Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Informational Ontology

I do not ascribe to a materialist ontology nor an idealist one, but rather, to an ontology of information. In other words, I take the following from John 1:1 seriously:

en arche hn o logos
"the foundation of all things is information"

Admittedly, this is a definition that comes about in light of information theory -- but if you truly understand both what information is, and all the meanings of logos, you can see that "information" is a good translation of "logos." Certainly a far better choice than "word," which is such a peripheral meaning of logos as to be almost completely inaccurate. When we "Logos," we communicate information one to another, process that information, and pass on that information. All things are information at different levels of complexity -- information processors, which all communicate different kinds of information at different levels. For biological organisms, the vehicle of communication tends to be chemical, though also photons and sound waves. Humans communicate using more complex information-carriers, particularly through grammatical, syntactical language. If we look at the ways to define information -- as a noun, it is that which is without form; as a verb, it is that which gives form to another. Thus, pure information is that which is without form, which gives form.

"The foundation of all things was information, and the information was 1) to the advantage of 2) at, near, by 3) to, towards, with, with regard to (the word translated as "with") God, and God was information."

That is the most literal translation of John 1:1 I can render. The story of the universe is one of foundation on information, and the increasing complexity of that information over time in the universe. Atoms have less complex forms of information than do chemicals and especially chemical cycles and systems. Biology is a set of highly complex chemical systems. The human brain is a highly complex neural system in complex interaction with other humans through complex social systems. That information is communicated through language, which itself must be highly complex in order to communicate most efficiently. One could thus view God as having most complexity of the universe, and thus have all the information. This is how God is both the Alpha (the inform information that gives form at the beginning of the universe) and the Omega (the most complex, most informed).

I suspect this may be too pantheistic for some. Call the all-the-information-at-its-most-complex what you will, then. Call it simply the universe at a future state. But humans are the most informationally dense entities in the universe we know of, and we are highly intelligent and self-aware. If the tendency of the universe is towards greater complexity -- toward increased density of information -- then we can expect more complex, more intelligent, more self-aware beings than ours to evolve. It may or may not be a descendant of ours. But that does not matter. What matters is that we understand this natural evolutionary tendency of the universe as a whole to evolve toward ever-greater complexity.

Complex processes emerge precisely because information is communicated to other entities in the process. In social processes, those entities are agents capable of processing that information and storing it as knowledge, then acting on that knowledge. Much of that knowledge is conscious, some unconscious. Much is tacit. Thus understanding information in the information theoretical sense of the term is important to understanding complex social processes as well as the physical entities that make up those social processes. If we understand that each is in fact made up of different kinds of information, we can bridge the gap among the physical, biological, psychological, and social sciences -- and even bridge those to the arts and humanities.

All the other theories I use in my philosophy, world view, scientific work, and art -- evolutionary theory, game theory, chaos theory, complexity theory, emergence theory, etc. -- explain the ways in which information interacts to create more complex things and how those complex things engage in complex interactions. Information theory is the foundation of all these things. Information is the foundation of all things.

1 comment:

  1. Per your views and conclusions about much of what is found on your various sites, I think I have a rather cool (as in simple & yet robust) iterative model of cognition and re-cognition and re-re-re-cognition... much in accord with your DiaPhysics version of Informational Ontology. And as I much like what you post and otherwise write, I am thinking of mentioning you in my almost finished book. If you would like to know more, please let me know.

    Regards, YaleLandsberg@gmail.com