* To characterize living systems we have to distinguish three kinds of “information”:

– syntactic information
– semantic information
– pragmatic information

Information theory expressly considers just syntactic information

* Evolutionary steps in the history of living systems ask for amounts of information
processing impossible to get in a whole lifetime of the Universe
(non-computability in practice); so,how does Nature process information?

* syntactic information corresponds to a mere copying process of information, as performed
e.g. by a Xerox machine (one-to-one mapping); it also correspondsto a mere logic or mathematical process, whose result is already contained inthe premises.
Nothing new is attained.

* living systems are not Xerox machines: they shape information coming from their environments.

Here “information” takes on its two etymological meanings of getting knowledge
(i.e. of being informed) and giving a shape.

This shaping process gives rise to semantic information, which is closely connected to the pragmatic (behavioral) reactions of the living system to its environment.

All such processes can be described in physical terms
through the notion of entropy and its changes.

* nonlinear and chaotic dynamics supply the “devices” (attractors) to process information through its “compression” (many-to-one mapping), even at an exponential rate (strange attractors), i.e. at a very high rate allowing “non-computability in practice” to be overcome

This is a kind of “extralogical information processing”

Chaotic information processing is possible just in so-called dissipative systems, i.e. in systems far from thermodynamic equilibrium and exchanging matter and energy with the environment (open systems)

Dissipation, i.e. injection of entropy into the environment at a high rate, is a physical prerequisite for semantic and pragmatic information processing to be carried out

Thus living systems generate new information (semantic and pragmatic) through dissipative (non-isentropic) interaction with their environment.

Syntactic information processing (“logic processing”) is an isentropic process that results in no new information.

This is true both of the most elementary living systems and of the upper-rank functions of biological brains (biological intelligence has nothing to do with artificial intelligence)

Comment: Niels Bohr, during a heated discussion with Albert Einstein who was challenging Bohr’s unorthodox physical views, said to him:

“You are not thinking! You are merely being logical!”

* according to psychophysiologists, not all perceptions give rise just to a semantic and then to its behavioral exploitation (pragmatic)

there are perceptions that are not connected with decision making; they just determine internal states that are objectively observable through their repercussions in messages of no utilitarian purport. Such “repercussions” are “aesthetic information”, whose channels are painting, music etc. and whose “alphabet” is specific both for the “source person” and for the “receptor person”. It refers to the strictly personal aspects of the mental structure of an individual, and cannot be translated from the language of a channel into that of another channel (e.g., from music into painting, from poetry into music)