Re: information as other than matter
I think we see examples of this all the time, all around us. You and I discussed 'oscillons' before. Here is another accessible analog.
Imagine a time lapse of yourself from age 1 to age 100, shown in rapid speed. 'You' are not the same matter over the course of those 100 years. "You" would appear like a process, passing through borrowed matter over short time spans. "You" are more akin to coherent energy, than matter; your matter preceded 'you',,,,your matter will outlast 'you.' In fact, even as you live, your matter is not the same matter over time. Not the same as, but similar to the example of a long lived oscillon, composed at any time of individual bits of vibrating media, but not uniquely associated with those bits of vibrating media.
Here is another example; a computer. Fresh from the factory, in a null state, it contains matter. It's energy state is modified, and it can store information. It's matter is the same as its factory delivered condition. Yet, information has been stored within it. Not only data, but process/code, and if coherently ordered, the data is information. I am not asserting that is how humans store or process information, just that it is another instance of information as something orthogonal to simple matter.
Yes, our brain is composed of neurons and connections, but those exist beyond our death as well; what also exists is energetic coherence, signals, waves, and above all, process, as driven by our unfurling DNA and more. The neurons and connections are media; information is what is containable withing the media, as is, not just information, but processing and process; that, I think, is what life -is-.
At any given moment of our life-- as an active, continuing process -- we are more than our matter. Matter is our medium. We are more akin to process while we are alive, than medium. Our medium is still in the casket, long after our process stops. We are like processes unfurling, using borrowed atoms forged inside of stars long ago, in a Universe that is mostly overwhelmingly Hydrogen. Self-aware bits of merely borrowed heavy elements, here because we can be here.
You are physically not the same matter you were ten years ago. You have passed through some matter. And yet, your memories remain, and as well, your ability to both access and process is much better than it was 10 years ago.
I don't think we are simple neural nets, even as we might apply them; what makes us unique, I believe, is our ability to self-weight our own neural nets-- to on the fly choose what our highest neural nets value. There is a concrete example floating around here, we've discussed it many times, of something called the checkerboard illusion. http://web.mit.edu/persci/people/adelson/checkershadow_illusion.html Our changing perception of that illusion is an accessible and concrete exanple of our ability to self-rewire even normally autonomous functioning neural nets inside of us, evidence, to me, of yet higher order willfully reprogrammable neural nets. We can choose what we value.
In that example , what we value is usually always pattern recognition over gray scale value. But we can willfully choose. What I mean by this is, the first time you see that illusion, most people can only see the squares A and B as being different shades of gray. But after we understand the illusion, it is often difficult to see the same squares as anything but the same shade of gray. This concrete example is a very accessible personal experiment to the machine inside of us, as well as the insight into the willful nature of that machine. As well, the lesson of this example is, we can understand it, and in understanding it, willfully re-weight a portion of our visual processing system that normally functions almost completely autonymously; we don't usually consciously process such images, we simply look at them and comprehend them with our preset bias towards pattern recognition over gray scale.
If we can choose what to value at that level, then we can choose what to value at higher levels of abstraction as well.