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)


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.


Philip Thrift


Real computationalism



0. The term real 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.


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


* (alt. “Physical”)


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.


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


Retrosignaling in the quantum substrate


The retrosignaling described below does not lead to paradoxes like the grandfather paradox because of its stochastic nature.


From E, many possible paths with E as the source are generated. This are the possible paths of a particle originating from E.

The paths end up at possible endpoints X[1], X[2], … . Each X[i] could be the endpoint for several paths. (In a path-integral Feynman formulation, each path “carries” on a channel a (changing) complex number (from the Feynman formulation).

From each X[i], retrosignals (backwards-in-time signals) are sent on path backchannels to E. (These are “weights” – computed as the modulus of the sum of the complex numbers received at X[i] – carried by each path backwards in time to E.

E gets all these retrosignalled weights (effectively resulting in a probability distribution on all paths) and selects a single path. (This occurs at the very same time that it generated the paths.)

Result: There is only one X[i*], and only one path leading to X[i*].

The paths are like E‘s litter (of children). It gets signals from the future on the prospects for each child. E kills off all its children but one. The quantum substrate is a cruel world.


In the EPR experiment (where a source S transmits a particle with a path to endpoint A and transmits a particle with a path to endpoint B): A signal with information about A is backchanneled on the first path to S; a signal with information about B is backchanneled on the second path to S. These retrosignals are received at S simultaneously, and are used by S to stochastically select the states of the (heterogeneous) twin particles.The quantum substrate has a weak clairvoyance.


Defined below is the Wheeler Processing Unit (WPU) [named for John Archibald Wheeler. CPU will be used generically to represent a Classical Processing Unit (to include the commonly-called CPU, GPU, or any processor in the non-quantum domain).

There are two types of WPUs: emitters and detectors. WPUs are connected to other WPUs via Feynman paths.

WPUs can be connected to CPUs (e.g., a CPU can read a value from a detector).

An emitter WPU (eWPU) has only outgoing Feynman paths (or just “paths” hereafter). A detector WPU (dWPU) has only incoming paths. The (directed) paths connect WPUs. Each path has a forward channel and a backward channel (or backchannel).

In the double-slit experiment, the dWPUs receive (via forward channels) complex numbers (from the path-integral formulation) , sums them, computes the modulus (weights), and sends (via backchannels) the weights. The eWPUs receive (via backchannels) the weights and selects a single path stochastically from the probability distribution computed from the weights corresponding to each path. It sends (forward channel) a token to a single dWPU. A CPU connected to this dWPU reads this token.

A computer (architecture) with WPUs (w/ Feynman paths) and CPUs is a Wheeler-Feynman computer.

The Sum Over Histories formulation:

1. Events in nature are probabilistic with predictable probabilities P.
2. The probability P for an event to occur is given by the square of the complex magnitude of a quantum amplitude for the event, Q. The quantum amplitude Q associated with an event is the sum of the amplitudes tex2html_wrap_inline1605 associated with every history leading to the event.
3. The quantum amplitude associated with a given history tex2html_wrap_inline1605 is the product of the amplitudes tex2html_wrap_inline1609 associated with each fundamental process in the history.


Philip Thrift


Mathematical pulp fictionalism


I propose an easy-road approach to mathematical fictionalism, vs. a hard-road of nominalization. (Pulp fiction is easy-to-read, “cheap” fiction.)

One starts with the basic premise: The objects of mathematics (numbers, curves, sets, relations, …) do not exist, but objects of the basic sciences – physics, chemistry, biology – (particles, galaxies, molecules, …) do exist.

How then does one find (some) mathematics useful in science?

The key concept is that matter has codicality: It has a programmatic, or codical, nature. It follows repetitive behavior that can be described programmatically. (Possibly, matter that does not have this nature would fall apart and could not form a universe.)

The codical nature of matter is called hard code. It is something like the hardware produced by hardware compilers (e.g., floating-point gate arrays and hardware neural networks). Such hardware can be reconfigurable: its behavior evolves over time. Synthetic biology is now producing bioware out of biochemcal matter.

Programs, or soft code, are converted into hardware (or bioware) via matter compilers / assemblers (e.g., molecular assemblers, and bicompilers in synthetic biology). In the case of natural “hardware”, science plays the role of reverse (code) engineering: it produces a “program” (called a theory or model) that matches the behaviour of the natural object.

The language of this reversed-engineered code has typically been mathemaiical language. It doesn’t have to be – it could be Python, Go, or Haskell. In the case of mathematics, it is should not be surprising then – given that the natural object has been reversed-engineered – that even though the objects of the mathematical language may not exist, the theory (the collection of mathematical expressions) is useful in modeling the natural world.


Philip Thrift


Would a conscious robot be an idealist or a materialist?


(Photo: NASA)


Suppose there is a future Mars rover (call it Marv) that is conscious. Suppose it is possible that some future scientists and engineers make Marv out of sufficient hardware and software (beyond what we can do in 2018, and perhaps with new materials such as that generated by synthetic biology) that enable Marv to have consciousness. Marv is alone on Mars, is self-aware, and has all sorts of ideas.

Now Marv knows its own entire history, too. It knows — it was told — how the scientists put its own self together and sent it to Mars.

It’s hard to tink think that Marv would think that its “body” is just a mental model it had of itself, or that the team of scientists who made it was some fantasy. It would be aware of its own material origin and composition. I don’t think it would be “brainwashed” into thinking all that was just a “idea” in its “mind”.

We are not (we presume) like Marv made by a team of scientists, but we are at least led to believe we were made by processes of evolution. We are aware of our own material origin and composition. To that extent, we are just like Marv.


Philip Thrift


The matter of consciousness and the consciousness of matter


1. Matter is all there is.

but …

2. Matter has a dualistic aspect: Code. This is the core of Codicalism.

3. Code is Language, and Language is connected to Consciousness.

4. Thus: Consciousness (at varying levels) is potentially co-extensive with Matter.

but …

5. Consciousness has two aspects:

a. experientiality: There is no experience without material presence; cf. matter (e.g. bio-) compilers. Information alone does not capture the “presence” of matter.

b. linguisticity: The linguisticity (codicality) of x is the linguistic (codical) status of x. Language levels correspond to (proto)consciousness levels.

6. Human consciousness is (somehow) built from both the experientiality and linguisticity of the brain’s physics, chemistry, and biology.



This note puts a spotlight on the linguistic aspect of consciousness. While the experiential (presentness) aspect is necessary (and is the focus of many panpsychists), an exploration of the “linguistics” (code) of matter – from physical to chemical to biological – could be a useful effort in connecting consciousness to the diversity of matter and in helping to solve the hard problem of consciousness.


Least radical approach to panpsychism: Materialism (Too).

The batural sciences study the physical, chemical, and biological (PCB) domains. Consciousness is both real and a “hard problem”, but it can be understood as a new property of matter within the PCB spectrum — not (necessarily) presuming physicalism (reducing CB to P); i.e., materialism > physicalism — just as decoherence became understood as a new property of the quantum-physical domain.


Philip Goff, William Seager, Sean Allen-Hermanson: Panpsychism [SEP]

Galen Strawson, Panpsychism vs. Physicalism?, Realistic monism: why physicalism entails panpsychism, Galen Strawson on Panpsychism

Yair Neumana, Ophir Nave: Why the brain needs language in order to be self-conscious

Cornel du Toit: Panpsychism, pan-consciousness and the non-human turn: Rethinking being as conscious matter

David Chalmers: The Hard Problem of Consciousness

cf. “Spinoza’s psycho-physical parallelism” in Panpsychism (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy); review of Philip Goff’s Consciousness and Fundamental Reality (2017); It’s (probably) the chemistry, stupid.


Philip Thrift