Information does not exist as such

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Atla
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Information does not exist as such

Post by Atla » Wed Jan 24, 2018 8:31 am

Nowadays it is fashionable to believe that we have matter and we have information, and these two somehow work together. Even among scientists, this belief seems to be rather common. Such people have sort of a double vision, they percieve the same world twice, which leads to endless confusion.

Information does not exist as such. (edit: Information does not exist as such of itself.) Though there are several ways to think about it, I'll try to put it this way: there is the natural world, which we can 1. describe, conceptualize as matter, or 2. describe, conceptualize as information.

1 and 2 are essentially one and the same thing, they are nondual, or in other words: information is strictly physical information. It is impossible to find information without also finding matter.

1 and 2 may only differ in that matter is a more basic description, referring more directly to the "thing-in-itself". Matter seems to be more like a left-hemisphere, materialist way of looking at things.

Information tends to be more abstract, and if it's the abstraction of matter, then it's sort of an abstraction of an abstraction (edit: it's sort of an abstraction of a basic conceptualization; this wording is better). And when you measure the entropy of such information, you have an abstraction of an abstraction of an abstraction (edit: you have an abstraction of an abstraction of a basic conceptualization; this wording is better). It's all just abstract thinking. Information seems to be more like a right-hemisphere, idealist way of looking at things.

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But most people don't realize this, and will literally say things like: information is "stored". Information is "encoded". Information is "in" matter. Information is "encoded at Planck-length" etc. That's all complete nonsense.

For example people will say that a lot of information is encoded in DNA. But there are just the atoms, and their positions in space. That's all you need, there isn't some "extra thing" put into them.
Any "information" beyond that can also depend on our chosen abstraction, for example I can say that the DNA in front of me has a distance from the Eiffel-tower, therefore the distance from the Eiffel-tower is encoded in DNA.

Or people will say that software is information and hardware is matter. That's again not true, "software" is just a part of the "hardware", usually a bunch of electrons. They say the Internet is made up of so many electrons that put together, they would weigh as much as a strawberry.

Or people will say that the brain is matter and the mind is information, some good old mind-body dualism popping up again. Such people are talking about two things where there is really only one. Either see everything as matter or see everything as information, or keep jumping between the two, but don't mix them like this.

Some scientists will claim that they have shown information to exist independently, by producing free energy in their experiments. These are all pseudoscience, they just cherrypick the results. For example, by monitoring a particle, "collecting information about the particle this way", operating some energy barriers using this information, we can help that particle gain "free" extra energy. What they forget to mention is that monitoring the particle, managing the "information", and operating the energy barriers, always costs more energy than what was gained, the net result is still always negative and entropy has increased overall.

And then there is this very popular perversion nowadays that "our universe is a simulation". Well there never was any sign that it is one. But people who believe that matter and information are distinct, can fall fairly easily into this belief.

And the so-called information paradox doesn't show either that information and matter are two things. It more like traces back to the idea that, as far as we can tell, quantum fluctuations are genuinely random, which may or may not be true for the entire universe.

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Edit: here is a rephrasing of the above, maybe this way it is clearer to some readers:

People can and do define information in dozens of different ways. These dozens of different definitions can basically be divided into two fundamentally different categories:

Category 1: information is knowledge, abstraction, abstract thinking in the head, description, physical information, description/abstraction of physical systems, it is an abstraction of matter/energy/"stuff", information is made of matter/energy/"stuff", information by itself doesn't have ontological reality

Category 2: information is something that was discovered lately, some kind of new stuff, some kind of new substance, it exists independently, it exists in addition to and iteracts with matter/energy/"stuff", it is literally embedded into matter/energy/"stuff", information by itself has ontological reality

The premise of this topic is that 1 is correct and 2 is nonsense.

We can and probably should of course still use category 2 definitions outside philosophy, in our everyday life, because that makes life much easier. This topic is only addressing what's "really" going on with information, ontologically speaking.
Last edited by Atla on Wed Feb 21, 2018 1:02 pm, edited 10 times in total.

Troll
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Troll » Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:38 am

I agree. Although, I don’t accept the phrase “natural world”. There are things and processes. And then, on the other hand, there are creatures that reflect and, as you say, form concepts and have views about the things and processes. Nature is one of the concepts. One never sees nature in the scientific sense which corresponds to the place one imagines causality to be, and so one subset of that imaginary is, as you say, matter.


When one speaks of “information” with respect to DNA one speaks of instructions. So, I wonder if we would be correct to say that this sort of so-called information is a kind of Function of a Function. In the sense one speaks of biological functions, as of the organs. The function of the DNA is to send commands to the proteins. It’s really the ordering of things that they call information isn’t it? That’s the same in physics. The order rather than what it exists independently. A certain order is conceptualized as sending a corresponding command. It’s function is to send that command. Ergo, Information names a genus of function, with many particular functions of the function sending instructions.

Atla
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Atla » Fri Jan 26, 2018 9:56 am

Troll wrote:
Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:38 am
I agree. Although, I don’t accept the phrase “natural world”. There are things and processes. And then, on the other hand, there are creatures that reflect and, as you say, form concepts and have views about the things and processes. Nature is one of the concepts. One never sees nature in the scientific sense which corresponds to the place one imagines causality to be, and so one subset of that imaginary is, as you say, matter.


When one speaks of “information” with respect to DNA one speaks of instructions. So, I wonder if we would be correct to say that this sort of so-called information is a kind of Function of a Function. In the sense one speaks of biological functions, as of the organs. The function of the DNA is to send commands to the proteins. It’s really the ordering of things that they call information isn’t it? That’s the same in physics. The order rather than what it exists independently. A certain order is conceptualized as sending a corresponding command. It’s function is to send that command. Ergo, Information names a genus of function, with many particular functions of the function sending instructions.
Things and processes are also concepts. By natural world I was just trying to refer to what exists "beyond" or rather "before" such conceptualization. I wasn't clear enough about it.

Yes the "function" of the DNA is to send "commands" to the proteins. But if you look more closely, you will only see particles flying around.

And in a similar way, the "function" of a software is to send "commands" to hardware parts. But if you look more closely, you will only see particles flying around.

Troll
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Troll » Sat Jan 27, 2018 4:25 am

“By natural world I was just trying to refer to what exists "beyond" or rather "before" such conceptualization.”

This doesn't work. Since, one must reflect, and come up with the concept of a “prior” or “before”, or “beyond”. Ergo, it is conceptualisation. Substance, ousia, in one conception of that, in Aristotle. Aristotle places all the causes in substance in the same way physicists place their math in substance, as though the math were the thing, and not an instrument exterior acting on the thing. One sees things alongside other things in average daily life. One stops, reflects, and speaks of nature, phusis, as the place of a specific form of causality, contrary to the artificial, or that that comes to be by artifice or learned habit. Nature, in ordinary life, means trees and greenery and towering granite rock faces and the ocean. All peoples on the earth have nature, but only the Greeks developed phusis. Since it came from specific acts of reflection.

Now, if "things" are concepts, what is left for unreflective daily life? It seems you lead us to grant that all is concept!

“But if you look more closely, you will only see particles flying around.”

I think what they mean is the ordering of those particles when they say “information”, rather than the particles. The specific pairing of the nucleobases, for example.

Atla
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Atla » Sat Jan 27, 2018 8:37 am

Troll wrote:
Sat Jan 27, 2018 4:25 am
“By natural world I was just trying to refer to what exists "beyond" or rather "before" such conceptualization.”

This doesn't work. Since, one must reflect, and come up with the concept of a “prior” or “before”, or “beyond”. Ergo, it is conceptualisation. Substance, ousia, in one conception of that, in Aristotle. Aristotle places all the causes in substance in the same way physicists place their math in substance, as though the math were the thing, and not an instrument exterior acting on the thing. One sees things alongside other things in average daily life. One stops, reflects, and speaks of nature, phusis, as the place of a specific form of causality, contrary to the artificial, or that that comes to be by artifice or learned habit. Nature, in ordinary life, means trees and greenery and towering granite rock faces and the ocean. All peoples on the earth have nature, but only the Greeks developed phusis. Since it came from specific acts of reflection.

Now, if "things" are concepts, what is left for unreflective daily life? It seems you lead us to grant that all is concept!
Of course all reflection is done in concepts, that's just how it works, we can't avoid it. We can attempt to point beyond conceptualization, but this pointing is also using concepts.
But that doesn't mean that the world itself therefore turns into concepts or substance. That's just 2400 years of backwards thinking.
I think what they mean is the ordering of those particles when they say “information”, rather than the particles. The specific pairing of the nucleobases, for example.
Where is this extra information of ordering, that isn't already there in the spatial position of those particles?

Atla
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Atla » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:38 pm

The "recipe" or "information" of making a human or any other organism, is in the DNA plus the right environment. The whole thing is one process.

Put a DNA strand into just the right environment, at the right place and at the right time, and stuff will happen. Put it into the wrong environment and the DNA strand will just sit there.

But we don't normally think that way, we take the "information" of the environment and assume that it is encoded into the DNA strand.

Troll
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Troll » Mon Jan 29, 2018 2:32 am

“But that doesn't mean that the world itself therefore turns into concepts or substance. That's just 2400 years of backwards thinking.”
It seems to become a conception like God. I mean what you say when you say “world itself”. It’s the kind of thing that means something, but that according to the standard account of Logical Positivism would deem “meaningless”, and claim was not “scientific”. We seem to understand the phrase “world itself”, and yet it is hard to pin down. I think the Greeks call that hen or the one, or being “on” (a Greek word). So, true, some things that came down to us as a interpretation of Aristotle may be “backwards”, and yet, we still move in the same domain of asking about something like a “world itself”.

The other thing is, in immediate circumstances, does one need to reflect at all? In other words, when we speak about simple daily things, are we pre-reflective? E.g., someone says, “there is a stone”, of, I’m driving to work, etc..

“Where is this extra information of ordering, that isn't already there in the spatial position of those particles?”
I think that’s what they mean when they say “information”. Not the particles, but the arrangement. It’s verbal usage, or, conceptualization as a technical term.

“The "recipe" or "information" of making a human or any other organism, is in the DNA plus the right environment. The whole thing is one process.”
I agree. I think there may be a verbal confusion with the term “information”.

“But we don't normally think that way, we take the "information" of the environment and assume that it is encoded into the DNA strand.”
I think there is a technical word “information” that gets conflated with words like data or empirical situation, the “given” situation, sense data, experience, and such terms/words.

Atla
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Atla » Mon Jan 29, 2018 8:29 am

Troll wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 2:32 am
It seems to become a conception like God. I mean what you say when you say “world itself”. It’s the kind of thing that means something, but that according to the standard account of Logical Positivism would deem “meaningless”, and claim was not “scientific”. We seem to understand the phrase “world itself”, and yet it is hard to pin down. I think the Greeks call that hen or the one, or being “on” (a Greek word). So, true, some things that came down to us as a interpretation of Aristotle may be “backwards”, and yet, we still move in the same domain of asking about something like a “world itself”.

The other thing is, in immediate circumstances, does one need to reflect at all? In other words, when we speak about simple daily things, are we pre-reflective? E.g., someone says, “there is a stone”, of, I’m driving to work, etc..
Yeah by the "world itself" I was just trying to point to what is beyond/before conceptualization. It's just a metaphor. It's not a thing and carries no meaning, it can't be pinned down.

Well in a way we are always reflecting, since we don't literally see the stone, we see a representation of the stone in the back of our head. But with a lot of practice, we can do it with as little thinking and conceptualization as possible. (Which, despite what many people claim, isn't necessarily a good idea imo.)

Atla
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Atla » Mon Jan 29, 2018 9:02 am

Most Westerners will look at a stone and see a stone seperate from its environemnt. Most Easterners will look at a stone and see it as being continuous with its environment.

So our conceptualizations can eventually even affect how we process imagery, for example.

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Greta
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Greta » Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:02 pm

Information is the configuration of matter. That's what DNA is, for instance - a configuration of an original state encoded into organic matter that determines the attributes and limitations in the configuration of the ensuing growing entity.

Information pertaining to the structure of relatively unknown physical things can be black boxed for convenience and treated as raw information. Theoretically, the Planck scale is the smallest possible scale where things can be said to physically happen, and this is where the scale of possible units of information may be calculated (or perhaps quanta, if they are treated as fundamental).

That is, theoretically, fundamental particles/wavicles are by definition not made from anything. Since they are the same materially - essentially all made from the stuff of the big bang (thanks uwot), then the difference between different entities are only informational attributes like mass, spin and charge, rendering them effectively the "bits" of reality. That is, unless there are other physical layers to reality we are yet to discover.

Atla
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Atla » Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:55 pm

Greta wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:02 pm
Information is the configuration of matter. That's what DNA is, for instance - a configuration of an original state encoded into organic matter that determines the attributes and limitations in the configuration of the ensuing growing entity.
Matter is the configuration of matter. Information is an abstraction of that. So there is nothing that is "encoded" into matter.

DNA is a molecule, not an abstraction encoded into what it is the abstraction of.

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Greta
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Greta » Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:40 pm

Atla wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:55 pm
Greta wrote:
Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:02 pm
Information is the configuration of matter. That's what DNA is, for instance - a configuration of an original state encoded into organic matter that determines the attributes and limitations in the configuration of the ensuing growing entity.
Matter is the configuration of matter. Information is an abstraction of that. So there is nothing that is "encoded" into matter.

DNA is a molecule, not an abstraction encoded into what it is the abstraction of.
We will have to agree to disagree.

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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Troll » Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:34 am

I would say one can make a distinction between what shows up for the sensorium, or, in Socrates saying, what shows up in a mirror, and what belongs to the realm of math and becomes a kind of utensil. Numbers for a physicist are not the numbers we use as subitizers, or counters of things in daily life. They are what one learned in the fourth grade or so, units. Units are strictly speaking something one mentally envisages, but never sees. In this sense, is it not said that one never arrives at an electron? The electron is a mental picture corresponding to some data, that one can use to make things happen. But, strictly speaking, if one tries to look at an electron, there is just a sort of "cloud" that dissipates as one tries to focus in on it.

Atla
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Atla » Tue Jan 30, 2018 7:31 am

Yeah we can describe an electron as a bunch of material properties, or we can describe it as a bunch of pure information. The two views are basically the same.

When we develop the double vision is when we start to mix the two conceptualizations and say things like material properties are information. Well if material properties are information, then there is nothing left for matter to be, so then what is this matter we are vaguely referring to.

I think many, including Shannon (not sure), arrived at the conclusion that information is distinct from matter and energy. And those who implemented their ideas arrived at the conclusion that information is an abstraction of physical systems (and physical systems already come in configurations). Hence all this confusion.

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Greta
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Re: Information does not exist as such

Post by Greta » Tue Jan 30, 2018 8:18 am

Consider two ostensibly identical computer chips.

Their substance might be exactly the same, even down to the same number of atoms of the same type with the same charge and spin, but the information - the configuration or arrangement of those atoms - is different.

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