The dynamical evolution of a system of interacting elements can be predicted in terms of its elementary constituents and their interactions, or in terms of the system’s global state transitions. For this reason, systems with equivalent global dynamics are often taken to be equivalent for all relevant purposes. Nevertheless, such systems may still vary in their causal composition—the way mechanisms within the system specify causes and effects over different subsets of system elements. We demonstrate this point based on a set of small discrete dynamical systems with reversible dynamics that cycle through all their possible states. Our analysis elucidates the role of composition within the formal framework of integrated information theory. We show that the global dynamical and information-theoretic capacities of reversible systems can be maximal even though they may differ, quantitatively and qualitatively, in the information that their various subsets specify about each other (intrinsic information). This can be the case even for a system and its time-reversed equivalent. Due to differences in their causal composition, two systems with equivalent global dynamics may still differ in their capacity for autonomy, agency, and phenomenology.
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