What is Biosemiotics?

At #8 in my Biosemiotics Series, this video is a little belated, but worth the wait.

Why do biologists refer to a something excreted by one cell and taken up by another as a signal?  Doesn’t this invest the cell with intentionality that it doesn’t really have? Why don’t biologists just refer to the process of chemical exchange as simply a chemical reaction?

A molecule passed between cells is called a “signal,” if it sets off a response that is ultimately good for both cells and/or the body they’re part of. So a signal has a function for survival and maintenance, and the cells have been evoloved by natural selection to process signals. A chemical in the body that does not have this kind of effect is not a signal.

Biosemiosis offers real explanatory power for science. It explains why people believe things that aren’t true. It explains why we can have allergic reactions to neutral things. It explains how life first emerged. It explains how meaningless things can acquire new meanings. It explains how creativity is possible. It explains why AI fails compared to Biological intelligence when it comes to adapting to contexts.

This video is based on the preface to a talk by V.N. Alexander at Moscow State University, Department of Philosophy, entitled, “Group Think: The Diffusion of Signals” at the 19th annual gathering of biosemiotics, on July 3rd 2019, Moscow, Russian Federation.

1 thought on “What is Biosemiotics?

  1. Anonymous

    Really amazing. I’ve been trying to understand some things lately about a condition I have (psychopathy) that causes me to experience emotions differently and this video explains a great deal that directly applies to the reality of my understanding than the Psychological literature I’ve been reading. This information gets to the nuts and bolts of things much more coherently. I am somewhat immune to the things that affect other people that cause them to believe in things that are unreal. I just don’t have emotional connection to political parties, religious affiliation, geographical location. When I see people get excited about a sports team winning or depressed that it lost because they live on a land mass where it is located, I can’t relate. When I discuss politics and something is proven wrong and someone else doubles down and refuses to dismiss the erroneous data because they’re emotionally connected to the label of their political ideology, I can’t relate because I have a habit of dismissing information that is refuted. It’s natural for me. The video discusses forming “appropriate responses”. Because I don’t do well registering emotional responses I have a hard time responding. But if I do understand an emotion expressed I can respond in a superior way than most people because I don’t have personal emotional content that obscures the information about how to respond correctly. I am going to read and learn more on biosemiotics. I look forward to discussing with you further.


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