Furthest Right

What is Information?

Most of what we explore on this site are mysteries hidden in plain sight. They are often so simple in form and obvious that people do not re-think their assumptions on these issues, therefore miss the reality hidden between the categories we use to think about such things.

As it becomes apparent that, other than technology, the past thousand years has been an unparalleled disaster, humanity — starting with the most conscious — is re-inspecting its first principles, or the basics of how it knows what is real and what it should do about it.

This separates into two areas, how to have knowledge and how to achieve the best life. The former concerns our understanding of the universe and the latter applies it, figuring out first what is possible and second how to maximize that into a goodness shared between individuals, nature, culture, civilization, and the divine.

We should start with simple ideas that open doorways to mind-blowingly complex analyses. What is information?

The big question involving information is whether it exists at all. We can see patterns in material objects, form mirrors of those in our minds, and claim to be understanding their structure to some degree through those. But does that information exist elsewhere, or have any presence except for our thoughts?

As it turns out, information seems to “exist” in the sense of participating with objects through changes in energy. This can be proven because information alters physical interactions, much like an observer being present makes light behave more like particles than waves:

The experiment consisted of a 0.3 µm-diameter particle made up of two polystyrene beads that was pinned to a single point on the underside of the top of a glass box containing an aqueous solution. The shape of an applied electric field forced the particle to rotate in one direction or, in other words, to fall down the potential-energy staircase. Buffered by the molecules in the solution, however, the particle every so often rotated slightly in the opposite direction, allowing it to take a step upwards.

By tracking the particle’s motion using a video camera and then using image-analysis software to identify when the particle had rotated against the field, the researchers were able to raise the metaphorical barrier behind it by inverting the field’s phase. In this way they could gradually raise the potential of the particle even though they had not imparted any energy to it directly.

In recent years other groups have shown that collections of particles can be rearranged so as to reduce their entropy without providing them with energy directly. The breakthrough in the latest work is to have quantified the conversion of information to energy. By measuring the particle’s degree of rotation against the field, Toyabe and colleagues found that they could convert the equivalent of one bit information to 0.28 kTln2 of energy or, in other words, that they could exploit more than a quarter of the information’s energy content.

As it turns out, information does more than influence particles and waves; in fact, it separates between two apparent dimensions of reality over time, one which is like matter and one which is like electromagnetic energy. At some point, matter and energy converge:

Depending on the experimental arrangement, the behaviour of such phenomena as light and electrons is sometimes wavelike and sometimes particle-like; i.e., such things have a wave-particle duality (q.v.). It is impossible to observe both the wave and particle aspects simultaneously. Together, however, they present a fuller description than either of the two taken alone.

Information changes the world around us and has a presence in determining what is real. For this reason, it exists in at least one sense, and most likely, operates on the causes of things, therefore is the underlying substrate of all existence. This knowledge changes how we view the universe so society mostly avoids it.

Instead, we get a symbolic response from a society dedicated to symbolic gestures like the social signals we send to others with our behavior that is designed to make a point. For example, giving a flower to a lover, handing coins to the homeless, or crying excessively to underline how we feel about something.

The symbol replaces the reality because it is designed to obliterate the why and make us focus on the effect of that cause as a method. When someone is crying, they are unhappy, so make them happy; nevermind that whatever made them unhappy in the first place is unaddressed.

Our symbolic solution is to claim that we exist in a simulation because our system does not become disorganized the way our science predicts:

It is based on the second law of thermodynamics, which establishes that entropy — a measure of disorder in an isolated system — can only increase or stay the same.

Dr. Vopson had expected that the entropy in information systems would also increase over time, but on examining the evolution of these systems he realized it remains constant or decreases. That’s when he established the second law of information dynamics, or infodynamics, which could significantly impact genetics research and evolution theory.

“Symmetry principles play an important role with respect to the laws of nature, but until now there has been little explanation as to why that could be. My findings demonstrate that high symmetry corresponds to the lowest information entropy state, potentially explaining nature’s inclination towards it.

“This approach, where excess information is removed, resembles the process of a computer deleting or compressing waste code to save storage space and optimize power consumption. And as a result supports the idea that we’re living in a simulation.”

If you can imagine a room full of ping-pong balls, some painted red and the others black, you can see a basic model for entropy.

No matter what the initial pattern of these balls is, over time they move in response to decentralized bottom-up actions, and as a result end up in a distribution that seems to be random.

The more this goes on, the less one can predict how the balls will be situated throughout the room, therefore the accuracy of the position of any ball is less likely to be ascertained without direct observation.

One can sort the balls, placing all the black ones on the left and all the red ones on the right, but this requires an intervention of energy.

This newer research shows us that this works in reverse as well: if the information — the patterns of red and black balls — changes, then so does the energy potential of sorting them.

As we look further into this topic, it becomes clear that nature conducts constant sorting as part of the process of life, including natural selection, so that nothing is random but nor is it repetitive like evenly-sorted balls.

We see fragments of this order in standard distributions, fibonacci sequences, power laws, and other inherent tendencies of nature to use certain mathematical constructs in organizing our reality. These serve through a type of inequality to create enough tension that through interaction, objects in nature sort themselves according to a logical pattern.

For example, each animal in the wild is self-interested, therefore can be counted on to orient itself in such a way that it benefits itself; those that do not exist to become prey, and create an interlocking order with the activities of another species.

Before we are so quick to proclaim material science the dominant force in our world, it makes sense to look at the underlying informational order and realize that rather than being a phantom of our minds, information is actually the bedrock of the universe.

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