The Information Theory of Individuality
We consider biological individuality in terms of information theoretic and graphical principles. Our purpose is to extract through an algorithmic decomposition system-environment boundaries supporting individuality. We infer or detect evolved individuals rather than assume that they exist. Given a set of consistent measurements over time, we discover a coarse-grained or quantized description on a system, inducing partitions (which can be nested). Legitimate individual partitions will propagate information from the past into the future, whereas spurious aggregations will not. Individuals are therefore defined in terms of ongoing, bounded information processing units rather than lists of static features or conventional replication-based definitions which tend to fail in the case of cultural change. One virtue of this approach is that it could expand the scope of what we consider adaptive or biological phenomena, particularly in the microscopic and macroscopic regimes of molecular and social phenomena.