Let’s Get Extraphysical

  The physical universe is
      the material universe shorn of experience.

One of the Things That Bother Me (that is a link to the book by Galen Strawson, but here it’s me): The word ‘physical’.

It is used in somewhat different ways:

1. Something is physical if it relates to the subject of physics. That means whatever current physicists entertain in their theories, that is what is physical. Physical reductionists believe that all science can be reduced to physics. Thus there are no chemical laws or biological laws that aren’t ultimately reducible to physical laws. Whatever these laws (or properties) turn out to be are weakly emergent. That includes consciousness. There are those who think that there are some biological laws or properties, or even chemical laws or properties, that cannot be reduced to the laws of physics: some type of strong emergence, or reverse or downward causation is involved

2. Everything is physical, and physicalism replaces materialism as the conventional scientific view. This means that all biological entities (and all of their laws and properties) are physical. (In some lower-level schools, “physical science” and “life science” are two different subjects, which seems odd in the context that everything is physical.)

3. What is a physical theory only reflects what is behavioral or informational (quantitative, numerical) about what the theory is about. This is the current scientific view of what scientific theories are (as expressed in mathematical language). The criticism of this view by panpsychists (in particular), who posit consciousness (a real thing, not an illusion) to be a fundamental property of matter, is that physical theories (as defined here) are incomplete in what they theorize about: They do not incorporate the psychical elements of consciousness (like experience and qualia).

So if we take physicalism to be the view of matter minus the experiential, then a complete – or experiential – materialism would include the elements of consciousness that panpsychism refers to.

The moral of all this:

The terms “physical world” and “physical universe” should generally be replaced with “material world” and “material universe”, unless you are speaking of “world” and “universe” in the restricted sense of only their behavioral appearance.


Philip Thrift


Material Semantics for Unconventional Programming


from MaxSynBio – Max Planck research network in Synthetic Biology


Unconventional computing (or computation) may become more “conventional” with progress in synthetic biology and nanotechnology where new kinds of “computers” are being made. In the PLTOS (program-language-translator-object-substrate) vocabulary, the objects could be lifeforms or microbots (or even macrobots) that go out into the “real world” to perform tasks versus being conventional (object) code running within a conventional computer. Programming Unconventional Computers: dynamics, development, self-reference (Susan Shapley) points to a physical semantics in addition to the conventional programming language semantics (denotational, operational, axiomatic, etc.) Physical semantics would define the semantics of certain types of unconventional programs (like bioprograms of synthetic biology) in terms of their physical, chemical, and biological properties.

In addition to conventional and physical semantics, one should expect (assuming an experiential nature of matter) an experiential or psychical program semantics. This panpsychist theory posits “psychical” states in matter in addition to the physical (like charge, mass, …) ones:


φ-states   (physical [including chemical and biological])
ψ-states   (psychical [or experiential])


           material semantics =

                     physical (incl. chemical+biological)
                     psychical (or experiential) semantics


The exploration of physical and psychical semantics (towards a conscious synthetic agent) is a next phase of unconventional programming.

HUMANA.MENTE Journal of Philosophical Studies
Vol 9 No 31 (2016): The Enactive Approach to Qualitative Ontology: In Search of New Categories

– the enactive approach opposes the Cartesian bifurcation of reality into psychological and physical
– complements quantitative categories, offering a mathematical treatment of qualitative aspects of reality

A mathematics of (qualitative) “experientials” would be an unconventional mathematics.

A toy example for material semantics: A Turing-type computer, but instead of operating with symbols, it is operating with emojis – but the emojis have actual (material) realization as (elements of) experience.

Programming for unconventional computing (particularly related to synthetic biology) would have its unconventional programming language theory (UPLT), with its semantics.


Philip Thrift


Of Grammatology and the Babel of Sciences

Derrida, Deconstruction, and (Scientific) Divisions


Grammatology is the science of writing [1,2], made central to the deconstruction project [3] of Jacques Derrida (Of Grammatiology [4:pdf]).

From “Grammatology: A Vital Science” (Vicki Kirby, [5]):

Deconstruction offers a thorough challenge to the logic of representation, a logic that posits a second order system of substitution, a stand-in for a world whose ontological difference it can’t access; indeed, deconstruction interrogates the very assumption that a methodology or model is an intervening instrument deployed by a subject to access an object.

The sciences — the landscape of the basic ones (physics, chemistry, biology) and every other science ever invented (sociology, psychology, …) — is a landscape of writing systems (or grammars, or languages, if it is understood that “language” is about the written vs. the spoken form, as in the case of programming languages).

Physics is composed of writing systems. (From here on, writing system and language will mean the same thing.)

  • The Standard Model Equation (Rashmi Shivni) [6]

    This version of the Standard Model is written in the Lagrangian form. The Lagrangian is a fancy way of writing an equation to determine the state of a changing system and explain the maximum possible energy the system can maintain.

    Technically, the Standard Model can be written in several different formulations, but, despite appearances, the Lagrangian is one of the easiest and most compact ways of presenting the theory.


  • The Einstein Field Equation [7]

    In the context of general relativity, tensors are used to represent the curvature of spacetime and the stress-energy content of spacetime, i.e. matter, energy and pressure. By this line of reasoning, we can now finally introduce 3 equivalent forms of Einstein’s field equations for general relativity on the blackboard, which simply reflect differing levels of abbreviation:



An equation then, in the grammatologist’s view, is a written entity in a particular writing system.

What does this mean for the babel of sciences?

The key controversies in the relations between divisions of science — reduction, emergence, downward causation, … — can be expressed on terms of grammatological transformations.

  • Can the languages (writing systems) of quantum mechanics and general relativity be written in a common language?
  • Is there a translation from chemistry to physics?
  • The question of TOE: Can there be one language to rule them all, or is science a babel of languages?
    • For any (division of) science, the first task is to define its grammatology (writing system).


      Philip Thrift


EMP: Effective Matter Programming


Effective Matter Programming is the area of programming that is oriented towards producing objects that “live” in the world rather than just execute within a standard computer.

A recent example of an EMP language is CRN++ for producing programmable biochemical molecules. EMP fits within the PLTOS framework where the computing substrate (S) is the “natural world”, and the transformer (T) could be a biocompiler of synthetic biology producing objects (O) that move, act, and react as lifeforms in the world.

EMP can also stand for Experiential Matter — or Modal — Programming.

The view of experiential materialism is

Our picture of matter is incomplete, at least if it is drawn only with (colorless) pencils of information—the current mathematical language of physics. What is needed to finish the picture are paint brushes dipped in the (colorful) elements of experience.

The above is the subject of a forthcoming book by Philip Goff: Galileo’s Error: A Manifesto for a New Science of Consciousness:

Galileo’s error was to formulate a conception of science that rendered consciousness essentially and inevitably outside of science. The solution is a more expansive conception of science, based on ideas of Russell and Eddington from the 1920s.

Here science is the collection of the usual natural ones: physics, chemistry, biology, neurobiology, etc. But this can also apply to computer science, where information processing has proceeded to great success, while experience processing has mostly been ignored.

There is currently a large BDI and EBDI agent programming literature (“BDI” for “Beliefs-Desires-Intentions”, “E” for “Emotions”). Provability modal logics (like GL and GLS – for Gödel, Löb, Solovay) are incorprated into theorem provers. But modal agent programming has yet to include experiential modalities.

Think of a Turing computing that doesn’t manipulate (only) symbols (information, or numbers), but manipulates (also) emojis. Now emojis themselves are symbols of course, but suppose that they “embody” (are fleshed out by) real modalities of experience.

What is needed:

  • EMP-oriented languages
  • EMP language theorists can create languages, but synthetic biology technologists need to make the compilers!

“Matter compilers receive their raw materials from the Feed, a system analogous to the electrical grid of modern society. The Feed carries streams of both energy and basic molecules, which are rapidly assembled … by matter compilers.”

Note: Effective Material (or Experiential Modal) Programming is not related to Extended Mathematical Programming in the field of optimization under constraints (operations research).


Philip Thrift


Contingency, codicality, and syntheticity


contingency (of language)

  • neopragmatism
  • The Truth Is NOT Out There. (It’s found only in languages.)
  • Languages are detached from nature.

codicality (of matter)

  • codicalism (or hylocodicalism, cf. hylomorphism) = all matter has codicality (programmatic phenomenology)
  • a closer “correspondence” (language-to-the-world) than neopragmatism?
  • Protolanguages are present in nature.

syntheticity (of the future)

  • synthetic biology
  • programmable matter
  • Languages are compiled into nature.

Contingency (neopragmatism) holds that truth is found in writing, not in the world. The “correspondence” of words to nature is only a pragmatic one. A scientific theory (written in words and maths) is not the real thing of nature.

Codicality (codicalism, or hylocodicalism) holds that natural entities have a programmatic aspect (a programmatic phenomenology). They can be (crudely) simulated by the conventional computer, but the simulations are not the things-in-themselves.

Syntheticity (synthetism) is the future where programs are compiled to natural things with the technologies of synthetic biology, programmable matter, etc. Now the writing becomes the world.


Philip Thrift


Experience processing


drawing from Consciousness: An Introduction by Susan Blackmore (2003)


Conventional computing is information processing. Experience processing is a kind of unconventional computing.


Information processing pervades science today. It from bit: “All things physical are information-theoretic in origin” [1]. In computing: “It is essentially synonymous with the terms data processing or computation, although with a more general connotation” [2]. Experience derives from information processing: “Integrated information theory: from consciousness to its physical substrate”, Giulio Tononi [3, cf. 3.1].

Alternatively, experience, vs. information, can be taken as primary:

“The [conventional] computer is indeed a great and powerful information processing machine, which the brain hardly is. The brain is an experience processing system, which creates information during its processing.”

Brain Experience: Neuroexperiential Perspectives of Brain-mind
C.R. Mukundan [4]


In the experience-oriented paradigm (vs. the information-oriented paradigm), it is matter, not consciousness, that is “the mystery” (c.f. Galen Strawson, Consciousness is not a mystery. Matter is. [5], Philip Goff [6]). A new “language of matter” is needed: A language that includes experiential modalities.

Hacking a conscious “robot” would then involve

1. making a programming language that includes experiential modalities (EMPL*);
2. Making a biocompiler/assembler that assembles synthetic-biological objects from EMPL programs. (There are speculatively alternative materials for biochemistry [7].)

* EMPL — Experiential Modalities Programing Language
(a new type of programming language for a new type of computer)

“Perhaps it’s true that only biological machines can be sufficiently creative and flexible. But then that suggests people should – or soon will – start working on engineering new biological structures that are, or could become, conscious.” [8]

A basis for EMPL could begin with intentional modal logics and BPI agent programming languages, but more is needed, along the lines of EBPI agent programming [9]:

“Emotional-BDI agents are BDI agents whose behavior is guided not only by beliefs, desires and intentions, but also by the role of emotions in reasoning and decision-making. The EBDI logic is a
formal system for expressing the concepts of the Emotional-BDI model of agency.”

(See other modality references in [10, sec. 6.5].)

Purely informational processing (that is, non-experiential processing), which includes intentional agent programming (learning from experience, self-modeling), does not capture all true experience (phenomenal consciousness). Specifically experiential modalities are needed.

“To say you are in a state that is (phenomenally) conscious is to say—on a certain understanding of these terms—that you have an experience, or a state there is something it’s like for you to be in. Feeling pain or dizziness, appearances of color or shape, and episodic thought are some widely accepted examples. Intentionality, on the other hand, has to do with the directedness, aboutness, or reference of mental states—the fact that, for example, you think of or about something. Intentionality includes, and is sometimes seen as equivalent to, what is called ‘mental representation’.” [11]

Intentionalism (or Representationalism):

“Consciousness is entirely intentional or representational. intentionalism implies that facts about the representational content of an experience (together with facts about the representational content of the subject’s other mental events or states) fix or determine the facts about its phenomenal character. In other words, intentionalism implies that phenomenal character supervenes on representational content.” [12]

Experentialism rejects the “representationalist” supervenience thesis. An experience cannot be represented: It does not exist outside of its material instantiation.

Another way to look at it:

Take the conventional case of software (programs) and hardware (computing substrate). Conventional hardware, like Intel Core + RAM (just to take one example) can execute any program in an “informational” language (which is basically any conventional program language. For example, any program in (current) computational physics can be executed there. This hardware is said to support all informational functionality. (It’s all about processing numbers, basically.)

But suppose there was hardware that supported experiential functionality as well. Programs in a language with experiential modalities could execute “for real” in that computing substrate, as opposed to the informational-only supporting hardware.

The connection between experience (phenomenal material consciousness) and truth (experiential modal logic) would be that it is possible for there to be different kinds of consciousness via alternative material substrates.

Computing has another (semantic) dimension that has not been considered: experientiality. Computing is currently defined in informational terms. That would include any Turing-equivalent processing, any super-Turing possibility, hyperarithmetical processing , and so on.

Experience processing would not be information processing in the general sense above. It would that which would provide (substrate, v.) a true semantics for experiential modal logic.

Matter is that which provides that (information+experience) substrate. Consciousness could not exist without matter.



Suppose there is a micro-experientialism at the quantum level. In the path integral (sum-over-histories), suppose there is a micro-experience attached to each history. As histories “interfere” in the summing, some micro-experiences can be “wiped-out” or “re-enforced”, i.e. micro-experiences interfere with each other. The end result is a single micro-experience.

Thus the panpsychist account would be in complete opposition to the Copenhagen idea of a mind effecting the particles. Experience would come out of the random selection process of QM (path integral).


2018-11-30 — Experiential semantics

From Wikipedia:Semantics_(computer_science):

“In programming language theory, semantics is the field concerned with the rigorous mathematical study of the meaning of programming languages.”

This includes

Denotational semantics, whereby each phrase in the language is interpreted as a denotation, i.e. a conceptual meaning that can be thought of abstractly. Such denotations are often mathematical objects inhabiting a mathematical space, but it is not a requirement that they should be so.”

Operational semantics, whereby the execution of the language is described directly (rather than by translation). Operational semantics loosely corresponds to interpretation, although again the “implementation language” of the interpreter is generally a mathematical formalism.”

Axiomatic semantics, whereby one gives meaning to phrases by describing the logical axioms that apply to them. Axiomatic semantics makes no distinction between a phrase’s meaning and the logical formulas that describe it; its meaning is exactly what can be proven about it in some logic.”


Then, in addition:

Experiential semantics, whereby the experiential modalities of the program (higher-order experiential modal logic program) are present in the executing object.

Seth Lloyd says the universe is a quantum computer. But what if there are qualia in addition to (or combined with) quanta as the fundamental elements of nature. Then the quantum computer – a purely quantum information processing (QuIP) machine – needs to be upgraded to a qualium experience processing (QuEP) machine.



Matthew Ikle – Grounding Possible Worlds Semantics in Experiential Semantics [Ilke1, Ilke2 (video)]

Patrick Muñoz – The origin of acquaintance inferences: experiential semantics and direct evidentiality [Muñoz]


Philip Thrift


Real computationalism



0. The term real computationalism — which includes aspects of unconventional computationalism — is meant to suggest a computationalism [CompPhys] based on the practical approach — software and hardware production, “pragmatic” programming language theory (PLT), “unconventional” as well as “unconventional” computing, especially synthetic biology based computing, use of novel materials — rather than the completely theoretical (or pure) approach.

(From the perspective of mathematical fictionalism [MathFict] — where there are no such things as mathematical objects — if computation is considered to be a branch of pure mathematics, then computationalism is false.)


0.1. PTLOS configurations

A configuration PTLOS(π,λ,τ,ο,Σ) — lower case Greek letters π, λ, τ, ο, and capital Greek letter Σ are variables that take on concrete (particular) values — is defined:

PLTOS(π,λ,τ,ο,Σ) designates a program π that is written in a language λ that is transformed via a compiler/assembler τ into an output object ο that executes in a computing substrate Σ.


0.2. “Material PLTOS Thesis”:

Every material (alt. physical) phenomenon can be effectively represented by some PLTOS(π,λ,τ,ο,Σ).


In PLTOS, numbers are not the “basic” substrate; materialities (via phenomenological philosophy) are.

0.3. τ⁻¹ is a decompiler/disassembler: it takes an object ο and produces a program π,in some language λ.


0.4. π could consist of a collection of programs (a codebase) in different languages λs.


1. Σ = von Neumann / Turing

1.1. For example, π could be a general relativity program written in λ = SageManifolds/Python 3 and compiled by τ = Python 3.5.6 for Linux/UNIX into* ο = machine language code object for Σ = Ubuntu 18.04/ASUS VivoBook. PLTOS(π,λ,τ,ο,Σ) then identifies this particular PLTOS.

* (in the case of Python, τ compiles π into an ο = [bytecode+interpreter] object)

In the PLTOS(π,λ,τ,ο,Σ) example above, “effectively representative” means that it matches data from observations.


2. Σ = non von Neumann / Turing

2.1. “Turing equivalence” (an equivalence relation on programs) basically translates into “It doesn’t matter what Σ is”. But particulars do matter in the efficiency of what programs are transformed into. Different hardware (a different Σs), e.g. replacing CPUs with GPUs, is used for virtual/augmented reality applications. Hardware compilers (a τ compiles a π into an ο such as neural-network reconfigurable hardware, ASIC, FPGA, basically makes Σ = ο. (The output object is its own computing substrate.)


3. Σ = unbounded/interactive

e.g., the internet as type of super-Turing? substrate

Computation Beyond Turing Machines
Peter Wegner, Dina Goldin
[WegnerGoldin], cf. [BeyondTuring]

it is possible to derive super-Turing models from:
– interaction with the world;
– infinity of resources;
– evolution of the system.

Interactive foundations of computing
Peter Wegner

Persistent Turing Machines as a Model of Interactive Computation
Dina Goldin

Refuting the Strong Church-Turing Thesis: the Interactive Nature of Computing
Dina Goldin and Peter Wegner

The Turing machine model extended with interaction
Rick Erkens


4. Σ = human

The human biocomputer
John Lilly


5. Σ = natural

5.1. slime molds

Computing with slime: Logical circuits built using living slime molds


6. Σ = synthetic biological

6.1. τ is a biocompiler / biomolecular assembler (from the developing field of synthetic biology).

Example: A biochemical molecular program (π) written in a synthetic-biological language (λ) that is biocompiled (τ) into a life form (ο) that is injected into a person (Σ) to cure a disease.

If ο is effective (n carrying out its programmed task of attacking the disease), this PLTOS is an effective representative of a life form. (In fact the representation is the life form itself.)

6.2 But is biocomputation > computation (the latter defined conventionally)?

[RM] below will refer to

Galen Strawson
Realistic Monism
(Why Physicalism* Entails Panpsychism)

(* or Materialism)

cf. [RM-2017]

Is there an ‘ultimate’ – “a fundamental physical entity, an ultimate constituent of reality, [like] a particle, field, string, brane, simple, whatever” [RM] that is “experience” in addition to “information” (which is what conventional computation manipulates)?

“Real physicalists must accept that at least some ultimates are intrinsically experience involving. They must at least embrace micropsychism. Given that everything concrete is physical, and that everything physical is constituted out of physical ultimates, and that experience is part of concrete reality, it seems the only reasonable position, more than just an ‘inference to the best explanation’. Which is not to say that it is easy to accept in the current intellectual climate.” [RM]

For output objects ο of biocompilers, this means ο has experientiality ( e ) in addition to informationality ( i ). Programs with e-states (in addition to i-states) in their language need a biocompiler to be effective.

[ On e-state languages, see 6.5.]

(Buddhists seem to talk about such things.)

6.3. Philip Goff [@Philip_Goff] on panpsychism


6.3.1. If experientiality is a property of matter, then the scientific language of matter needs to be expanded to include it.

6.3.2. Matter is not the problem. It is a language of matter not including experientiality that is the problem.

The incompleteness of physics/physicalism argument: i-states are insufficient, and the reality of consciousness (material experientiality (implies e-states), but maintain that means materialism > physicalism, cf. [MatPhys].

6.4. i-states, e-states

i-states are purely informational states (just information – numbers, etc.); e-states are experiential states (which [RM, RM-2017] posits).

physicalism = i-states (only)
materialism = i-states + e-states (a non-physicalist, nonreductive materialism)

Physicalism, based on pure informationality (quantitative states and language} is not sufficient to explain consciousness, but a materialism (one greater than physicalism) that is based on experientiality (qualitative states and language, experiential modalities) in addition to informationality, may be.

6.5. Modal logic historically covers modalities such as possibility/necessity, belief, time, morality, knowledge [ML1], but also intentions [Intent] and self-reference [SR1],[SR2],[SR3].

A programming language including experiential modalities (experiential modal logic, experiential modal operators or qualifiers) is needed to extend the picture we have of matter to include consciousness.

See also:

Modal logic programming [MPL1][MLP2][MLP3][MPL4}[MPL5].

A compiler τ (presumably a biocompiler [BioComp]) would produce a conscious agent ο executing in some substate Σ. The part of ο not implementing the experiential modalities of λ minus the part implementing its “bodily housekeeping” would be its subconscious.

“The Experientiality of Matter” [ExMat]

Selves: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics
Galen Strawson

The Subject of Experience
Galen Strawson

[Supplement here (on modal logics for conscious agents)]

           conscious agent program → conscious agent (object)



matter is

what stores, transmits, executes information
what substrates, constitutes, reflects experience

Consciousness Isn’t a Mystery. It’s Matter. [nytStraw]
(But therein replace “physical” with “material”. [matphys])
cf. [hardprob]:

When we look at what physics tells us about the brain, we actually just find software—purely a set of relations—all the way down. And consciousness is in fact more like hardware, because of its distinctly qualitative, non-structural properties. For this reason, conscious experiences are just the kind of things that physical structure could be the structure of.

Given this solution to the hard problem of matter, the hard problem of consciousness all but dissolves. There is no longer any question of how consciousness arises from non-conscious matter, because all matter is intrinsically conscious. There is no longer a question of how consciousness depends on matter, because it is matter that depends on consciousness—as relations depend on relata, structure depends on realizer, or software on hardware.


The late Turing scholar S. Barry Cooper:

The intuition is that computational unconventionality certainly entails higher-type computation, with a correspondingly enhanced respect for embodied information. There is some understanding of the algorithmic content of descriptions. But so far we have merely scratched the surface.*

Here I would add modal to higher-type, and assert that experience processing is unconventional (but non-Turing in that it is not substrate independent) computing.

* What Makes a Computation Unconventional? or, there is no such thing as Non Turing Computation
S. Barry Cooper [Cooper1]

cf. Incomputability In Nature
S. Barry Cooper [Cooper2]
To what extent is incomputability relevant to the material Universe? We look at ways in which this question might be answered, and the extent to which the theory of computability, which grew out of the work of Godel, Church, Kleene and Turing, can contribute to a clear resolution of the current confusion.


7. Σ = Immaterial (numerical) reality

The Origin of Physical Laws and Sensations
Bruno Marchal

The Universal Numbers. From Biology to Physics
Bruno Marchal

The East, the West and the Universal Machine’s Corpus Callosum
Bruno Marchal

A Purely Arithmetical, yet Empirically Falsifiable, Interpretation of Plotinus’ Theory of Matter
Bruno Marchal

But what is the compiler/transformer, T?


Philip Thrift