What is Information?

“In the beginning was the Word”, The Gospel according to John  1.1

Energy has been our most powerful explanatory concept, explaining events in the physical world more comprehensively than any other entity . . . so far.  Leave aside what energy actually is, it is a derived concept, known only by its effects.  No one has actually ever seen energy.

There are other ‘fundamentals’. There is entropy, order, information, and intelligence.  They are all different and yet all related, to energy and to each other.   Somehow they create the cosmos, everything we see and know.  We feel a call for some kind of synthesis.   Information may be the key.

We learn from the early studies of heat energy by Ludwig E. Boltzmann, and his laws of thermodynamics, that not all energy is the same, there is useful energy and there is unuseful energy. Useful energy is creative energy, it can do something, it can perform work.  In the process of doing something, useful energy somehow becomes stagnant, unuseful energy.  This flow from creative to stagnant energy,  from useful energy to unuseful energy, creates our known world.  The difference between useful and unuseful energy is mysterious.  It seems to be information.  Useful energy has information.  Useful energy may be information.

Entropy is a measure of non-useful energy.  High entropy has disorder, low entropy has order. Order is pattern in space and time.  Order has non-randomness.  Non-randomness is information. Low entropy has order and information.  Order and information have useful energy.

There is a paradox about information.  It takes more information to describe something that is more random and has less order, something that contains less information. Something containing more information takes less information to describe.  In some mysterious way, information denotes an efficiency quality. Quality information has more power, more effectiveness, it has more meaning. Quality information has order and pattern, but other also attributes such as symmetry, balance, rhythm. It is aesthetic. Quality information has truth and beauty.  It is artistic.

Even more mysteriously, Quality information creates agency.  The robust interactions of information contained in useful energy is intelligence, which becomes life in evolutionary adaptation in the dimension of time, and becomes consciousness in the perception of time itself.

Rather than being just incidental, information may be integral to the Universe, creator even of matter, IT FROM BIT, in the famous words of the physicist John Wheeler, collaborator of Einstein and Bohr,  discoverer of the black hole.

” IT FROM BIT symbolizes the idea that every item of the phsyical world has at bottom – at a very deep bottom, in most instances – an immaterial source and explanation;  that what we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this in a participatory universe”. John Wheeler

The computer revolution may be more profound than we even think.

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