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The Great Chains of Computing: Informatics at Multiple Scales
Published: 14 June 2010 by MDPI in The 4th International Conference on the Foundations of Information Science session FIS 2010
Abstract: The perspective from which information processing is pervasive in the universe has proven to be an increasingly productive one. Phenomena from the quantum level to social networks have commonalities that can be usefully explicated using principles of informatics. We argue that the notion of scale is particularly salient here. An appreciation of what is invariant and what is emergent across scales, and of the variety of different types of scales, establishes a useful foundation for the transdiscipline of informatics. We survey the notion of scale and use it to sort out characteristic features of information statics (data), kinematics (communication), and dynamics (processing). We then explore the analogy to the principles of plenitude and continuity that feature in Western thought, under the name of the "great chain of being", from Plato through Leibniz and beyond, and show that the pancomputational turn is a modern counterpart of this ruling idea. We conclude by arguing that this broader perspective can enhance informatics pedagogy.
Keywords: scale, informatics, transdisiplinarity, universality, natural computation