Information at the Threshold of Interpretation, Science as Human Construction of Sense

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Giuseppe Longo. Information at the Threshold of Interpretation, Science as Human Construction of Sense. In Bertolaso, M. & Sterpetti, F. (Eds.) Will Science Remain Human? Springer, New York, NY, 2018

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Abstract: This text will first discuss the great and productive “linguistic turn” that originated in Logic, at the end of the XIX century. After Turing’s work on the Logical Computing Machine (1936-1950) and Shannon’s theory (1948), Brillouin attributed information content to Maxwell’s demon’s action (1956), with a scientific invention and, in my opinion, a touch of humor, thus granting to inert matter an intelligent activity capable of inverting entropy. Moreover, since the 1950s, many identified the digital elaboration of data with human intelligence and some projected the processing of information onto inert matter. In the same years, DNA was identified as the complete information carrier of phylogenesis and ontogenesis. In these approaches, an ambiguity has been arbitrarily played out, and a threshold has been sometimes crossed, sometimes not; first, inLogic and Computing, between « formal principles of proof » or of computation and their « semantics » (their mathematical meaning); then in Biology, between elaboration of information and biological dynamics in their context. Today, well beyond classical Artificial Intelligence on discrete data types, Brillouin’s invention and Deep Learning on continuous mathematical structures are the new loci of confusion between knowledge construction and transmission or processing of information. Yet, the construction of human knowledge is even more radically by-passed and science dehumanized when information is directly embedded in a world that is viewed as a massive information processor. The remarkable scientific and economic productivity of our new observable, information, must instead be seen in the context of our human, ecosystemic and historical activities,in order to subordinate it to interpretation and meaningful action that enrich and do not strip the sense from our forms of knowledge and life. To this purpose, we must strictly distinguish between information, as formal elaboration and transmission of signs, and information as production of “meaning” in our active friction on reality.