Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Maybe ...

... Why the Basis of the Universe Isn’t Matter or Energy—It’s Data. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

Except that data isn't about data. It is about something that is not the data itself.


  1. Lincoln Hunter8:13 PM

    If 'the notion of information has nothing to do with meaning', but 'Scientifically, information is a choice - a yes-or-no choice', then I wonder how I choose without the use of 'meaning.'
    Will Scientism never die?

  2. Good point. I suspect that what he meant was not so much yes-no as on-off, as in 0/1. But I agree with you: You can ignore the meaning in order to transmit the data, but that does not mean that the meaning is not there. And then there is the question of where that meaning comes from.

  3. It is a yes or a no when it comes to information, though. If we think of the universe as a machine or even a skeleton, it has no color, it has no information as such. If it is "merely" physical, then it is made up of subatomic particles milling about according to whatever bio-forces cause particles to mill about and react. Think of the electricity in your wall. The entire universe has no color or even shape per se, just bio-electro-atomic busy busy activity. That's the physical world.

    Everything we as experiencers can possibly get from such a physical realm is information. It has no meaning outside of its information. The color green, but the color green before we associate it with grass and money. Indeed, it is even cultural (and fortunate for this argument) that we recognize the color green. Green is learned. But the physical world gives us this information, and we then make it important. We say yes to it, and teach our kids all about green.

    I am about to transmit some information to you: The cap to my water bottle is green. I am unsure of what is behind me, but the cap to my water bottle is green. What is behind me is a no. The cap to my water bottle is a yes. In this sense, information precedes meaning.

    The philosophy of phenomenology turns this thinking around, and in psychology gives the primacy to the subjective experience. We as sujectivists might go (and I am writing this off the cuff so will stand corrected), meaning >> information >> selection (yes or no) >> further transmission (or communication). Gleick seems to be going universe >> information >> selection (yes or no) >> communication--which acknowledges the physical as the root cause in the duality. It is at least a useful way of looking at things, and is probably powerful, for instance just as evolution is.