Santa Fe Institute

Audio: SFI's Krakauer on information, order, computation, & intelligence

July 19, 2016 1:56 p.m.

On the popular podcast "Waking Up with Sam Harris," SFI President David Krakauer covers a lot of territory -- information, order, computation, intelligence, and stupidity -- and weighs in on whether your brain processes information It does, he says, because it is the negative of thermodynamic entropy, converting disorder to order.

An article in Nautilus magazine highlights the debate, initiated by an essay in Aeon by Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, who wrote, “Your brain does not process information. We are organisms, not computers. Get over it...The IP [information-processing] metaphor has had a half-century run, producing few, if any, insights along the way.”

Krakauer disagrees, especially with Epstein's characterization of the brain's info processing as a metaphor, and with confusion about the technical and metaphorical meanings of terms like "computation" and "information."

The brain does process information because information is in fact “the negative of thermodynamic entropy,” Krakauer tells neuroscientist and best-selling author Harris in a July 11 podcast. So information, says Krakauer, amounts to “the reduction of uncertainty,” or disorder, in a system. Our brains, he says, are constantly reducing uncertainty about the world, for example, by transforming sensory inputs into perceptual outputs.

Listen to the "Waking Up with Sam Harris" podcast (104 minutes, July 11, 2016)

Read the article in Nautilus (July 15, 2016) 

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