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What is "Information"?

 
 
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2005 12:25 pm
Information isn't matter or energy. It doesn't exist, and yet it's there.

Information might only exist because we can perceive it, but information is stored in the DNA which builds life, and which build our ability to perceive information.

ANTON ZEILINGER (ANTON ZEILINGER is a physicist who has held teaching and research positions at M.I.T., the Universities of Innsbruck and Oxford, at the Technical Universities of Vienna and Munich, at the College de France in Paris. Presently he is a Professor of Physics at the University of Vienna.) wrote:


What I believe but cannot prove is that quantum physics teaches us to abandon the distinction between information and reality.

The fundamental reason why I believe in this is that it is impossible to make an operational distinction between reality and information. In other words, whenever we make any statement about the world, about any object, about any feature of any object, we always make statements about the information we have. And, whenever we make scientific predictions we make statements about information we possibly attain in the future. So one might be tempted to believe that everything is just information. The danger there is solipsism and subjectivism. But we know, even as we cannot prove it, that there is reality out there. For me the strongest argument for a reality independent of us is the randomness of the individual quantum event, like the decay of a radioactive atom. There is no hidden reason why a given atom decays at the very instant it does so.

So if reality exists and if we will never be able to make an operational distinction between reality and information, the hypothesis suggests itself that reality and information are the same. We need a new concept which encompasses both. In a sense, reality and information are the two sides of the same coin.

I feel that this is the message of the quantum. It is the natural extension of the Copenhagen interpretation. Once you adopt the notion that reality and information are the same all quantum paradoxes and puzzles disappear, like the measurement problem or Schrödinger's cat. Yet the price to pay is high. If my hypothesis is true, many questions become meaningless. There is no sense then to ask, what is "really" going on out there. Schrödinger's cat is neither dead nor alive unless we obtain information about her state.

By the way, I also believe that some day all computers will be quantum computers. The reason I believe this is the ongoing miniaturization of electronic components. And, certainly, we will learn to overcome decoherence. We will learn how to observe quantum phenomena outside the shielded environment of laboratories. I hope I will still be alive when this happens.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 9 • Views: 5,681 • Replies: 64
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John Jones
 
  1  
Reply Sat 24 Sep, 2005 02:05 pm
Re: What is "Information"?
rosborne979 wrote:
Information isn't matter or energy. It doesn't exist, and yet it's there.

Information might only exist because we can perceive it, but information is stored in the DNA which builds life, and which build our ability to perceive information.

ANTON ZEILINGER (ANTON ZEILINGER is a physicist who has held teaching and research positions at M.I.T., the Universities of Innsbruck and Oxford, at the Technical Universities of Vienna and Munich, at the College de France in Paris. Presently he is a Professor of Physics at the University of Vienna.) wrote:


What I believe but cannot prove is that quantum physics teaches us to abandon the distinction between information and reality.

The fundamental reason why I believe in this is that it is impossible to make an operational distinction between reality and information. In other words, whenever we make any statement about the world, about any object, about any feature of any object, we always make statements about the information we have. And, whenever we make scientific predictions we make statements about information we possibly attain in the future. So one might be tempted to believe that everything is just information. The danger there is solipsism and subjectivism. But we know, even as we cannot prove it, that there is reality out there. For me the strongest argument for a reality independent of us is the randomness of the individual quantum event, like the decay of a radioactive atom. There is no hidden reason why a given atom decays at the very instant it does so.

So if reality exists and if we will never be able to make an operational distinction between reality and information, the hypothesis suggests itself that reality and information are the same. We need a new concept which encompasses both. In a sense, reality and information are the two sides of the same coin.

I feel that this is the message of the quantum. It is the natural extension of the Copenhagen interpretation. Once you adopt the notion that reality and information are the same all quantum paradoxes and puzzles disappear, like the measurement problem or Schrödinger's cat. Yet the price to pay is high. If my hypothesis is true, many questions become meaningless. There is no sense then to ask, what is "really" going on out there. Schrödinger's cat is neither dead nor alive unless we obtain information about her state.

By the way, I also believe that some day all computers will be quantum computers. The reason I believe this is the ongoing miniaturization of electronic components. And, certainly, we will learn to overcome decoherence. We will learn how to observe quantum phenomena outside the shielded environment of laboratories. I hope I will still be alive when this happens.


That's an old philosophical stance confused somewhat by the term 'information'. I could tear it to shreds, but there's something on tele.
0 Replies
 
Terry
 
  1  
Reply Sun 25 Sep, 2005 09:47 pm
Information is a pattern of matter/energy that can have some effect on other bits of matter/energy.

The information in DNA may exist in the form of nucleotides assembled in a pattern, bits in a computer, blobs of ink on paper in the pattern of letters, or a network of neural connections in the brain of a biochemist, but it does not exist independently of the matter/energy that stores it.

Information exists whether or not conscious entities exist to perceive it. Quantum events occur in other galaxies, stars are born and burn out, alien cat creatures live and die even though we can never perceive them. There was no one around to obtain information about the state of gazillions of quantum events over the 4.5 billion year history of earth, but we know that such events occurred because we see the results today. Since it is impossible to know the history of previous quantum events that resulted in the current ones, the events cannot be "perceived" retroactively.

Zeilinger's confidence in our ability to overcome the decoherence problem and build quantum computers reminds me of people who are certain that it is only a matter of time until spaceships overcome the light speed limit. Past success is no guarantee that we can somehow overcome fundamental limits.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2005 06:30 am
John, start shredding if you don't mind. I'm curious about that.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2005 09:16 am
Terry wrote:
Information is a pattern of matter/energy that can have some effect on other bits of matter/energy.


At first glance, I like you definition of information Terry.

So a "pattern" is not simply something which we perceive, but something which affects something else.

"Pattern" doesn't have mass. But is Pattern (or the lack of it) an intrinsic quality of matter/energy? Is it the tip of another dimensional iceberg, like time, or energy?
0 Replies
 
John Jones
 
  1  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2005 12:16 pm
Cyracuz wrote:
John, start shredding if you don't mind. I'm curious about that.


First off, he isn't talking about an object any of us could recognise. When we talk of 'objects' we don't refer to a 'real' indescribable something which has properties or sends out information. There are innumerable difficulties in this arena, particularly with the idea of an object that sends out information.
Second, does it make sense to say that if we make a prediction we "make statements about information we possibly attain in the future" ? If information is going to be recieved there is no further statement 'about information' we are making.

That's just from reading the first couple of lines.
0 Replies
 
twyvel
 
  2  
Reply Mon 26 Sep, 2005 02:11 pm
Books, DNA, computers, objects etc. don't contain any information.

Information is not something found, it's created.

The world is void of meaning, until we and others create it.



imhv
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Sep, 2005 04:11 am
twyvel, I don't buy that. All creatures, not only humans, give off and recieve information. Come to think of it I'm inclined to say that everything in the universe is information (on to of whatever else it might be). To make distinctions between what we see and what is actually there is too far fetched to me. The only way I have to recieve information is to trust that my senses accurately convey what my surroundings are telling me at all times.
0 Replies
 
John Jones
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Sep, 2005 06:09 am
Cyracuz wrote:
twyvel, I don't buy that. All creatures, not only humans, give off and recieve information. Come to think of it I'm inclined to say that everything in the universe is information (on to of whatever else it might be). To make distinctions between what we see and what is actually there is too far fetched to me. The only way I have to recieve information is to trust that my senses accurately convey what my surroundings are telling me at all times.


'sense accurately conveying surroundings'..accuracy is not a measure of the senses but a measure of how well you can work with them.

I do not perceive information. What counts as information and what does not count as information is based on what I perceive. If I do not convey what I perceive then there is no information.

If objects radiated information then a snail would recognise a chair as it recognises light. Words would radiate meaning, we would understand all languages. The meaning of an animals dance would be known. We would know what the brain is thinking simply by looking at the brain.
0 Replies
 
Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Sep, 2005 06:42 am
Quote:
If objects radiated information then a snail would recognise a chair as it recognises light. Words would radiate meaning, we would understand all languages


Yes, that is correct. Are you suggesting that objects do not radiate information? Even now, there are radiowaves going right through your head. Can you pick them up? You need a radio, don't you?

And if you don't convey what you percieve there is still information, there's just not communication. But even percieving is communicating... This turned out to be a tricky subject. Guess I'll just have to open my mind to recieve the proper information...
0 Replies
 
twyvel
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Sep, 2005 07:11 am
CyracuzIt SeemsTo Someone
0 Replies
 
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Sep, 2005 07:17 am
Just reading, Ros, because I am interested, and also because I wanted to say, "Hi" to twyvel.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Sep, 2005 10:09 am
twyvel wrote:
Information has to be information To Someone


I'm not sure I agree with this Twyvel.

As Terry pointed out, information (or perhaps "pattern") exists, and has an effect on things whether we observe it or not (evolution of life for example).

Perhaps I should decide whether I'm asking about "information" or "pattern", I'll have to get some definitions to choose from.

The basic question I'm asking is how to quantify that non-material essence which inhabits the Universe that leads to many things (life and awareness to name just a few). I call that thing "information", but maybe I should be calling it just "pattern", but the point of the question remains the same.
John Jones
 
  1  
Reply Tue 27 Sep, 2005 12:09 pm
Cyracuz wrote:
Quote:
If objects radiated information then a snail would recognise a chair as it recognises light. Words would radiate meaning, we would understand all languages


Yes, that is correct. Are you suggesting that objects do not radiate information? Even now, there are radiowaves going right through your head. Can you pick them up? You need a radio, don't you?

And if you don't convey what you percieve there is still information, there's just not communication. But even percieving is communicating... This turned out to be a tricky subject. Guess I'll just have to open my mind to recieve the proper information...


When we communicate we may pass information or we may not. Crying is not information but has an immediate effect on the observer. The observer does not always think 'I have just received information, how shall I react to it?'
I think what is going on is this: There is an inflation of meaning of the term 'information' to include conscious thoughts and ideas, and objects, as well as intsructions and descriptions that can be put to use. Its grandiose, a reification of thought and concept. It appears as a materialist doctrine where all phenomena can be quantified as items or units, in this case, of information. Information appears as the mediator between mind and matter, between an estranged personal identity (the receiver of information) and the world. But the term is an oxymoron and does not explain or justify the link between these pairs.
0 Replies
 
twyvel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Sep, 2005 10:06 am
Hi Letty….
0 Replies
 
twyvel
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Sep, 2005 10:09 am
Hi rosborne979

You wrote:

Quote:
As Terry pointed out, information (or perhaps "pattern") exists, and has an effect on things whether we observe it or not (evolution of life for example).


That's an assumption that Terry loves to make and believe in, as apparently you do and the author you sited:

quote:

Quote:
"But we know, even as we cannot prove it, that there is reality out there."


BS.

Quote:
The basic question I'm asking is how to quantify that non-material essence which inhabits the Universe that leads to many things (life and awareness to name just a few).


Your underlying assumption that life and awareness are emergent properties of a Universe + a non-material essence, is not something that should be assumed as having universal acceptance, which you appear to be doing.

Quote:
I call that thing "information", but maybe I should be calling it just "pattern", but the point of the question remains the same.


Does it?

Pattern is information but is information [a] pattern?

Does pattern suggest intelligent design?
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Sep, 2005 11:16 am
twyvel wrote:
Quote:
"But we know, even as we cannot prove it, that there is reality out there."


BS.


Hi Twyv,

The fact that reality exists is an assumption I choose to make.

I understand that everything could be a dream or a delusion, but I don't prefer to waste my time diddling around with that possibility. It leads nowhere.

Quote:
The basic question I'm asking is how to quantify that non-material essence which inhabits the Universe that leads to many things (life and awareness to name just a few).


twyvel wrote:
Your underlying assumption that life and awareness are emergent properties of a Universe + a non-material essence, is not something that should be assumed as having universal acceptance, which you appear to be doing.


As noted above, it's an assumption. I'm going with it.

twyvel wrote:
Does pattern suggest intelligent design?


No. I'm not leading to an argument for intelligent design, partly because I'm not able to define intelligent in such a context.

I simply find it interesting that there exists an aspect of the Universe (pattern or information), which has no mass or energy, and yet affects things in nature (whether we are here to observe it or not). And I wanted to explore that idea.
0 Replies
 
Terry
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Sep, 2005 08:32 pm
rosborne979 wrote:
So a "pattern" is not simply something which we perceive, but something which affects something else.

"Pattern" doesn't have mass. But is Pattern (or the lack of it) an intrinsic quality of matter/energy? Is it the tip of another dimensional iceberg, like time, or energy?

The pattern itself does not have mass, but whatever is forming the pattern must be composed of matter/energy. All forms of matter/energy contain some sort of intrinsic information such as frequency, charge, spin, momentum, and spatial coordinates in relation to other units of m/e, but do not necessarily contribute to a useable Pattern.
0 Replies
 
Terry
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Sep, 2005 08:47 pm
twyvel wrote:
Books, DNA, computers, objects etc. don't contain any information.

Information is not something found, it's created.

The world is void of meaning, until we and others create it.

I think we are using different definitions here. Conscious knowledge of information must be created by the brain, but books, etc. contain a physical representation of information whether or not they are ever read.

The information in books would not be usable to a paramecium, or to someone who did not understand the language. A cat could not interpret the DNA information in a paramecium. My mother is unable to use the information in a computer, but I can and do.

Human beings use information from sensory perceptions to create meaning. These perceptions include all forms of human communication as well as direct interaction with our environment. More importantly, we have also learned to store meaningful information so that it can be recreated by others.
0 Replies
 
Terry
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 Sep, 2005 08:50 pm
John Jones wrote:
I do not perceive information. What counts as information and what does not count as information is based on what I perceive. If I do not convey what I perceive then there is no information.

If objects radiated information then a snail would recognise a chair as it recognises light. Words would radiate meaning, we would understand all languages. The meaning of an animals dance would be known. We would know what the brain is thinking simply by looking at the brain.

Objects do radiate information by means of the patterns of photons they emit/reflect. Whether or not that information can be interpreted or used by a particular organism does not change the fact that the information exists.
0 Replies
 
 

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