice, the following article presents a historical development of each perspective.

 

Section Headings

Introduction

The author’s Theory of Attention is at the center of the controversy surrounding the notion of Choice; and Choice is at the center of the discussion concerning the relationships between Life and Matter, Mind and Body. A host of questions surround these emotionally charged topics.

Questions

What does the Universe consist of? Nothing but Matter? Then how does Life fit into the equation? Does Living Matter emerge from Inert Matter? Or does Life have special properties that set it apart from the Material Realm?

Similar questions arise concerning the relationship between Mind and Body? Do they operate independently of each other? Or does the physiology of the Body determine our mental capabilities? Or is there perhaps an undiscovered interaction between Mind and Body that could reshape our thinking?

Considering that it consists of Matter, can Mind make Choices that operate independently of biology? Or are all forms of Life, including humans, really just running on automatic? Are there other possibilities? Could it be that Mind has an inherent feature that Inert Matter does not possess? Could this key feature be Life’s intentional relationship with Information?

Perspectives are Scientific Paradigms

The proposed answers to these questions are immersed in controversy. There are some basic perspectives that are pertinent to our discussion. These perspectives are associated with the prime paradigms that have driven the scientific community for centuries.

Mind-Body Duality

One perspective is based upon Descartes’ Mind-Body Duality. This perspective holds that Mind and Body operate independently of each other. Composed exclusively of Matter, the Body obeys the deterministic laws of mathematics. In contrast, Humans have a Mind that mysteriously enables them to make independent decisions.

Materialist summary

A second perspective carries great weight in the scientific community. This so-called Materialist Perspective holds that the Universe consists of a single Material Realm. Everything, including Mind and Life, are emergent features of Matter. The deterministic Mathematics of Matter dictates the behavior of all phenomena. There is a one-way interaction – from Body to Mind. Choice becomes an illusion.

Common Sense

A third point of view could be characterized as the Common Sense Perspective. All humans behave as if they believe they are making choices. This nearly universal belief presumes that there is a two-way interaction between Mind and Body. Despite the prestige of the deterministic physical sciences, it is our common understanding that we are regularly monitoring our environment and adjusting to circumstances. Our common sense accepts that choice is an implicit element that directs at least some human behaviors.

Common Sense has Mathematical Foundation

According to our research, the Common Sense Perspective has an underlying mathematical foundation that is based upon and inspired by the fundamental constructs of Newtonian dynamics, e.g. power, force and energy. This mathematical system, Data Stream Dynamics (DSD), provides the foundation for our Theory of Attention. The theory arose to make sense of the synergy between DSD and empirical data. The mathematically based Theory of Attention supports and refines the implicit assumptions that underlie the Common Sense Perspective.

To better understand the context and development of each perspective, let us take a brief historical tour.

Mind & Body Duality

During the scientific revolution in Europe, scientist-philosophers came to believe that the Mind and Body are separate and unique. Humans consist of a thinking Mind and a material Body that operate quite independently. This dichotomy is commonly known as the Mind-Body duality.

Descartes: Thinking illustrates that Mind exists

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) is credited as the originator of this perspective. As a philosopher, he is famous for his statement: “I think therefore I am.” Put another way: “The evidence for the existence of my Mind is that I am aware of my thinking.” The great thinkers of his age generally believed in the power of human thought and reason to better understand the nature of reality. This mental understanding in turn would presumably enable us to make better choices.

Humans Only: Mind & Choice

This analysis only applied to humans, not animals. Europeans at that time in a continuation of the Christian tradition believed that they were special in that they had the ability to choose their behavior. Animals, like Matter, belonged to a separate realm that did not include a Mind and subsequently Choice.

Conservation of Momentum & Automatic Material World

In addition to being a great philosopher, Descartes was also a mathematician and scientist. Experimentation led him to the conclusion that momentum is conserved when two bodies, for instance pool balls, collide and move their separate directions. He wrote an equation that describes this relationship. He probably graphed it as he also devised the graphing technique that bears his name – Cartesian coordinates. From this simple empirical example, he inferred that Matter, and by extension the Body, follows the immutable and automatic laws of mathematics.

Descartes: Employed Math’s Symbolic Logic to understand Material Reality

Descartes’ logical process could be considered a watershed for the development of Western Science. He examined the symbolic logic of mathematics to understand the underlying structure of material reality. He applied inductive logic to a Math-Data synergy to come up with a testable conclusion. This moment marked the beginning of a special type of scientific reasoning that has special significance for our discussion.

Automatic Mathematics defines Material interactions

Amazingly enough, his intuitions regarding the inextricable and intimate relationship between Matter and Mathematics were incredibly accurate. Scientific discoveries gradually chipped away at any objections. Notable among these discoveries were Newton’s laws of motion, which stated that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. As decades turned into centuries, it became increasingly apparent that this law applies to every particle in our material world. In other words, Matter has an action-reaction relationship with the environment.

Body & Matter linked: Deterministic Mathematics reveals material behavior

As Descartes intuited, the symbolic language of mathematics accurately reflects and reveals the underlying structure of Material behavior. This action-reaction mathematics is both instantaneous and deterministic. No wiggle room.

Mind-Body Duality

Descartes recognized the paradoxical implications of his scientific theory. If everything, including the Body, is composed of Matter that moves automatically, where does that leave Mind and Choice? To account for conscious thought combined with our decision-making capabilities, he proposed the notion that Mind operates independently of the Body – the so-called Mind-Body duality. This proposition has led to a scholarly-scientific debate that continues unabated almost a half a millennium later. The Mind/Body controversy, as we shall see, is but part of an even greater controversy – the relationship between Life and Matter.

Non-human Animals & Plants akin to Automatic Matter

Until relatively recently, the scientific community continued to embrace the notion that only humans have the capacity for choice. Due presumably to their incredible successes with the material perspective, scientists and philosophers conveniently projected a mechanistic stimulus-response model upon ‘lower’ or ‘primitive’ life forms. A common consensus arose among scientists, and by extension the intelligentsia, that automatic instincts and neurological reflexes determine the behavior of all forms of non-human life. While Descartes and the scientific mentality had already merged Body and Matter, this attitude marks the beginning of the conceptual merger of Life with Matter.

Only Humans have Minds that make Choices

What about humans? At this point in our intellectual history, roughly the early 20th century, humans with their minds still remained outside of this general view of existence. The mindset of both the religious and scientific community was that we have a special ability to choose between right and wrong. In this temporary convergence between religion and science, most people continued to believe that we somehow possess a spirit or Mind that is exclusive to our species. Only humans possess Minds with decision-making capabilities. Everything else, i.e. Matter and non-human Life, responds automatically to circumstances – the stimulus-response model. In brief, there is an enormous chasm between humans and the rest of existence.

Materialist Perspective: Mind a function of Body

Evolution, Genes & DNA -> Life on automatic

With advances in science, the line blurred between Mind and Body and consequently between Life and Matter. During the middle of the 20th century, the scientific community began to embrace evolution, genetics and DNA. Each of these living processes was thought to be automatic. Natural selection, passing on genes, and the cell’s replication of DNA occur naturally without involving human choice. Nobody can choose to modify these biological processes. Mind and Choice are not included in these equations.

The very nature of Mind became an intriguing modern question. Is it a purely deterministic biological function that lacks any semblance of decision-making capabilities? Or is there more to Mind than this?

Science: Biological Drives equivalent to Physical Forces

Physical scientists became increasingly more adept at predicting the behavior of the material world by utilizing the Newtonian model. Many in the academic community became intoxicated by the fabulous successes of this technique. Attempts were made to employ this same type of model to characterize and predict living behavior. Just as physical forces exclusively drive the material world, they hypothesized that biological drives combined with positive and negative reinforcement exclusively motivates human behavior.

Skinner quote: Do Humans really think?

B.F. Skinner, a notable proponent of this hypothesis, wrote a popular book called Beyond Freedom & Dignity. It epitomized the notion that humans, rather than a special creation, are mere automatons. The Mind does not actually make choices, rather the Body reacts to stimuli. As an indication of the extremity of his position, he is said to have made the following statement:

“The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do.”

Bio-chemicals & Neurological Processes drive Human Behavior

In the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st century, a multitude of scientific discoveries from a variety of disciplines validated this perspective. For instance, cognitive scientists began exploring the effects of bio-chemicals on our cognitive processes. Their results pointed in one direction: bio-chemicals exert an automatic and unmitigated influence upon living systems. At a similar time, brain scans enabled scientists to pinpoint the areas of our brain that are responsible for the emotions that are involved in decision-making. Automatic neurological processes that include bio-chemical interactions seem to drive our behavior.

Thoughts are automatic biochemical interactions

Due to these discoveries like these, many cognitive scientists began to develop the belief that biological processes, including biochemistry, are the sole determiner of our thoughts. Consequently, conscious decision-making can be viewed as an illusion. An abundance of modern evidence certainly seems to supports this apparently reasonable conclusion.

Is there really an independent Mind with Thoughts?

If the mathematical laws of Matter determine everything about the Body including our thoughts, where does Mind and decision-making come into the picture? Descartes grappled with this same question a half millennium ago. How much choice do we really have? Does the possession of a brain necessarily imply the existence of a Mind? Could the brain be merely an organ much like the liver that responds automatically to stimuli? Is Mind merely our invention? Or is it something more?

Cognitive Science consensus: Mind a function of Body

Indeed a consensus has begun to arise among cognitive scientists that Mind is exclusively a function of the Body. Humans are viewed as nothing more than complicated animals that respond automatically to complex neurological signals. Mind and Body obey the same laws of stimulus-response as the rest of the living world.

One-way Arrow – Body influences Mind, not vice-versa

Members of the cognitive science community began to hypothesize that there is a one-way interaction that originates with the Body, then resonates in the Mind. Rather than the Mind being in charge, humans react to biological directives. These insights inspired a variety of books that proudly proclaim, “Science disproves Descartes’ Mind-Body duality”.

Life just a complicated form of Matter

This intellectual pulse eroded the notion that Life is special. If Mind is a mere function of Body, doesn’t this suggest that Life is a mere function of Matter? Early in the 20th century, most believed that humans held a special role in creation because we possessed an independent Mind. A century later, with Mind’s decision-making capabilities in question, many intellectuals came to believe that Life is just a very complicated form of Matter. This perspective hypothesizes that the Universe consists of a single Material Realm, of which the Living Realm is but one subset. For the purposes of this article, we choose to call this the Materialist Perspective.

Materialist perspective

If this materialistic mindset is valid, then the mathematical laws of the Material Realm should hold sway over the Living Realm as well. These deterministic laws would dictate the behavior of all phenomena – Life, Humans and Mind. If so, Choice is but an illusion that we project upon reality.

Common Sense Perspective: Mind & Body Interaction

Shades of Grey: Scientific findings point both ways

We have, however, conveniently painted a black and white picture, when there are many shades of grey. While many scientific findings pointed in the materialist direction, other results pointed in a contrary direction. Multiple sources indicate that something else is at play besides the predictability of atomic and subatomic interactions.

4 Sources indicating more than Matter

At least four distinct areas of investigation lend credibility to the notion that living behavior lacks this type of predictability. First, confounding evidence arises in a variety of fields, e.g. research into Cells, Intrinsic Motivation, Sleep and Attention. Second, many widespread phenomena, e.g. the creation and appreciation of music, continue to evade a matter-based explanation despite extensive investigations.

Third, it has become increasingly evident that many traditional disciplines elude the deterministic mathematics of matter. For instance, most scholars of history, art, literature and music actually find this approach to be woefully unsuccessful in characterizing key aspects of their fields. Fourth, new fields have begun to emerge that investigate how to make better individual and social choices. These researchers appear to have found fertile ground, while ignoring the materialist perspective altogether.

Academic Chasm re attitude towards Mind & Choice

It is evident that there is not a widespread scientific consensus regarding the Mind and its capacity for decision-making. Even though many cognitive and material scientists continue to maintain that Mind is purely a function of biology, most social scientists begin from the opposite perspective. They begin with the implicit assumption that humans do make choices. A huge chasm continues to exist in academia regarding Mind and Choice. This gulf is not confined to academia.

Ironically, Humans behave as if they have a Mind

Our daily behavior even provides confounding evidence to the materialist mindset. Ironically all humans, including the scientists that propound these deterministic beliefs, regularly act as if we have a Mind that is independent of the Body. We all behave as if our mental choices can exert a considerable influence upon our future. We sense the Body’s hunger. We look at a menu. We think about our choices. We order a BLT and then we eat it. The Body is satisfied.

Media, Politicians, Advertisers, & Preachers attempt to influence our choices

We engage in innumerable instances of making metaphorical menu selections every single day. In addition, media regularly informs us how to best control our thoughts and behaviors. Politicians ask us to choose between candidates. Advertisers ask us to choose between products. Preachers sermonize about religious choices. Society certainly behaves as if human beings are making choices.

Human Behavior: Middle Ground

Most of us generally take the middle ground in terms of behavior. We respect the physical laws of the material world. Simultaneously, we act if we have a Mind that makes choices that influence our Body. In turn, our physical behavior manipulates the world that surrounds us in order to maximize our potentials. Let us call this the Common Sense Perspective.

Materialist Body -> Mind

The relationship between Mind and Body is loaded with controversy. An extreme, yet common, materialist position holds that there is a one-way dynamic between Body and Mind. This perspective holds that the physical laws that govern the Body are the only laws that govern living behavior.

Common sense perspective: Body & Mind interact

Most of us tend to reject the notion that Body exclusively dictates to Mind. Rather we believe and act as if there is a two-way interaction between Mind and Body. We presume that there is an ongoing feedback loop between physical and mental energy that shapes our behavior. This Common Sense Perspective is quite different from an extreme Materialist Perspective.

As witnessed, there are substantial differences between the materialist mindset and our common sense regarding the relationship between Mind, Body and Choice. Our common sense also tells us that Life’s intentional relationship to Information distinguishes it from Inert Matter. While both react to environmental stimuli, only living systems do so by monitoring the environment and adjusting accordingly.

How would an organism go about effectively monitoring data streams? Certainly there are times when living systems respond automatically to external stimuli. We think it is probable that organisms also employ Information to make deliberate choices as well. Wouldn’t living systems benefit from determining the relative importance of Information? If so, how would this be accomplished? Rather than exclusively relying upon biochemical thresholds, isn’t it likely that some kind of data processing is involved?

It would seem that living systems require a language that can effectively analyze incoming data. The most efficient language of modern science is mathematics. This language can describe the laws that govern material behavior with great precision. The language of mathematics may also be at the heart of many of the laws that govern Living Matter’s unique relationship with Information. The mathematics would obviously not be identical, but the explanatory power could be substantial. An understanding of the method by which living systems process data could provide insights into our behavior.

Is there an algorithm that could serve as a computational tool for Life’s unique relationship with Information? Is there a mathematical system that provides a theoretical foundation for our Common Sense Perspective regarding Choice and Information?

Development of a Fresh Perspective

Stumbled upon Simple Equation that provides ongoing measures

At the same time that the influence of the materialist perspective was growing in dominance, my research as an amateur mathematician/scientist was headed in another simpler direction. Motivated by sheer curiosity without any particular hypothesis in mind, I was studying my own actions to see if I could uncover any behavioral patterns.

In the attempt to analyze personal data in the pre-computer era, I stumbled upon an equation that satisfied my needs. This equation provided ongoing measures to characterize streams of data regarding my behavior. It was easy to compute in my head and had minimal memory requirements.

Applying Algorithm to itself yields Dynamic & Probabilistic Measures

Over the years, it became apparent that this simple equation could actually be used as an algorithm. Simply put, an algorithm is a rule of procedure for solving a recurrent mathematical problem. My algorithm yields an abundance of relevant ongoing central measures.

These central measures are both dynamic and probabilistic.  They apply to the information contained in any stream of numbers. Imagining that these measures could be useful to both animals and insects, I began calling it the Living Algorithm (LA).

Living Algorithm models Interruptions & Sleep

It gradually dawned on me that the mathematical patterns generated by the Living Algorithm applied to a problem I was particularly interested in. It effectively modeled the negative impact of interruptions on the quality of a creative session. I noticed that it was also a fairly good match for some interesting contemporary sleep research. My algorithm’s model bore a strong correlation to patterns related to sleep interruption. As the years turned into decades, it became apparent that the features of this mathematical model actually permeate many patterns of human behavior.

Could Mathematics reveal a causal mechanism?

Why does the Living Algorithm’s mathematical system correspond so closely with human behavior? Does the mathematics do more than merely provide a good model? Could the mathematics actually be the computational mechanism that human beings utilize to make data streams meaningful?

Life requires Procedure to make Meaning from Info

All living systems are engaged in an ongoing interaction with their environment. These interactions could be characterized as the process of experiencing data streams. All living things must surely be processing these data streams in some way. If so, there must be some procedures that Life employs to make meaning out of ongoing information. Could the LA be one of those key procedures?

Cells, Animals, & Insects require diagnostics for better decision-making

Consider for instance the struggle for survival. Animals and insects require analytics that enable them to make better guesstimates regarding the predator/prey dynamic. Mathematics is the method that science employs to make useful real world predictions. Similarly, Cells, indeed all forms of Life, could well be utilizing a mathematical procedure to analyze data streams.

The key is the existence of a simple, contextual algorithm that could be employed as a computational process. Framed in the language of mathematics, this method would provide ongoing measures regarding the information contained in data streams. This meaning-making procedure could very well be a crucial element in the evolution of living systems.

Life requires Simple Algorithm

Why do we suggest a ‘simple’ algorithm? Nature seems to love elegant simplicity when it comes to mathematics. This certainly applies to exclusively material systems. In fact, scientists are suspicious when a mathematical formulation is too complicated. Why wouldn’t this same suspicion apply to living systems?

It seems even more likely that Life would require a simple algorithm to deal with the complexity entailed in environmental and internal interactions. Excessive computational complexity results in the likelihood of more mistakes. Simplicity minimizes this possibility.

Mathematical Procedure to determine too much too little

Why would Life need a mathematical algorithm to process data? Consider the need to maintain homeostasis in living systems for instance. In order to balance their many interlocking systems, Cells must have some way of determining too much and too little.

What simpler way than a mathematical procedure that informs the Cell when to procure sustenance and when to cease consumption? Is there an algorithm that articulates the difference between appetite and satiety – too fast and too slow – too hot and too cold? Living systems have an abundance of these types of recurrent mathematical problems that a simple algorithm could effectively address.

LA fulfills need

It seems reasonable to assume that living systems would have a simple computational algorithm to deal with significant environmental data streams. The LA could easily fulfill this need. Its dynamic and probabilistic measures make it possible to analyze data streams and to make better predictions. Further it is easy to compute and has minimal storage requirements. This functional simplicity would certainly be useful to living systems.

Abundance of Evidence in support of Computational Interface Hypothesis

Is it possible that humans, and perhaps all living systems, employ the Living Algorithm to impart meaning to environmental information? A growing body of empirical, experiential and even institutional evidence indicates that the answer to these questions is an unequivocal Yes!

These unexpected correspondences lead to a multitude of unanticipated implications. To make sense of these implications, the author ultimately developed a Theory of Attention. This theory is based upon the synergy between a mathematical system generated by the LA and empirical data. Before going into more detail, let us first summarize our discussion thus far.

Theory of Attention provides Mathematical Basis for Common Sense

We have briefly described a variety of perspectives regarding the relationship between Life and Matter, Mind and Body. We started with Descartes’ Mind-Body duality. This position holds that Mind and Body are separate and that somehow the Human Mind is making Choices.

Over the years, this Mind-Body distinction lost its prominence as the Materialist Perspective emerged. This widely held view holds that Mind is a mere function of the Body and that Life is a mere function of Matter. Just as atoms have no choice about obeying the laws of gravity, humans have no choice but to follow the laws of stimulus-response. Therefore by extension, Choice must be an illusion.

Despite the prevalence of this stance, humans regularly behave as if they actually do make deliberate decisions. This Common Sense Perspective holds that there are meaningful differences between the nature of Living and Non-Living Matter.

In this sense, there is a respect for the Cartesian distinction between Mind and Body. While Descartes suggests that the two are separate, our common sense tells us that they interact. This mysterious two-way interaction between Mind and Body is responsible for what we call Choice.

The Theory of Attention provides a mathematical basis and accompanying model for the Common Sense Perspective. It starts with the assumption that living systems must employ something very much like the Living Algorithm to impart Meaning to Information. By utilizing the LA’s diagnostics, Life is able to make better choices.

Table: Perspective, Universe, Mathematics

To clarify and consolidate this discussion, the following table indicates each perspective’s relationship to the Universe, Mathematics and Choice.

 

Perspective

Universe

Mathematics

Choice

Mind-Body

Mind & Body Dualism

None

Only Humans

Materialist

Matter only

Body acts upon Mind

Calculus

None: Matter

Action-Reaction

Common Sense

Mind & Body Interaction

None

Yes

Attention Theory

Mind & Body Interaction

Living Algorithm

Yes: Life

Monitor-Adjust

Theory of Attention provides mathematical basis for Common Sense Perspective

As the chart exhibits, Descartes’ Duality claims that Mind operates independently of the Body, while the Materialist Perspective describes human behavior solely in terms of the Body’s stimulus-response mechanism. The Theory of Attention holds that there is an interaction between Mind and Body that includes Choice. The Fresh Perspective supports and extends the Common Sense Perspective by providing a mathematical basis for this everyday mindset. Choice is at the very heart of the Theory of Attention .

Implications of Theory of Attention

Supposition: Life employs LA to evaluate Information

The Theory of Attention is based upon a simple yet bold hypothesis: Living Systems employ a mathematical tool (the Living Algorithm) to impart Meaning to the constant flow of Information. This meaning-making process enables Life to make better choices. What kind of implications can we draw from this intriguing supposition?

Life has computational relationship with data: a digestive process

On the most basic level, our assumption implies that Life has a computational relationship with data. In order to extract relevant Information, living systems must process a vast array of internal and external data streams. It can be instructive to view this extraction of useful Information as a digestive process. We choose this metaphor because digestion implies that raw materials are converted into a form that is valuable to the organism. In the current context, raw data is transformed into meaningful Information.

Life responds to digested Info

If living systems do indeed employ the LA as an environmental interface, then Life responds to ‘digested’ information. The LA process relates the most current data to past data in an ongoing and weighted fashion. In this manner, the LA provides updated descriptions of the dynamic features of the current moment. On the most basic level, these measures include average location, range of variation, and current tendencies. Living systems could certainly find these descriptors useful as predictors. These ongoing diagnostics would facilitate timely decision-making.

Features of Digestive Process: Attention, Intention, Meaning, Feelings

 This digestive process has some important basic features. Attention is required to monitor data streams. Intention is required to focus and hold Attention upon the more relevant data streams. The organism places value upon particular data stream(s) to determine relevance. This act of placing value can also be viewed as a type of Meaning-making. Basic Feelings or Emotions, e.g. those associated with appetite and satiety, drive the living capacity for assigning meaning.

Executive Function that evaluates data to make choices to initiate action

Living systems must also have a feature that evaluates the digested data streams in order to make Choices. Let us call this decision-making component the Executive Function. The Executive Function must both evaluate the data and then translate it into potential action(s).

Consciousness & Self-awareness not necessary features of Mind

Note that consciousness and self-awareness are not necessarily features of the Executive Function. It is plausible that the single Cell lacks any cognizance of a self. Nevertheless, this single Cell could still be aware of its environment and make non-deliberate ‘informed’ decisions.

Computational abilities, Attention, Intention, Feelings, Executive

This analysis indicates that there are at least six essential features associated with Life’s hypothesized diagnostic process.

  •  Computational relationship with data

  •  Attention

  •  Intention

  •  Feelings

  •  Meaning-making

  •  Executive Function

Information in the form of Data Streams

The actual mathematics of the LA’s process has some intriguing implications. The LA ‘digests’ information in discrete chunks, i.e. data streams. This discretized approach groups information in a manner that provides Life with an opportunity to monitor and then adjust to the meaning of the most recent data. Put simply, Life evaluates data streams in order to monitor and adjust to a dynamic environment in a timely fashion.

Fundamental Differences between Life & Matter regarding Info

Info: Fundamental Diff Living & Inert Matter

What are the implications of this line of reasoning? In order to make better choices, Living Matter has a dynamic, ongoing, monitor-adjust relationship with the Information contained in data streams. If this is true, there is a fundamental difference between Living Matter and Non-Living Matter regarding Information.

Information defined as interaction with environment

It may sound strange to describe a relationship between Non-Living Matter and Information. Many of us would suggest that only living systems have a relationship with Information. On the most basic level, the Information available to living systems results from the interaction between organism and environment.

However, Non-Living Matter also interacts with its environment. This interaction can be viewed as the simplest of all relationships with Information. The scientific community typically characterizes this relationship as the process of action and reaction. In this elemental sense, both Non-Living Matter and Living Matter interact with environmental Information.

Life’s monitor-adjust vs. Matter’s action-reaction

Yet there seems to be a qualitative difference between living systems and exclusively material systems. The types of interactions that they have with their environment differ dramatically. Inert Matter interacts with environmental Information purely in terms of action-reaction. In contrast, our suppositions imply that Living Matter, while obeying the laws of ‘action-reaction’, uniquely possesses a more deliberate monitor and adjust relationship with environmental Information.

Action-Reaction of Inert Matter: No Choice, Attention …

In order to effectively monitor and adjust, Life requires Attention, Intention, Feelings, and an Executive Function. Inert Matter simply ‘reacts’ automatically to environmental ‘actions’, i.e. no choices involved. Consequently, it has no need for any of these features that are necessary for decision-making.

Monitor and Adjust Life requires Attention, Intention, Feeling, Mind

The significance of Information to Living Matter highlights this difference between the two realms. All interaction between objects and their environment can be viewed as a rudimentary form of Information exchange. Yet the Information that is distilled by an organism from its environment inherently entails the act of meaning-making. Essentially, Life works to make sense of its interactions by effectively processing Information – the more effective the better. This interpretative act is absent in all interactions between Non-Living Matter and its environment.

Table: Differences between Life & Matter regarding Choice

If living systems do indeed employ the Living Algorithm to ‘digest’ environmental data streams, then Life’s relationship with Information goes far beyond Matter’s merely reactive model. The following table summarizes these differences.

 

Life

Matter

Information

Monitor-Adjust

Action-Reaction

Choice

Yes

No

Attention

Yes

No

Intention

Yes

No

Feelings

Yes

No

Meaning-making

Yes

No

Executive Function

Yes

No

Computational Ability

Yes –

Living Algorithm

No

 

When it comes to Information, living and material systems seem to belong to mutually exclusive sets. One set includes an intentional relationship with the mental complex associated with Choice and the other doesn’t.

What are the implications of these fundamental differences between Living and Non-Living Matter? If the inferences drawn from our initial hypothesis are even partly true, it is hard to view Life as simply an emergent feature of Non-Living Matter. Living reactions do not appear to be limited exclusively to the realm of ‘action-reaction’. Could it be that Matter and Life (as it relates to Information) belong to separate yet interacting realms of existence?

From Mind & Body to Life & Matter

We posed a question at the beginning of this discussion: What is the relationship between Mind, Body and Choice? Descartes asserted that Mind and Body are separate. The Materialist Perspective holds that Mind is a function (a subset) of Body. According to our common sense, Mind and Body are engaged in an interactive feedback loop. For instance, our thoughts can trigger hormones and bodily excretions can trigger thoughts and emotions. Our Theory of Attention provides mathematical support for this Common Sense Perspective. These relationships are shown in the following diagram.

Could it be the time to leave Descartes’ Mind-Body duality behind? It seems to have outlived its utility as a way of conceptualizing Living Behavior. While useful constructs, the words ‘Mind’ and ‘Body’ have served their purpose. Both Mind and Body have many ambiguous connotations that serve to confuse rather than clarify the discussion. For instance, many believe that Mind is the exclusive province of humans and others believe Body has a ‘mind of its own’. Neither of these definitions is in line with our suppositions.

Under our schema, Choice differentiates Living Matter from Non-living Matter. Rather than Mind, we will employ the word Life to refer to the complex of ideas surrounding the Choices that Living Matter makes. Rather than Body, we will use the word Matter to indicate the realm where the laws of Physics govern the behavior of Non-living Matter. The words Life and Matter are less charged with extraneous connotations and are more specific to our topic. The following summary employs these definitions.

This discussion has highlighted some mutually exclusive differences between Life and Matter. According to our suppositions, the two realms have contrasting relationships with the interrelated concepts of: Choice, Information, Meaning and Mathematics.

1) Choice is an essential feature of all living systems, while exclusively material systems do not have this capacity. 2) To enable Choice, Life has an active ‘monitor and adjust’ relationship with Information. In contrast, Matter has a reactive ‘stimulus-response’ relationship with Information. 3) In the decision-making process, Life imparts Meaning to environmental data streams, whereas Meaning is not a component of Matter. 4) Life actually utilizes a mathematical process to impart Meaning to raw environmental data streams. Although mathematics describes the immutable laws of the material world, Matter is incapable of actually ever using mathematics in any way. These relationships are shown in the table below.

 

 

Matter

Life

Choice

No

Yes

Information

Reactive

Active

Meaning

No

Yes

Mathematics

Describes

Utilizes

 

Both the Material and Living realms are governed by a set of rules whose language appears to be mathematical. While the rules are different, it is clear to us that these two realms do interact. It is this interaction that sheds light onto the intriguing topic of Choice.

Remainder of Book: a more in depth analysis

This cursory introduction to many complicated topics evokes many questions. If the Materialist Perspective is incomplete regarding Choice, how do we best conceptualize the interaction between Mind and Body? How does the Living Algorithm work? How does its computational process provide a more complete picture of decision-making? What kind of evidence substantiates our claims? The remainder of this book provides an in depth analysis of these topics.

 

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