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Glimmer: Information is not physical, not like matter or energy

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info, information, tips, icon, support From Philosophy of Science:

Abstract: We have a conundrum. The physical basis of information is clearly a highly active research area. Yet the power of information theory comes precisely from separating it from the detailed problems of building physical systems to perform information processing tasks. Developments in quantum information over the last two decades seem to have undermined this separation, leading to suggestions that information is itself a physical entity and must be part of our physical theories, with resource-cost implications. We will consider a variety of ways in which physics seems to a affect computation, but will ultimately argue to the contrary: rejecting the claims that information is physical provides a better basis for understanding the fertile relationship between information theory and physics. instead, we will argue that the physical resource costs of information processing are to be understood through the need to consider physically embodied agents for whom information processing tasks are performed. Doing so sheds light on what it takes for something to be implementing a computational or information processing task of a given kind. (public access) – Maroney, O J E and Timpson, C G (2017) How is there a Physics of Information? On characterising physical evolution as information processing. More.

It’s amazing the number of people who have striven to think that information is physical, for no reason that makes any sense*. Consider perceptronium (an alleged “information” element) and other information is physical. How physical is “Tuesday” or “that vermilion hue” or “I am sorry to have to tell you that we could not save your mother”? There are, of course, almost endless physical referents but no overlap.

It makes no sense except insofar as they need to close the loop of naturalism. Then nothing need make any sense; it need only be the enforced view. One can at least choose between that and science.

See also: New Scientist on information: More fundamental than matter and energy? Are they growing up over there? Well, if we must choose between the cautious Paul Davies’ concerns and Sean Carroll’s war on falsifiability, we should ask whether science really matters a whole lot compared to what dope the Cool crowd smokes now.


Data basic: An introduction to information theory

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Is not 'man's being made in the image of God' the key to the nature of information, just as it has been the key the relentless progress of science in the Christian and post-Christian West. --------------- Max Planck : 'I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as a derivative of consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing postulates consciousness.' ------------------ 'As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.' Bizarre as it might seem, I wonder if Planck's metaphysical understanding of the implications of what was discovered about fundamental matter, was not a greater achievement than quantum mechanics, itself. Axel

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