Publication 1006

Sharov A. A. (2011) Functional information: Towards synthesis of biosemiotics and cybernetics. Entropy 12: 1050–1070. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/1006
Biosemiotics and cybernetics are closely related, yet they are separated by the boundary between life and non-life: biosemiotics is focused on living organisms, whereas cybernetics is applied mostly to non-living artificial devices. However, both classes of systems are agents that perform functions necessary for reaching their goals. I propose to shift the focus of biosemiotics from living organisms to agents in general, which all belong to a pragmasphere or functional universe. Agents should be considered in the context of their hierarchy and origin because their semiosis can be inherited or induced by higher-level agents. To preserve and disseminate their functions, agents use functional information – a set of signs that encode and control their functions. It includes stable memory signs, transient messengers, and natural signs. The origin and evolution of functional information is discussed in terms of transitions between vegetative, animal, and social levels of semiosis, defined by Kull. Vegetative semiosis differs substantially from higher levels of semiosis, because signs are recognized and interpreted via direct code-based matching and are not associated with ideal representations of objects. Thus, I consider a separate classification of signs at the vegetative level that includes proto-icons, proto-indexes, and proto-symbols. Animal and social semiosis are based on classification and modeling of objects, which represent the knowledge of agents about their body (Innenwelt) and environment (Umwelt). Relevance: The paper suggests an agency-based approach to biosemiotics. This approach is related to the interactivism of Mark Bickhard.

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