Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Heikki Hyötyniemi: Theory of Emergent Information

In a meeting of the Finnish Society for Natural Philosophy, emeritus professor Heikki Hyötyniemi is giving a talk on his theory of emergent information. Hyötyniemi is an original thinker who considers philosophical issues in the framework of mathematical formulation. In this work, he studies complex phenomena in a systems theoretical framework. Hyötyniemi has coined the term neocybernetics that seems to be closely related to the second-order cybernetics of von Foerster, Pask, Maturana and others.

Hyötyniemi's presentation covered a wide range of topics ranging from multivariate statistics to control-theoretical and systems-theoretical considerations and further to metaphysical issues. The presentation was concluded by discussing implications on how to understand life and ethics. It seems important that ethics is considered from the systems-theoretical point of view (see Von Foerster's views on ethics).

An excerpt of one of Hyötyniemi's slides illuminates the contents of the presentation:
  • One needs no conscious adaptation to take place, it is an illusion when looking the group from outside, after "survival"
  • Emformation makes difference, it becomes visible; the fittest entity has evolutionary advantage most efficiently
  • One can interpret that there is hunger for life (livelihood)
  • It seems that notorious vitalism might be coming back
  • It is possible to approach questions of the type WHY.
  • Analyses starting from below, through emergence ("birth") in a distributed manner without central control ("subject")
  • Yes, this is not science, this is natural philosophy!

In the discussion, Hyötyniemi pointed out that even though process philosophy has some related insights, it is usually limited by relying on writings in natural language and does not use mathematical tools in theory formation.

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