What is bioinformation?
In contemporary philosophy of biology and bioethics there is considerable discussion about the nature of biological information. In this seminar, Luciano Floridi argues that biological information is “information” in a procedural sense. Genes are not information in a semantic-descriptive-constative sense, and they do not merely contain or encode instructions, as a string of lines and dots may encode a message in Morse alphabet. They are instructions, and instructions are a type of effective information (like recipes, software, commands). The slogan that summarises this ontic interpretation is “in the genetic code, the medium is the message”. The ontic interpretation relies on the procedural programming one. Genes are dynamic procedural structures that control and guide organisms’ development. Dynamic procedural structures are a special type of informational entities, those that are in themselves instructions, programs or imperatives (cf. imperative programming or procedural programming, where statements change a program state and programs are a sequence of commands for the computer to perform). Each step (each base) is an instruction, and the physical world holds the state that is modified by the instruction. The relation between instructions (genes, imperative programs, recipes) and the outcome is functional-causal and nomic. The conclusion is that the difference between inanimate informational entities and living informational entities is the anti-entropic nature of the latter. A living system is any anti-entropic informational entity, i.e. any informational object capable of instantiating procedural interactions (it embodies information-processing operations) in order to maintain its existence and/or reproduce itself (metabolism). One of the great advantages of understanding the genetic code in terms of informational procedural structures is that this allows one to adopt a unified information perspective for the whole reality, both non-living (physis) and living (bios). This informational ontology is known as informational structural realism. Informational structural realism is a version of ontic structural realism supporting the ontological commitment to a view of reality as the totality of informational objects dynamically interacting with each other.