Terms loaded with informational connotations are often employed to refer to genes and their dynamics. Indeed, genes are usually perceived by biologists as basically 'the carriers of hereditary information.' Nevertheless, a number of researchers consider such talk as inadequate and 'just metaphorical,' thus expressing a skepticism about the use of the term 'information' and its derivatives in biology as a natural science. First, because the meaning of that term in biology is not as precise as it is, for instance, in the mathematical theory of communication. Second, because it seems to refer to a purported semantic property of genes without theoretically clarifying if any genuinely intrinsic semantics is involved. Biosemiotics, a field that attempts to analyze biological systems as semiotic systems, makes it possible to advance in the understanding of the concept of information in biology. From the perspective of Peircean biosemiotics, we develop here an account of genes as signs, including a detailed analysis of two fundamental processes in the genetic information system (transcription and protein synthesis) that have not been made so far in this field of research. Furthermore, we propose here an account of information based on Peircean semiotics and apply it to our analysis of transcription and protein synthesis.
Abstract. Modern semiotics is a branch of logics that formally defines symbol-based communication. In recent years, the semiotic classification of signs has been invoked to support the notion that symbols are uniquely human. Here we show that alarm-calls such as those used by African vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops), logically satisfy the semiotic definition of symbol. We also show that the acquisition of vocal symbols in vervet monkeys can be successfully simulated by a computer program based on minimal semiotic and neurobiological constraints. The simulations indicate that learning depends on the tutor-predator ratio, and that apprenticegenerated auditory mistakes in vocal symbol interpretation have little effect on the learning rates of apprentices (up to 80% of mistakes are tolerated). In contrast, just 10% of apprentice-generated visual mistakes in predator identification will prevent any vocal symbol to be correctly associated with a predator call in a stable manner.Tutor unreliability was also deleterious to vocal symbol learning: a mere 5% of "lying" tutors were able to completely disrupt symbol learning, invariably leading to the acquisition of incorrect associations by apprentices.Our investigation corroborates the existence of vocal symbols in a non-human species, and indicates that symbolic competence emerges spontaneously from classical associative learning mechanisms when the conditioned stimuli are self-generated, arbitrary and socially efficacious. We propose that more exclusive properties of human language, such as syntax, may derive from the evolution of higher-order domains for neural association, more removed from both the sensory input and the motor output, able to support the gradual complexification of grammatical categories into syntax.
Any description of the emergence and evolution of different types of meaning processes (semiosis, sensu C.S.Peirce) in living systems must be supported by a theoretical framework which makes it possible to understand the nature and dynamics of such processes. Here we propose that the emergence of semiosis of different kinds can be understood as resulting from fundamental interactions in a triadically-organized hierarchical process. To grasp these interactions, we develop a model grounded on Stanley Salthe's hierarchical structuralism. This model can be applied to establish, in a general sense, a set of theoretical constraints for explaining the instantiation of different kinds of meaning processes (iconic, indexical, symbolic) in semiotic systems. We use it to model a semiotic process in the immune system, namely, B-cell activation, in order to offer insights into the heuristic role it can play in the development of explanations for specific semiotic processes.
Abstract. In this paper, we describe a digital scenario where we simulated the emergence of self-organized symbol-based communication among artificial creatures inhabiting a virtual world of unpredictable predatory events. In our experiment, creatures are autonomous agents that learn symbolic relations in an unsupervised manner, with no explicit feedback, and are able to engage in dynamical and autonomous communicative interactions with other creatures, even simultaneously. In order to synthesize a behavioral ecology and infer the minimum organizational constraints for the design of our creatures, we examined the well-studied case of communication in vervet monkeys. Our results show that the creatures, assuming the role of sign users and learners, behave collectively as a complex adaptive system, where self-organized communicative interactions play a major role in the emergence of symbol-based communication. We also strive in this paper for a careful use of the theoretical concepts involved, including the concepts of symbol and emergence, and we make use of a multi-level model for explaining the emergence of symbols in semiotic systems as a basis for the interpretation of inter-level relationships in the semiotic processes we are studying.
Abstract:In this paper, we intend to discuss if and in what sense semiosis (meaning process, cf. C.S. Peirce) can be regarded as an "emergent" process in semiotic systems. It is not our problem here to answer when or how semiosis emerged in nature. As a prerequisite for the very formulation of these problems, we are rather interested in discussing the conditions which should be fulfilled for semiosis to be characterized as an emergent process. The first step in this work is to summarize a systematic analysis of the variety of emergence theories and concepts, elaborated by Achim Stephan. Along the summary of this analysis, we pose fundamental questions that have to be answered in order to ascribe a precise meaning to the term "emergence" in the context of an understanding of semiosis. After discussing a model for explaining emergence based on Salthe's hierarchical structuralism, which considers three levels at a time in a semiotic system, we present some tentative answers to those questions.
As classificações dos signos de C.S.Peirce começam a ser desenvolvidas em 1865 e se estendem a até, pelo menos, 1909. Vou apresentar o período que tem início em 1865, e possui dois momentos de intensa produção - "On a New List of Categories" e "On the Algebra of Logic: a contribution to the philosophy of notation". Em seguida apresento as dez classes de signos, uma morfologia que aparece no "Syllabus of Certain Topics of Logic", e é desenvolvida a partir de 1903. Meu propósito aqui é familiarizar o leitor com as intrincadas classificações sígnicas de Peirce.
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