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Hierarchical Dynamical Information Systems With a Focus on Biology
Philosophy, University of Natal, Durban 4041, South Africa
Received: 20 February 2003; Accepted: 26 February 2003 / Published: 26 June 2003
Abstract: A system of a number of relatively stable units that can combine more or less freely to form somewhat less stable structures has a capacity to carry information in a more or less arbitrary way. I call such a system a physical information system if its properties are dynamically specified. All physical information systems have certain general dynamical properties. DNA can form such a system, but so can, to a lesser degree, RNA, proteins, cells and cellular subsystems, various immune system elements, organisms in populations and in ecosystems, as well as other higher-level phenomena. These systems are hierarchical structures with respect to the expression of lower level information at higher levels. This allows a distinction between macro and microstates within the system, with resulting statistical (entropy driven) dynamics, including the possibility of self-organization, system bifurcation, and the formation of higher levels of information expression. Although lower-level information is expressed in an information hierarchy, this in itself is not sufficient for reference, function, or meaning. Nonetheless, the expression of information is central to the realization of all of these. 'Biological information' is thus ambiguous between syntactic information in a hierarchical modular system, and functional information. However, the dynamics of hierarchical physical information systems is of interest to the study of how functional information might be embodied physically. I will address 1) how to tighten the relative terms in the characterizations of 'information system' and 'informational hierarchy' above, 2) how to distinguish between components of an information system combining to form more complex informational modules and the expression of information, 3) some aspects of the dynamics of such systems that are of biological interest, 4) why information expression in such systems is not sufficient for functional information, and 5) what further might be required for functional information.
Keywords: Information; Entropy; Hierarchy; Meaning; Function
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Collier, J. Hierarchical Dynamical Information Systems With a Focus on Biology. Entropy 2003, 5, 100-124.
Collier J. Hierarchical Dynamical Information Systems With a Focus on Biology. Entropy. 2003; 5(2):100-124.
Collier, John. 2003. "Hierarchical Dynamical Information Systems With a Focus on Biology." Entropy 5, no. 2: 100-124.