Multiple sciences have converged, in the past two decades, on a hitherto mostly unremarked question: what is observation? Here, I examine this evolution, focusing on three sciences: physics, especially quantum information theory, developmental biology, especially its molecular and “evo-devo” branches, and cognitive science, especially perceptual psychology and robotics. I trace the history of this question to the late 19th century, and through the conceptual revolutions of the 20th century. I show how the increasing interdisciplinary focus on the process of extracting information from an environment provides an opportunity for conceptual unification, and sketch an outline of what such a unification might look like.
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