In 2011, thinking of John Wheeler and bit before it:
The concept of information makes no sense in the absence of something to be informed—that is, a conscious observer capable of choice, or free will (sorry, I can’t help it, free will is an obsession). If all the humans in the world vanished tomorrow, all the information would vanish, too. Lacking minds to surprise and change, books and televisions and computers would be as dumb as stumps and stones. This fact may seem crushingly obvious, but it seems to be overlooked by many information enthusiasts.John Horgan, “Why information can’t be the basis of reality” at Scientific Ameerican (March 7, 2011)
But he concludes:
The idea that mind is as fundamental as matter—which Wheeler’s “participatory universe” notion implies–also flies in the face of everyday experience. Matter can clearly exist without mind, but where do we see mind existing without matter? Shoot a man through the heart, and his mind vanishes while his matter persists. As far as we know, information—embodied in things like poetry, hiphop music and cell-phone images from Libya–only exists here on Earth and nowhere else in the universe. Did the big bang bang if there was no one there to hear it? Well, here we are, so I guess it did (and saying that God was listening is cheating).
Part of me would love to believe that consciousness is not an accidental by-product of the physical realm but is in some sense the primary purpose of reality. Without us to ponder it, the universe makes no sense; worse, it’s boring. But the hard-headed part of me sees ideas like the “it from bit” as the kind of fuzzy-headed, narcissistic mysticism that science is supposed to help us overcome.John Horgan, “Why information can’t be the basis of reality” at Scientific American (March 7, 2011)
But now what does he think of the panpsychists?
See also: Why Is Science Growing Comfortable with Panpsychism (“Everything Is Conscious”)? At one time, the idea that “everything is conscious” was the stuff of jokes. Not any more, it seems.