Information (Theory)

Shijing said:
Since information (and information theory) has been discussed in recent sessions, I thought it would be good to start a discussion thread on the topic.
So please feel free to discuss...

Is there something about Information (Theory) that's not making sense? Is there a specific question or questions to start with, for example? It's kind of hard for me to tell what anyone wants.


Laura said:
The problem is, reading the text is somehow unsatisfying. I can't quite put my finger on it. It's like the writer/speaker unnecessarily complicates things and goes all over the place quoting this person and that person, but there is no "seating" of the information though she is diligently attempting to transmit it! I'd be interested if anybody else has a similar reaction to the text/script.

Similar reaction to the text here. To me, what's missing is a coherent theoretical underpinning; or, as Einstein said (paraphrasing): "Theory determines what you can see." That could be deliberate, though, since she mentions that her explanation will develop over the course of her presentation.

My reaction could be compared to entering a river with an intention of crossing it, getting picked up by several cross-currents and not quite making it to the other side.
Buddy said:
Is there something about Information (Theory) that's not making sense? Is there a specific question or questions to start with, for example? It's kind of hard for me to tell what anyone wants.

What I had in mind was for people to take a look at the session excerpts posted in the intro, and then compare these with other sources which also discuss information and information theory. Since I'd recently come across the quotes from the Seth material and the Cracking the Nutshell videos, I thought I'd put those up as examples to get the conversation started. So I guess starter questions would be "do you see any agreement between these sources? Why or why not?" If anyone wants to add additional material (like the video that Possibility of Being posted above), so much the better in order to compare, contrast and refine our understanding of the subject.
Shijing said:
Buddy said:
Is there something about Information (Theory) that's not making sense? Is there a specific question or questions to start with, for example? It's kind of hard for me to tell what anyone wants.

What I had in mind was for people to take a look at the session excerpts posted in the intro, and then compare these with other sources which also discuss information and information theory. Since I'd recently come across the quotes from the Seth material and the Cracking the Nutshell videos, I thought I'd put those up as examples to get the conversation started. So I guess starter questions would be "do you see any agreement between these sources? Why or why not?" If anyone wants to add additional material (like the video that Possibility of Being posted above), so much the better in order to compare, contrast and refine our understanding of the subject.

Then may I suggest another source for inclusion for comparing and contrasting in some way?

This thread and its written content represents a destination or convergence from individual streams of information originating from various global sources. Everything relevant to what is currently understood of Information Theory has been, and is, involved and is all here: information, "bits" as well as entropy - information and thermodynamic.
Shijing said:
Buddy said:
Then may I suggest another source for inclusion for comparing and contrasting in some way?

Sure -- what would you like to suggest?

What I was thinking about was using the thread, itself, or something about it, as an ongoing reference to point out empirical correspondence or correlations to ideas that come up; a sort of "as below, so above" kind of situation.

On second thought, I'm not sure if it would work. I got the idea as I was reading Dolors' material. I wondered why she didn't use her own post to show what she meant while she was talking about the subject of Information Theory.

I don't have any other specific example ideas to share just yet, but in information-theoretic terms, when I think of the thread in it's entirety (or something about it), I mean from the moment in time when it was first conceived in your mind and accompanied by the first joule of energy spent toward creating it, all the bits involved in the opening post as they were first translated through the layers of your operating system to be stored on your hard drive then copied to RAM, sent to ports, streamed over the internet to the Cass servers and on and on through the process of info retrieval and posting to a user's web page on his local computer where he reads the text and forms patterns of associated memories.

Then multiply those processes by the number of viewers and participants so far, add in the concepts of entropy, redundancy and heat required to do all that work and I figured there should be plenty of information in all that for any other ideas or concepts found elsewhere to be compared with for demonstration or clarification purposes.
Tigersoap said:
Archaea said:
I've been thinking about your question for a bit now. I was half joking, they have teleporters and replicators in STAR TREK and it seems to me to be extremely convenient. This makes me think that what I'm trying to escape from is my job. I have to do my job in order to live, but if there were teleporters and replicators my job and the need to do it would become redundant, leaving me to do the things which I personally value.

Hi Archaea,

If you dislike your work what could you do now to make things better and do the things you actually value ?

Hi Tigersoap,

Sorry for the late reply, but I'm still thinking about your question. I really don't know what I could do except for waiting things out. I pack selves in a supermarket and it's mind-numbing stuff, although I've found following the diet recommended by this forum helps keep the negative thoughts away while I'm working. Also I've been keeping an eye on how much stock the store has and I think it's possible that it might start running low soon. I've also been getting less shifts, so that solves the problem I have with my job a little as well.

Also, I like your name. ;)

Anyway, I watched a documentary about crop circles a few days ago on YouTube. I watched it because it said in the title that they had decoded some of the meanings of crop circles. I thought some of their ideas were pretty good, but they were going for the idea that "this crop circle looks like this esoteric imagery, so it means this," which I think is a valid approach, but it requires a lot of research for each crop circle, and some crop circles can't be decoded at all in that way I'd imagine, so it's not for me personally.

In the documentary, however, Colin Andrews (I know this forum doesn't think he's legit) says that he put a glass of water in the middle of a crop circle and then put the water into an image spectrographic piece of technology. He says that the image showed that the water had taken the shape of the crop circle which it had been inside. This made me think that some of the stuff I wrote in this thread might have been correct, but it also made me think the some of the stuff I wrote may be wrong.

What I think now is this:

1) An information field doesn't need to have a shape in space-time.
2) It's holographic instead of fractal (although these two things probably overlap.)

Here's a Wikipedia page on holograms: ( I think what might be happening when a hologram is made, is that the information field is being photographed. I also think the information field exists in the ether (and I now think the ether is light itself, or an electromagnetic fabric, not the medium through which light travels,) and the ether "exists" before space-time, (because light is the means by which space and time are observed/perceived) so this is how an information field can be photographed.
I forgot to mention that if what I think is true, then one of those image spectrographic pieces of technology used on water which has had a hologram projected into it would produce images which resemble the image of the hologram. However, I think that this wouldn't prove what I think is true, but if it didn't happen, then it might rule it out.

My thinking lately has been that the ether is an electromagnetic fabric made up of light. Rather than it being the medium through which light travels, it is the medium through which space-time travels, by this I mean that it's the medium by which we observe space-time. I got to thinking this from this excerpt from the Ra material in the Waiter, I'll have the Frequency Resonance Vibration........ thread (,11621.msg82339.html#msg82339) which Palinurus pointed out to me:

Questioner: When does the individualization or the individualized portion
of consciousness come into play? At what point does individualized
consciousness take over working on the basic light?

Ra: I am Ra. You remain carefully in the area of creation itself. In this
process we must further confuse you by stating that the process by which
free will acts upon potential intelligent infinity to become focused
intelligent energy takes place without the space/time of which you are so
aware as it is your continuum experience.

The experience or existence of space/time comes into being after the
individuation process of Logos or Love has been completed and the physical
universe, as you would call it, has coalesced or begun to draw inward while
moving outward to the extent that that which you call your sun bodies have
in their turn created timeless chaos coalescing into what you call planets
these vortices of intelligent energy spending a large amount of what you
would call first density in a timeless state, the space/time realization being
one of the learn/teachings of this density of being-ness.

Thus we have difficulty answering your questions with regard to time and
space and their relationship to the, what you would call, original creation
which is not a part of space/time as you can understand it.

I think the process of creating "timeless chaos coalescing" would occur in the ether, so it exists without space-time, but it's fundamentally electromagnetic. I also think that the vortices which form planets would be forming around an information field, and in this case Ra makes it sound to me like it's fractal, because he uses the word chaos. All up this makes me think that information fields exist in the ether and the material formations we see in space-time are the result of timelessnesses.

Here is a good video by the BBC from 1972 which explains how a hologram is made: This video explains that when making a hologram every point on the surface of a object is projected on to every point on the holographic plate. I think maybe this is a translation of the information field from the information of a solid object to the information on the film. So the information field would be the same and would exist in the ether or light.

Here are some more videos which I think are interesting: Another neat video of holograms, this video mentions light fields, which I think are either information fields or are closely related to information fields. A more recent video with holograms used in a lecture. I think this stuff would be cool at UFO conferences where they talk about stuff which is a little less scary.

Light is able to pass through a focal point, which suggests to me that if my thinking is accurate that information doesn't need space at all to exist. This is because all the information which the light is carrying passes through a single 0-dimensional "space," so if information needed a space within which to exist, then it seems logical to me that it can't be the space which society agrees that everyone perceives.

Something I've been playing around with lately is the idea that what we actually see around us are just information fields, which just so happen to have aggregated matter. And the aggregated matter would be why we interact with the world the way we do, i.e. why we can't walk through walls, because otherwise we would just be floating around. I've also been thinking that in dreams we interact with information fields as well, however these fields may not have aggregated matter, or may not have aggregated matter completely, which is why we can sometimes walk through walls in dreams.
Archaea said:
Something I've been playing around with lately is the idea that what we actually see around us are just information fields, which just so happen to have aggregated matter. And the aggregated matter would be why we interact with the world the way we do, i.e. why we can't walk through walls, because otherwise we would just be floating around. I've also been thinking that in dreams we interact with information fields as well, however these fields may not have aggregated matter, or may not have aggregated matter completely, which is why we can sometimes walk through walls in dreams.

Reading the latest entry and notably the quoted snip reminded me of something -- but I didn't quite realize what precisely.

After searching through my bookmarks and such, I (re)discovered three pages with several remarks on information theory (for instance from Mr. Scott, ark, Saieden, Carlisle and Bluelamp) in reference to dissolving aggregated matter.

These remarks are buried rather deeply in the topic Pete Santilli: Dr. Judy Wood's handler? Cointelpro? about the mysterious dustifying of the WTC towers on 9/11.

I checked this thread but found no mention of any of these remarks here. Therefore I decided to bring them to your attention for further use.

This is a discussion I follow with interest but a subject on which I don't feel qualified to contribute in terms of content.

Hope this helps a bit, nevertheless. :)

EDITED to add:

I'm sorry I forgot to include this reference to a related part of those remarks somewhere else.
Hi Palinurus,

I think the idea that the twin towers were brought down due to a change in their information field is interesting. It raises the question for me however, would changing the information field change the matter as well? I don't know, but I think it would be possible to change the information field of the basic structure of the building without interfering with the information field of it's matter. That's all speculation though, experiments are needed. :)

This is all making me think of an article I read a long time ago about a guy who wrote different words on different bottles of water, then looked at the water molecules after a bit. They were all different, kinda reflecting the nature of the word written on the bottle. Some looked like pretty snowflakes, some were all broken up.

Don't know if it's connected or not?

I also think this quote by Guardian is interesting, as it goes to show that no matter what you think of, someone's thought of it first. :P

I've been thinking more and more about ether lately based on the idea that it's light. My thinking has been that objects accelerate from lower frequency to higher frequency, and this is what we call gravity. I also think that matter is formed from vortices in the ether, just like in sub-quantum kinetics: (,32648.msg446300.html#msg446300) This is also reminiscent of what Ra said about planets forming from vortices as well. So, what I think is that matter and motion are products of the ether or electromagnetic fabric.

So this lead me to thinking about how gravity could fit in with this "model." Gravity shifts the frequency of light if the light is travelling parallel to the direction of the gravitational field, so if the light is travelling away from the source of gravity it gets red shifted, and if it's travelling towards the source it gets blue-shifted. Gravity also bends light if the light is travelling perpendicular to the direction of the gravitational field. This makes me think that gravity shapes the ether, which causes the ether to create and move matter.

This reminded me of the 3 distortions which Ra talks about. From the law of one study guide (


QUESTION: The 1st distortion of intelligent infinity is free will. Can you give a definition of this distortion?

RA: In this distortion of the Law of One it is recognized that the Creator will know Itself (or experience Itself). (B2, S27, 7) The primal distortion is free will. (B2, S27, 8)

QUESTION: The Creator then grants total freedom of choice in the ways of knowing. Is this correct?

RA: This is quite correct. (B2, S27, 7)

QUESTION: Then all other distortions spring from this first distortion, is this correct?

RA: It is both correct and incorrect.

In your illusion of physical existence all experience springs from the Law of Free will or the Way of Confusion.

In another sense, which we are learning, the experiences are this distortion. (B2, S27, 7)

The first distortion is free will, which I think means that anything goes. So, our theories of physics just so happen by chance to seem to work 100% of the time (or a predetermined amount of the time in quantum physics) because of some statistical probability that they would, or because everyone involved in our realm chooses them to. To model this mathematically I think we could use the term 0/0 or ∞/∞, which is meaningless and just means it can be anything. I think this is a good thing though because it means that maybe one day we'll be able to fly unassisted.



RA: The 1st distortion, free will, finds a focus which is known to you as logos, the Creative Principle or love. This focus may be called the 2nd distortion. (B1, S16, 148)

RA: The second distortion is the distortion of love. (B2, S27, 7-8)


RA: The distortion love is the great activator and primal co-Creator of various creations using intelligent infinity. (B2, S27, 8)... Love uses Its intelligent energy to create a certain pattern of illusions or densities in order to satisfy Its own intelligent estimate of a method of knowing itself. (B2, S27, 9)

I think here that love means gravity. The C's have said that gravity is the binder of all existence, and my mum loves me and she's always up in my business. :lol: From this I think that maybe gravity is emotional in nature, or has an emotional component, or can be perceived as emotional. This idea seems to fits with what Seth says about the role emotion plays in materializing events or objects with windows, and also what the P's said about emotion being our link to the multi-dimensional reality.

Ra also seems to imply that maybe information fields exist in gravity, so maybe information theory, specifically information fields, is a way to describe gravity.


(Dr. Childers' Note: Light, or light energy, is transformative: it may, or may not, be connected to love)

RA: This intelligent energy thus creates a distortion known as Light. From these 3 distortions come many, many hierarchies of distortions each having its own paradoxes to be synthesized, no one being any more important than another. (B1, S16, 148)

RA: The origin of all energy is the action of free will upon love. The nature of all energy is light, including the inner light which is the guiding star of the self. This is the true nature of all entities. (B3, S54, 30)


RA: A certain amount of awareness of the inner light is necessary to attract the in-streaming light upward spiraling from the south magnetic pole of being (the root chakra). (B3, S57, 46)

The 3rd distortion is light which I think is the ether, and is responsible for our illusions of space-time.

So the model goes like this: Free will affects gravity, gravity shapes the ether or light, the ether creates matter and moves it and is responsible for our perception of space and time. Since gravity is responsible for shaping the ether it seems reasonable to me that that's were the information fields are. Although I also think, since all is one and one is all, that it makes more sense to say there is only one information field, instead of lot of information fields.

Approaching Infinity said:
I think that might go without saying. The more lies you believe, the harder it is to recognize the truth. If things need a 'truth' to organize them, then organization is probably more difficult if that truth isn't 'recognized' and allowed to do its thing. However, I think we need to admit the possibility that minds can be convinced that some things are true when they're not, and act as if that thing were true. I think that's the basis of hypnosis. For example, the examples of hypnotic blisters, not seeing the 'third man', etc. I also wonder if hypnosis isn't a universal phenomenon. For example, is levitation of objects in a seance, or the presence of absent properties in homeopathic mixtures analogous? Is the floating trumpet convinced or 'hypnotized' into 'believing' it is free from the pull of gravity? Does the water 'remember' the no-longer-present substance and 'believe' it is still present in some way? Or in the case of humans, does a person who truly believes they've found the 'truth', when they haven't, gain a kind of pseudo-strength from it? But in all these cases, is there a limit? Can it last forever? Is it somehow less stable than 'the real thing'? Might that 'true believer' eventually disintegrate by being out of tune with reality?

I was trying to think about how hypnosis would work with regards to information fields, and I couldn't think of any way it would work. I like this explanation though as it seems to imply that the day we will be able to fly unassisted is today. I also think this explanation fits with the idea that free will is able to manipulate or control or even create a gravitational field. I think the mechanism behind this would be the redirection of a persons emotion energy from the total use of it all in daily life to the use of it in a mechanical, move this object kind of way.

I also like this quote from Scotty in the Pete Santilli thread:

Since it's very easy for most people to relate to the idea of a cell phone, let's start there. In electrical engineering, information theory is a field concerned with how much information is being conveyed via some medium. Usually, things work like this:

1. You have some bits you want to send (like the letter "A" is represented by 8 bits)
2. You take those bits and encode them somehow (can be encryption, data compression, whatever)
3. You take the encoded bits and modulate them somehow (like FM radio, or AM radio, or whatever)
4. You transmit the encoded, modulated bits via a radio wave to a remote receiver

In the first step there is the idea of a dataset, so if we let d = {0001, 0010, 0011, ...} = {A, B, C, ...} we have a set of data which we can transmit somehow to the receiver, who can then decode the message. The elements in this dataset are of finite length however, and there are a finite amount of elements in the set. Sorry for the mathematical language.

But if we wanted to transmit all the possible images or signals which bounce of an object into our eyes, the elements in the dataset, if they were 1's and 0's, would be infinite, in the same sense that there are an infinite amount of points on a line of finite length. Not only that but the amount of elements in the dataset would be uncountably infinite in the same way.

Fortunately, we can just use the idea of a continuous function, so the elements of d would be a function which defines the signal emitted from an object, and the entire set would include every possible signal that could be emitted. Having said that, I think this is what scientists already do.

If we now take the idea that truth is fractal, then a truthful element of the dataset would be a function which is an orbit around a strange attractor, while an un-truthful element of the dataset would be a function which doesn't follow the rules. I think the center of gravity for a gravitational system is the basin of attraction for a strange attractor, so the truth follows the rules of gravity, and truthful data would be a possible function around a strange attractor, while false information wouldn't do what it's supposed to and would be illogical.

This makes me think that maybe it would be possible to write an algorithm which look at an article or a quote and tells you whether it's truthful or not. The idea is simply to get the data, do some magical chaos theory 'find the strange attractor' magic, and if the algorithm can find a strange attractor which the data follows then it spits out the result 'true' and if it can't find a strange attractor it spits out 'false.' I think that's pretty neat, but It would blow my mind if it actually worked.

The other neat thing about this stuff is that now we can introduce the mathematics of propositional logic. :halo:
Another subject which I think is related to the idea of information fields is the idea of the blueprint for a persons life. I think Ra and Seth talk about this idea as well, but here's something from the C's. From Session 10 January 1997:

Q: (A) You straighten it. (L) No, you have to do it. That's part of the learning process. (A) Well, how was it scrambled? Were all the mistakes I have made in this life part of a plan?

A: No. Mistakes are made by choice, plan is merely "blueprint."

Q: So, she had a blueprint, and the mistakes were made by choice because she made the wrong choices?

A: Yes.

I think that a person's blueprint would look like a snowflake or a tree. Where the forks between the spokes or the branching off of branches would be the points where choices were made, but the person was interested in following both or all of the paths. I also think this information field would be part of, or connected to, the information field of that person's past lives and future selves as well as what Seth calls a person's counterparts, and all this would be connected to all the other information fields in existence. This is why I think it makes more sense to talk about one information field instead of many information fields.

I also think that these blueprints intersect with the ether which exists in a timeless state, and this intersection causes all the events and all moments in a persons life to materialize simultaneously. However, this materialization process is distorted by the first distortion, free will, which I think creates somewhat of an experience for the creator.

In my previous post I talked a bit about trying to find out whether a piece of information is truthful or not. This presents the problem of being able to turn a qualitative piece of information into a mathematical function, and then trying to find a differential equation whose solution is that function, or conversely being able to show that the function isn't a solution to any single differential equation.

I think finding a way to put language into a format of data which can be analysed with chaos theory could maybe be done using crop circles. crop circles are binary in the sense that the crops are either pushed down or they're not, but the shapes are continuous.

I think it might be possible to turn crop circles into functions using closed integrals. The parts where the crops have been flattened would add to the area and the parts which are still standing would subtract from the area. If the integral functions are a solution to some differential equation, which isn't necessarily non-linear, then it would have an attractor.

I think this might be a way to find out whether a crop circle is legit or at least professionally not legit, and maybe this is related to the C's suggestion of using a computer program to decipher CC's. I also think it's possible that the messages, or a component of the messages in CC's are contained in the differential equations.

So a method for finding out whether a statement in written English is truthful would require being able to translate the English into a crop circle style image, turn that image into a function, and see if the function is, or is not, a solution to some differential equation.

Another idea, of course, is to just use the waveform of the sound for spoken English. The idea being that there is a difference in truthful information and un-truthful information which would probably come through better in sound... I'd just like to say here that this is the stuff I think about from reading the C transcripts... I'm not usually a crackpot.

Another thing I've been thinking about is the idea of continuous digitization.

If we have an arc of a circle and we want to turn it into binary information we could:

1) Overlap it with an n*n grid.
2) If the arc passes through a grid square then that square is a 1, otherwise it's a 0.
3) Read off the squares from left to right, and top to bottom, to get a binary string.

The binary string is now a piece of information. The information isn't continuous however. But what about if we use an (n+1)*(n+1) grid, this will give us more information about the same arc, it just has a higher resolution. So the second binary string is like the first binary string only zoomed in. This is like the dimension of scale, where a cube looks like a point, with zero dimension, far away, but closer it looks like a cube, with 3 dimensions. So as you zoom into the binary string, you get more information (more bits), but that information is related to the original binary string.

I think this is like a fractal, for example, the Koch curve:


I find the Koch curve interesting because it's a finite amount of area contained in a perimeter of infinite length. So it might look like a pretty snowflake type image with a perimeter of finite length when looking at the whole thing. But when zooming in more and more detail emerges.

So I think something similar could happen with binary strings, and that maybe these binary strings could represent an information field...
This book looks like it's going to be interesting (late 2014 release date):

Being as Communion: A Metaphysics of Information

For a thing to be real, it must be able to communicate with other things. If this is so, then the problem of being receives a straightforward resolution: to be is to be in communion. So the fundamental science, indeed the science that needs to underwrite all other sciences, is a theory of communication. Within such a theory of communication the proper object of study becomes not isolated particles but the information that passes between entities.

In Being as Communion philosopher and mathematician William Dembski provides a non-technical overview of his work on information. Dembski attempts to make good on the promise of John Wheeler, Paul Davies, and others that information is poised to replace matter as the primary stuff of reality. With profound implications for theology and metaphysics, Being as Communion develops a relational ontology that is at once congenial to science and open to teleology in nature. All those interested in the intersections of theology, philosophy and science should read this book.

Contents: Preface; The challenge of a material world; Free will: the power of no; Information as ruling out possibilities; possible worlds; Matrices of possibility; Measuring information; Information theory; Intelligence vs. nature; Natural Teleological laws; Getting matter from information; The medium and the message; Embodiment and transposition; Energy; An informationally porous universe; Determinism; Contingency and chance; Search; Conservation of information; Natural selection; The creation of information; A world in communion; Index.

About the Author: A philosopher and mathematician, William A. Dembski is a senior fellow with Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture as well as a research scientist with the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. A cross-disciplinary scholar, he has published widely in the mathematics, engineering, philosophy, and theology literature, and is the author/editor of more than 20 books. Being as Communion ties together two decades of his research on the relation between teleology and information.

Reviews: ‘This is a clear, fresh, stimulating, and provocative book. I enjoyed reading it, and recommend it to anyone who would like to think more deeply about information, evolution and creativity.’
Rupert Sheldrake, University of Cambridge, UK
Sounds like a VERY interesting book. Thanks for sharing, AI. I'm looking forward to its release.
Just a heads up that there's a new article in New Scientist called “Reconstructing physics: The universe is information” by quantum physicists David Deutsch and Chiara Marletto. It's behind a paywall, though, so only the first few paragraphs are available without subscription.

Approaching Infinity said:
It's behind a paywall, though, so only the first few paragraphs are available without subscription.

Thanks for the heads-up, AI -- here you go:

Reconstructing physics: The universe is information

WHEN we consider some of the most striking phenomena permitted by the laws of physics – from human reasoning to computer technologies and the replication of genes – we find that information plays a central role. But, on the face of it, information is profoundly different from the basic entities that physical sciences use to describe reality. Neither quantum mechanics nor general relativity, the most fundamental theories in physics, provide a meaning for information or even a way of measuring it. And it has a "counterfactual" character: a message cannot carry information unless a different message is also possible.

Statements about information were therefore long regarded in physics as second-class, non-fundamental approximations. Information itself was considered an a priori abstraction, like Euclid's perfect triangles and circles, whose physical instantiations are inevitably approximate.

Yet there have long been clues that information is a fundamental physical quantity, obeying exact laws. Consider statistical mechanics, pioneered by Ludwig Boltzmann at the end of the 19th century, which reformulates the laws of thermodynamics in information-like terms. For example, these laws define heat and entropy – loosely speaking, a measure of disorder in a system – in terms of the number of ways in which atoms of a given total energy could possibly be distributed, which is also the information content of the system. The laws of thermodynamics therefore link information with fundamental forms of energy such as work.

Even more strikingly, in the 1970s Jacob Bekenstein and Stephen Hawking discovered that a black hole's surface area is also its entropy (in suitable units). Hence information, too, must be an exact quantity, like area.

In the theory of computation, information is referred to in the same way as the laws of thermodynamics refer to energy: without ever mentioning the details of the physical systems that instantiate it. Yet we now know that different laws of physics can give rise to fundamentally different modes of computing: quantum computers can solve problems qualitatively different from anything classical computers are capable of. Thus laws about computation must be laws of physics, and so must laws about information.

But what are those laws? How can abstractions be physical, and counterfactual properties factual?

We think we have solved this riddle. Our solution begins like this: The laws of physics have certain regularities which have never been expressed precisely, but only through a vague concept of "information". For instance, information is informally characterised as something that can be copied from one physical system to another – a property we call interoperability. A physical theory of information must express those regularities explicitly, in the form of fundamental laws. In this respect information is like energy, and its laws are like the principle of conservation of energy.

But unlike energy, the idea of information clashes with the prevailing conception of fundamental physics. Ever since Galileo and Newton, this has been that the physical world is explained in terms of its state (describing everything that is there) and deterministic laws of motion (describing how the state changes with time). Only one outcome can result from a given initial state, so there is no room for anything else to be possible. Information cannot be expressed that way, because of its counterfactual character. It requires a new mode of explanation, one provided by our constructor theory. Its basic claim is that all laws of physics can be expressed entirely in terms of statements of which tasks – ie physical transformations – are possible and which impossible, and why.

A task is possible if the laws of physics permit the existence of a constructor for it: something that can both cause the transformation and retain the ability to cause it again. A heat engine, for instance, is a thermodynamic constructor: it causes energy to change from one form to another, while operating in a cycle. A catalyst is a chemical constructor: it causes chemical reactions but is not itself chemically changed.

Just as is often done with catalysts, in constructor theory one abstracts away the constructor and expresses everything in the form of statements about tasks. Our constructor theory of information takes the informally known properties of information and expresses them entirely in terms of the distinction between possible and impossible tasks. This makes all the difference. In constructor theory, counterfactuals are first-class, fundamental statements, and transformations such as copying are naturally expressed as tasks. So in constructor theory the properties associated with information appear as elegant, exact laws of physics.

How is this achieved? First, one must express what it takes for a physical system to perform computations. All computations on a set of attributes of a system can be expressed as tasks – the permutations of that set. A computation medium is a system with a set of attributes whose permutations are all possible tasks. We call that a computation set. If copying the attributes in the computation set is also a possible task, we call the computation medium an information medium.

All the other laws about information can then be expressed in beautifully simple ways. For example, the interoperability of information is expressed as the principle that the combination of two information media is also an information medium.

Without any modification, this theory also expresses the properties of media capable of carrying out quantum computations. These properties turn out to define a species of information media which we call superinformation media. Given the counter-intuitive properties of quantum information (such as quantum cryptography, which is secure even against an eavesdropper who tries every possible key), one might guess that such media would be possible only by allowing some additional, weird class of tasks.

Remarkably, the opposite is the case. Superinformation media satisfy only a simple requirement: roughly speaking, that certain copying tasks on their states are impossible. This requirement gives rise to all the disparate features that distinguish quantum information from classical. So constructor theory explains the relationship between classical and quantum information, which has been poorly understood until now. It also reveals the single property underlying the most distinctive phenomena associated with quantum information, such as the unpredictability of measurement outcomes despite the equations of motion being deterministic. This is a promising development in the quest to reveal exactly what is responsible for the power of a universal quantum computer.

Constructor theory has other far-reaching implications. One of the most fundamental is that the notion of knowledge can be expressed in objective terms, as information that can act as a constructor – such as, say, the program running on a computer that controls an automated car factory. In the prevailing conception, that idea is impossible to express, because one can only say what does or does not happen. In constructor theory, one must talk in terms of what is possible. And for almost any task that is possible under the laws of physics, the explanation of why it is possible is an account of how knowledge might be created and applied to build a constructor for that task.

That makes knowledge creators, such as people, central to fundamental physics for the first time since Copernicus debunked the geocentric model of the solar system.

This article appeared in print under the headline "Why we need to reconstruct the universe"

David Deutsch and Chiara Marletto, both at the University of Oxford, are researching fundamental aspects of quantum information. Their ideas are described in more detail at This research is supported by the Templeton World Charity Foundation

The article also links to another earlier article:

Reality: A universe of information

WHATEVER kind of reality you think you're living in, you're probably wrong. The universe is a computer, and everything that goes on in it can be explained in terms of information processing.

The connection between reality and computing may not be immediately obvious, but strip away the layers and that is exactly what some researchers think we find. We think of the world as made up of particles held together by forces, for instance, but quantum theory tells us that these are just a mess of fields we can only properly describe by invoking the mathematics of quantum physics.

That's where the computer comes in, at least if you think of it in conceptual terms as something that processes information rather than as a boxy machine on your desk. "Quantum physics is almost phrased in terms of information processing," says Vlatko Vedral of the University of Oxford. "It's suggestive that you will find information processing at the root of everything."

Information certainly has a special place in quantum theory. The famous uncertainty principle - which states that you can't simultaneously know the momentum and position of a particle - comes down to information. As does entanglement, where quantum objects share properties and exchange information irrespective of the physical distance between them.

In fact, every process in the universe can be reduced to interactions between particles that produce binary answers: yes or no, here or there, up or down. That means nature, at its most fundamental level, is simply the flipping of binary digits or bits, just like a computer. The result of the myriad bit flips is manifest in what we perceive as the ongoing arrangement, rearrangement and interaction of atoms - in other words, reality.

According to Ed Fredkin of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, if we could dig into this process we would find that the universe follows just one law, a single information-processing rule that is all you need to build a cosmos. In Fredkin's view, this would be some form of "if - then" procedure; the kind of rule used in traditional computing to manipulate the bits held by transistors on a chip and operate the logic gates, but this time applied to the bits of the universe.

Vedral and others think it's a little more complex than that. Because we can reduce everything in the universe to entities that follow the laws of quantum physics, the universe must be a quantum computer rather than the classical type we are familiar with.

One of the attractions of this idea is that it can supply an answer to the question "why is there something rather than nothing?". The randomness inherent in quantum mechanics means that quantum information - and by extension, a universe - can spontaneously come into being, Vedral says.

For all these theoretical ideas, proving that the universe is a quantum computer is a difficult task. Even so, there is one observation that supports the idea that the universe is fundamentally composed of information. In 2008, the GEO 600 gravitational wave detector in Hannover, Germany, picked up an anomalous signal suggesting that space-time is pixellated. This is exactly what would be expected in a "holographic" universe, where 3D reality is actually a projection of information encoded on the two-dimensional surface of the boundary of the universe (New Scientist, 17 January 2009, p 24).

This bizarre idea arose from an argument over black holes. One of the fundamental tenets of physics is that information cannot be destroyed, but a black hole appears to violate this by swallowing things that contain information then gradually evaporating away. What happens to that information was the subject of a long debate between Stephen Hawking and several of his peers. In the end, Hawking lost the debate, conceding that the information is imprinted on the event horizon that defines the black hole's boundary and escapes as the black hole evaporates. This led theoretical physicists Leonard Susskind and Gerard't Hooft to propose that the entire universe could also hold information at its boundary - with the consequence that our reality could be the projection of that information into the space within the boundary. If this conjecture is true, reality is like the image of Princess Leia projected by R2D2 in Star Wars: a hologram.

Michael Brooks is a writer and New Scientist consultant based in Sussex, UK
Top Bottom