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Research Initiatives

The fields of the philosophy of information and information theory, combined with research into logics of information and the philosophy of science, offers a superior opportunity for researchers to investigate not only foundational metaphysical questions which impact the sciences and are of interest to philosophers and laypersons alike, but also offers promise for progress in specific areas of the philosophy of science and computing. For example, one of the new project initiatives that has just commenced, based upon elements of a long term research project, is an effort to contribute to the science of brain visual signal processing and retinotopic encoding by investigating different approaches to theorising about natural encoding mechanisms..


Dr Bruce Long is also conducting world-leading research into source based logics of information and information dynamics, and into foundational questions of the nature of our informational natural world. If you would like to contribute funding to, and benefit from, world leading research that can make a difference to fields from cognitive science to the ethics of artificial intelligence, then read on and visit the Informationist research initiative Patreon funding site.


Grant providers and other funding parties have options for supporting targeted research and influencing the research initiatives.


The Informational Scientific Metaphysics Initiative

Background

There exists a long debate in the scientific and philosophical community about the possibility and viability of scientific realism, that doctrine which, broadly construed, regards that the object of scientific research and study exists as, and is naturally necessarily:

  • Material or physical

  • Mind, language, computation, and theory independent or objective

The Informational Scientific Realism Project encompasses, and is comprised of, a suite of projects and programs designed to investigate the possibility of resolving, or else significantly progressing, the scientific realism debates - largely in favour of realism, if not necessarily in a form that has previously been formulated or recognised.

The projects currently part of the entire initiative range across four disciplinary areas and relevant epistemes:

  • Scientific metaphysics.

  • The naturalisation of information.

  • Logic(s) of information and information dynamics.

  • The application of concepts of information in the sciences.


Project 1. Informationist Scientific Metaphysics


The focus of this project is the development of information-theoretic or informationist scientific metaphysics. Scientific metaphysics is a relatively new field of endeavour in the philosophy of science. Scientific metaphysics has an intellectual and cultural heritage in various scientific methodological revolutions including logical positivism, empiricism, Hempel's nomological deductivism, verificationism, Popperian falsificationist doctrine and hypothetico-deductivism, Quinean theory regimentation, contemporary pragmatism, and Ramseyfication techniques. However, it is different to all of these in important ways. It emphasises empiricism and contingency, and either minimises or else completely eliminates what philosophers call a-priori conceptual analysis.


Project 1. is metaphilosophical and metametaphysical, but also significantly about methodology and application.





Project 2. Naturalisation of Information and Semantic Information


Endeavours to naturalise information - to identify those dynamics and structures in nature that are the basis of our various and varied scientific conceptions of information - have been part of the project of applied scientists and philosophers of information for over half a century. Understanding the nature of information is as prospectively important for science as understanding the relationship between the structures and dynamics that are important to molecular bioscience and those that are important in quantum physics. The founders of mathematical and computational communication theory, R.V.L Hartley, Claude E. Shannon, Norbert Wiener, and Alan Turing, were aware of the importance of understanding what, if anything, in nature should be identified as the reductive basis of information. The famous anecdote related by Myron Tribus gives us insight into the relevance and significance of informational metaphysics:


Shannon replied: `My greatest concern was what to call it. I thought of calling it `information', but the word was overly used, so I decided to call it `uncertainty' . . . John von Neumann, he had a better idea. Von Neumann told me, "You should call it entropy, for two reasons. In the first place your uncertainty function has been used in statistical mechanics under that name. In the second place, and more importantly, no one knows what entropy really is, so in a debate you will always have the advantage."

(McIrvine and Tribus, 1971 See also Tribus, 1988)


Similar historical insight is available from the metaphysical assertions of the child prodigy and founding father of cybernetics, the brilliant Norbert Wiener, in the form of what has come to be known as Wiener's dictum:


"Information is information, not matter or energy"

(Wiener, N. (1961). Cybernetics: or control and communication in the animal and the machine. M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass, 2nd edition., 132.)


There's also a long running project to identify a theory of semantic information that accommodates naturalism as well as scientific and folk intuitions about the role and significance of causation, of subjective cognitive processing and contents, of abstract entities, and of notions like uncertainty. Scientific luminaries such as Rudolph Carnap and Claude Shannon have attempted formulations on very different grounds, as have numerous talented and capable philosophers, such as Fred Dretske and Luciano Floridi.


Dr Long is conducting research into the naturalisation of Information, of semantic information, and of semantic-informational representation in scientific models and theories, involving:

  • The development of a defeasible scientific metaphysical and PPC-motivated (primacy of physics motivated) field ontology for the naturalisation of information and for physics.

  • The development of a causal-indication based theory of semantic information.

Project 2. is metaphysical, and has a significant component of the philosophy of science and the philosophy of physics.


Project 3.


Development of a logic of information with a specific approach to semantic machinery and ontology. There are a number of what are called informational logics, including relevance logics and some other non-classical logics. The objective of this project is to develop something different: a logic of information source and transmission dynamics.


Project 3. has possible applications in AI algorithm development and machine learning, as well as for modelling information systems in molecular bioscence.


Project 4.


Conceptions and types of information in the sciences. This project seeks to investigate what scientists are commonly referring to when they use concepts and principles of information theory, and of computational and algorithmic conceptions of information. One of the main application areas is currently retinotopic encoding.



The Ethics of Transmission and AI Algorithms Initiative

Background


In addition to their computational power, AI algorithms exhibit increasing levels of complexity. Their documentability is already prohibitive in many cases except with computer-aided analyses. As recursively self-modifying algorithms become more prevalent, they become more epistemically impenetrable and opaque. Not only will AI that approaches strong AI with predictive capacities and approximates theories of mind (or functional equivalents of theories of mind) be

Seeking Funding

The project is currently seeking patrons and funding via two sources:

1. Direct requests for funding

2. Targeted 'crowd' funding.

Planning

Organisational


Although all projects are underway and significant research has already commenced in all of them, the organisational structure of the initiative is yet to be established. This will be determined, to a significant extent, by the kind of funding that is secured, and on what basis it is secured. Establishment of an institute based upon a foundation, a society, or a funded research entity are the most likely outcomes.


Research Design and Phases


The research projects and initiatives listed above can be, and are being, pursued and executed in tandem. They are designed to be inter-supporting and mutually-reinforcing. Progress in the naturalisation of information project will directly inform the metaphilosophical project, and the logic of information project. Development of the semantic 'machinery' for the logic of information project will be applicable to the naturalisation project for a theory of semantic information.


The projects listed above have varying schedule requirements, which can be affected by funding and development outcomes. In most cases the projects require 2 years, but there are smaller pilot projects and individual research papers that can be sponsored.

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