Natural selection acts on emergent informational relationships that govern the physical processes in living organisms. As complexity increases, and processes affect other processes under the constraints imposed by natural selection, referential information can become relational and abstract. Single-celled organisms do not experience meaning. They have no consciousness. Nothing appears to their consciousness in a phenomenological sense. The information that accumulates as these organisms dialogue with the environment has a referential relationship with the processes of natural selection. Classical Shannon’s information theory (SIT) addresses conditions for something to convey information, but not the meaning of information. Meaning emerges from decoding of information, which, in turn, can only occur in reference to something external to Shannon’s information. Natural selection may provide meaning because the processes that living organisms carry out become or contain metainformation about natural selection itself. Meaning and abstract awareness share the same fundamental mechanism. These considerations suggest that the loop ‘expectation.information’expectation.information realizes meaning and provides a path towards the solution of the “aboutness” problem. The organization of information as abstract and referential may allow for partial decoupling from underlying thermodynamics.
Keywords: Aboutness Problem, Brain Metabolism, Decoding Information, Entropy and Uncertainty, Evolutionary Constraints, Energy Budget, Evolutionary Metainformation, Expectation.Information, Information About Something, Origin of Agency, Referential Function, Realization of Meaning, Phenotype, Shannon’s Information Theory (SIT), Thermodynamic Decoupling.