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Descartes before the horse – does information exist?

Last updated on 22 Jun 2018

I have been kind of busy with actual, you know, work, which is ironic because I do not actually have, you know, employment. But I am teaching. Anyway this is by way of being an apology and apologia for not having posted lately. Be assured much Wilkinsy goodness is being done behind the scenes.

So my text for today is John Horgan’s piece in Scientific American on whether or not everything is built from information. His argument is not great: basically it fails common sense. Many things fail the common sense test without thereby being false, and the commentators pick up on this almost immediately. However, I agree with the conclusion even if not that argument. Here are some equally bad ramblings on why.

There is a long-standing western tradition that derives from the classical era, that there is something ontologically unique about information, usually given the label Logos. Philo of Alexandria bequeathed that philosophy to the eventually-Christian west out of nascent neo-Platonism, but information as a quantity is rather late. For most of the history of the Christian west, “form” not information was the key property. Like information now, it was not physical but it had physical effects. Basically, this view, known as hylopmorphism (substance-formism), was a constraint upon what evolved into modern science. It was mostly supplanted by atomism and its physical heirs and successors, such as quantum mechanics and modern subatomic physics and The Zoo.

Okay, so why is information now so important? As communications technology improved, it became important to ensure that a signal sent at one place was received properly at the end point. At Bell Labs in the 1930s and 1940s, Claude Shannon developed a mathematical theory of communication (note: not “information” as such) which involved the definition of “bits” (binary digits) and an entropy-like equation that came to be known as “Shannon’s metric”:

Shannon.png

Basically, Shannon’s metric is the number of binary decisions it takes to get from a field of possible states or symbols to a single state or symbol. It’s a measure of difference.

Now this is not really what most people think of when they think of information, although it is part of it. Shannon himself was fairly clear that this had nothing to do with semantic information, or meaning. Moreover, he and his colleague Norbert Weiner, the founder of cybernetics, knew very well that this was about formal descriptions of things, not the things themselves. Weiner even wrote:

Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day. (Wiener 1948: 132)

What was information, then? Well, it was something that “existed” in descriptions and statements. It was the structure of some string of symbols and our uncertainty that the string we have received is the string that was sent. How, then, is the universe supposed to be comprised of information, as the physicist John Wheeler, whose slogan “the it from bit” indicated, held that it was? Wheeler’s view (1990) was basically this: if a state of the universe or part of it can be clearly described, as physicists think that it can be, then there is an information content to that state. Using equations like the Wave Function we can describe the universe and its evolution over time. Therefore, the universe is made from information. A similar argument is often put under the rubric “the Matrix”, after the famous film, by David Chalmers. Any reality we experience is simply the sum of all the information we have about it. This is Berkeleyan Idealism updated for the computer age.

Now if I may step back a bit to the oft-abused scholastic philosophers of the late medieval period, they made a distinction that later was adopted by C. S. Peirce, between the sign and the signified. If you like, it is between the words, and the world. The informational idealism of Wheeler is, in effect, to say that all we have access to, and therefore ontologically all there is, is the information contained in our equations and descriptions of the world. Not only is to be a matter of instantiating a variable as Quine put it, it is just the value of the variable. This is a case of an error of inversion: putting Descartes before the horse, so to speak.

Assume with me now that there is, in fact and independently of anything anyone may know about it including gods, a computer before me. I am actually, whether I know it or not, typing on this computer. Now suppose I give you a clear and precise description of that process. Call that description D and the state of the computer being typed S. Does S resolve down to D? Is S nothing more than D? Is the sentence “John types on his Mac” the state of John typing on his Mac? Surely that is faintly absurd. I might say that the fact of John typing on his Mac is the sentence or some proposition that has equivalent information, sure. I might even say that my knowledge (or anyone’s knowledge) of that case consists entirely in the information content of that sentence or proposition. But to say that my typing on my Mac is just the factual propositional content of D is a case of anthropomorphism of the highest water.

To mistake the sign (the word, description or formalisation) for the signified (the denotation, extension or reference) is a classic mistake. It goes by the name “reification fallacy” (Marcuse) or “hypostasis“. Whitehead, that badly-underappreciated philosopher, called it the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness“. John Maynard Smith would walk up to students in the cafeteria at the University of Sussex and ask of their discussions “Is this about words, or the world? If it is about the world, I will stay, but if it is about words, I will go.” [Anecdote about JMS by David Penny, c2000] Surely we cannot be making such a simple mistake?

We can, and do. In fact it is I think one of the enduring mistakes of western thought for 2500 years, to the point where a good many people think it is not a mistake at all. It underlies the argument from design (since Socrates, according to Sedley 2007). It puts our conceptual forms, and symbolic formulations, before the world they are supposed to refer to. It’s in Locke, Kant and Russell. And it is, I believe, entirely unnecessary. One need not think that the world has semantic content even if it has structure.

The misuse of information talk, the new hylomorphism, is ubiquitous. We cannot conceive of things without representing them, so we mistake our representations for the things. Consider arguments from simulation, such as the infamous “Singularity” views of Ray Kurzweil. Ignore the fact that few if any of the predictions made by people since Turing have come to pass; that may be due more to the problems of technological development. Kurzweil’s argument is roughly this: we can simulate the activity of each neuron in the brain. A neural simulation behaves the same way. As we are the sum of all the neuronal behaviours of our brains, eventually we will be able to instantiate ourselves in a computer, and live forever.

But, and here is the hypostatic fallacy, a simulation is not the same as the thing simulated, or a computer model of the solar system would have a mass of 1.992 x 1030kg, which it doesn’t. A “brain” being simulated is a simulated, not a real, brain. Physical differences make a difference. This new anthropic hylomorphism misleads our thinking. It is found in genetics (genes are “transcribed”, “edited”, and “code for” properties). It is found in physics. It is obviously found in information technology. It is found all over the place. There is even a tendency for scientists to mistake their formal descriptions and record keeping (as in the Ontology project, the very name of which is a giveaway) for the things they record. Systematists in biology, in their battles over nomenclature, often make this very error.

So, if information is not a physical property of energy or matter, what is it? Here I think the ideas of Edward Zalta, who among other things edits the wonderful Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, can help. In his theory of abstract objects (1988), Zalta distinguishes between things that are bounded by space and time, and are hence concrete, and things which are not so bounded, which he calls abstract objects. For my money, only a concrete object can have causal powers, and hence only a concrete object can be explanatory for physical processes and states. Information is an abstract property that inheres in abstract objects. Words, qua words, are abstract objects (but an instance of a word is a concrete object of sound, ink or electromagnetically modulated signals), and so they have no causal power. This debate, too, is old. It includes the famous nominalisms and conceptualisms of the middle ages: are universals (things which include more than a single particular thing) real or in the head? Is information just in the head? How can a physicalist like me account for shared informational properties?

Again, I refer to the abstract/concrete distinction. What is in my head, and indeed what is in the sum of all heads across time and space, is concrete even if it is a functional rather than material thing. All cases of the word “dog” and cognates exist in physical heads or something like them, and ancillary contexts for recording and retrieving information sensu lato. But the concept itself does not. It is unbounded by time and space. And that suggests that the nominalist view, that these things do not really exist, is correct, and so I conclude. We are the ones that instantiate abstractions, and so the information exists, inasmuch as it does, only in our semantic behaviours. There is no existing thing that is information, just behaviours that we abstract out for formal purposes. However, one may take a different line and still be a physicalist or a realist of some flavour. I’m just giving my preferred defence of the matter.

So if we abandon the metaphysics of hylomorphism and adopt a realist view of the world, I think that is common sense of a kind. It avoids the unnecessary anthropomorphism that we have and probably always will fall into. It’s not an easy view to hold, but I think it is right. Information is an abstraction, and does not, strictly speaking, exist.

Chalmers, David. 2005. The Matrix as Metaphysics. In (C. Grau, ed) Philosophers Explore the Matrix (Oxford University Press, 2005). Reprinted in (T. Gendler, S. Siegel, & T. Cahn, eds) The Elements of Philosophy (McGraw-Hill, 2007). Reprinted in (S. Schneider, ed) Science Fiction and Philosophy (Wiley, 2009).

Sedley, David N. 2007. Creationism and its critics in antiquity, Sather classical lectures. Berkeley, CA; London: University of California Press.

Wheeler, John Archibald. 1990. Information, physics, quantum: The search for links. In Complexity, Entropy, and the Physics of Information, edited by W. Zurek. Redwood City, CA: Addison-Wesley.

Wiener, Norbert. 1948. Cybernetics, or, Control and communication in the animal and the machine. Cambridge, Mass: Technology Press.

Zalta, Edward N. 1988. Abstract Objects: An Introduction to Axiomatic Metaphysics. Dordrecht: D. Reidel.

55 Comments

  1. Anthony McCarthy Anthony McCarthy

    Is an electron just an convenient abstraction? Interesting question. Maybe, but in a more solid sense than most other abstractions. John Gregg

    In a long argument I was involved in at Sean Carroll’s blog last year I raised the question, does physics know even one object in the universe comprehensively and exhaustively, with neither Carroll nor any of the other physicists involved willing to answer the question. It took many days and the possibility of the argument extending into another comment thread on a post – which I interpreted as a reaction to what I gather was seen as an impertinent question – to get an answer. I did bribe him, saying if he answered it I wouldn’t post another comment. Carroll finally said, “no”.

    So, an eminent physicist is on record as admitting that physics doesn’t have knowledge of everything about one thing , nevermind a “theory of everything”. I assume that it undermines Carroll’s claim in the second post that “The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Are Completely Understood”, though I was under an obligation to keep my side of the bargain and not comment further on his blog, though I did mention it elsewhere.

    I’d think that a reduction is, actually, an abstraction, in that it draws out partial information about something in order to deal with it partially. Given that science is an incomplete view of things, as all human thought is, anything we can articulate to other people is certainly an abstraction. Whatever our thought about the external world is, it isn’t the recreation of physical objects and motion in any kind of complete sense.

    We all are in the habit of pretending that our knowledge is far more absolute than it is, that might begin in convenience but it too often ends in arrogance, asserting immodest claims when a more realistic view would lead to something a bit more humble. The fashion of pop materialism these days is, at times, amusingly unaware of the contingent and incomplete nature of even the most sophisticated science. Though more often the arrogance is anything but amusing. Because science is often efficacious in proportion to the reliability of what it asserts, it has the potential to magnify human power, often to murderous effect. Because of that scientists have a responsibility to always remind themselves of their ignorance, of their basic inability to know it all. That’s something that could be said about people in just about every area of life, as well.

    • Jonathan Jonathan

      So, an eminent physicist is on record as admitting that physics doesn’t have knowledge of everything about one thing , nevermind a “theory of everything”.

      One does not get to be an eminent physicist by expressing certainties.

      Considering that the two fundamental theories of reality, relativity and quantum mechanics, stand opposed to each other, it means that at least one of the theories is at least partially wrong. That introduces a basic level of uncertainty to all of physics. However, a “Theory of Everything” would necessarily unify gravity with the other four forces, it would remove that fundamental uncertainty from physics.

  2. Anthony McCarthy Anthony McCarthy

    John Gregg, you might find this exchange interesting, especially Reuben Hersch’s response, or, at least, that’s what I found most interesting, especially this:

    This reminds me of anthropic discussions in cosmology. How in Heaven’s name could it happen that the values of the fundamental constants are just what they need to be to make human life possible?

    How is it that by solving problems, and inventing tools and concepts to solve those problems, and then solving the new problems about those new tools and conceptsÛmathematicians often give physics a hand?

    Naturally it’s no surprise that mathematicians working on questions from physics may give physics a hand. But that’s not where fiber bundles and connections came from.

    It’s a mystery. I haven’t tried to solve it. Is it more fruitful to be hung up on this mystery, or to accept it and go ahead?

    You can’t explain why there is matter rather than nothing. You don’t wait to answer that before you do a little physics.

    http://www.edge.org/discourse/hersh_number.html

    • Jonathan Jonathan

      Fucking magnets, how do they work? Tide goes in, tide goes out; never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that!

      Fixed.

  3. Disclaimer: my knowledge on this topic is probably far lower than most who have posted above, but I am interested, so please forgive my ignorance and my straying a little off-topic.

    I tend towards a materialism-of-convenience such that, for example, it seems far better established that there are materials without minds than that there are minds without material, though I don’t take such probabilistic inferences as absolute. But lately I have started to couch my materialism in the following context:

    Nothing represented in my consciousness is the thing represented (the map is not the territory). So my consciousness is for all intents and purposes a simulation and everything I “know” about the world is part of the simulation. For all I am able to know, the “world” might be my own dream. But so what?

    I may think it highly likely that something exists outside the dream that does the dreaming, a “real” brain in a real body in a real world, for example, but I can’t be absolutely certain of that (again, so what?).

    Science and philosophy seem to give me lots of good reasons to be agnostic about “ultimate” reality or objectivity.

    OK. Fine.

    I still have a very serviceable version of relative or subjective reality and relative or subjective objectivity without those gradients in my simulation needing any absolute external referents. All the usual scientific methods still apply and still work.

    That said, things I call material ARE different from things I call abstract, even if both exist only in my hypothetical dream or simulation.

    Getting back to the proper topic:

    The information “contained” in or “carried” on any “material” seems to me to be a product/function of a neuro-sensory system or other information-sensing-and-processing system. I have to remain agnostic about whether any or all such materials and systems are themselves actually, or ultimately, “composed” of information or something else, but within the limits of my simulation of the world I’ll say they are composed of matter/energy and I’ll say that information is a byproduct of my observations about the structure, behavior, or other attributes of matter/energy systems. Interestingly, if I want to transmit my information to another person or to a computer I need to attach, embed, or encode that information on some “material” substrate that they or it are equipped to sense and interpret.

    Regardless of whether other people exist only in my dream or they also exist in another level or type of reality outside of my simulation, it is useful (at least to me) for “us” to agree on such conventions about information, matter, energy, scientific methods, etc.

    I’m not too worried about it because most people (real or imagined) seem to behave as if they share my view.

    Poor Richard

  4. Parenthetically, I think the first recorded instance of this view that each conscious individual experiences the world via its own idiosyncratic (but probably law-conforming) simulation was Plato’s “Analogy of The Cave”. Personally, I suspect he may have stolen the idea from Pythagoras.

  5. Jonathan Jonathan

    Needs more physics. John, you don’t seem to have a grounding in the history of the idea that all of reality is just information.

    Let’s first take information to be the uncertainty in a given system. The more surprising the progressive states of a system, the more information that system contains. Thus, as a system progresses to disorder, it gains information. This distinguishes information from data.

    Now let’s take information in the context of quantum mechanics. In the context of quantum mechanics, we find that uncertainty, and thus information, is a fundamental aspect of all physical systems. Furthermore, uncertainty cannot be removed from a closed system. This would mean that the total information of a system would not be allowed to decrease.

    Now let’s take a quantum mechanical system, i.e. some stuff. Let us now throw that system into the event horizon of a black hole. What happens to it? Relativity says that it is crushed into a singularity, never to be recovered. But if this were true, the total information in the system, i.e. reality, would decrease. Quantum mechanics says this is a no-no.

    So is quantum mechanics wrong, or is relativity wrong? Either one would be bad news for modern physics. Fortunately, two physicists came up with an answer: The information contained within the stuff thrown into the black hole isn’t devoured by a singularity. Instead, it is smeared out across the surface of the event horizon. Thus the information of the system remains the same, as long as it takes an infinite amount of time for physical substances to fall into a black hole. Relativity says this is the case, so both relativity and quantum mechanics agree again!

    This means that the two-dimensional surface of a black hole contains an isometric projection of three-dimensional particles that have fallen into it. Thus, the surface of a black hole is a hologram of everything that’s touched the event horizon. Not only is the information preserved on the surface of the black hole, the information on the surface can interact with other information on the surface as if it were still three-dimensional!

    Now, let’s take the math that was used to prove that holographic particles can exist on the surface of the event horizon of a singularity. Now let’s apply that math to another singularity we know about: The singularity at the start of the Universe. Physical reality as we know it would just be a four-dimensional holographic projection. Considering that all the information for a four-dimensional projection can be contained within three dimensions, and that 3D isometric image can itself be rendered as a 2D hologram, which could then be rendered as a 1D object, i.e. a singularity.

    This allows for all the observations we have made to date. It also makes predictions for what went on pre-inflation. It also makes predictions about what the current Universe should look like. It also makes predictions about what the nature of fundamental forces (EM, gravity, strong & weak nuclear), their relative strengths, their origins, and how the unify.

    Some of these predictions have already been made. Some are being worked out by theoretical physicists as we speak. The math on deriving gravity from entropy of a 4D projection of a constrained 3D system is particularly daunting. Applied physicists and engineers are currently working on the next generation of research equipment that will prove things one way or another about the theory. To find out the truth on the subject, we’ll have to wait for the LHC to work its way up to higher energy levels. We’ll also have to wait for the next-gen space telescopes to be launched. So right now, the theory is at the same point that inflation was in the late seventies. Intriguing, but waiting for technology to catch up to theory.

    Hopefully I’ve shown that much of your dismissal of holographic information theory was just your lack of understanding of esoteric physics (which is nothing to be ashamed of) and a lack of historical context to the idea.

  6. Jonathan, keep in mind that quantum mechanics and relativity disagree on many key issues – which is why there is no theory of quantum gravity. David Bohm wrote in 1980:

    [R]elativity theory requires continuity, strict causality (or determinism) and locality. On the other hand, quantum theory requires non-continuity, non-causality and non-locality. So the basic concepts of relativity and quantum theory directly contradict each other. It is therefore hardly surprising that these two theories have never been unified in a consistent way. Rather, it seems mostly likely that such a unification is not actually possible. What is very probably needed instead is a qualitatively new theory, from which both relativity and quantum theory are to be derived as abstractions, approximations and limiting cases.

    More generally, I agree that we can frame all of reality as information. This seems very strange at first b/c most people new to these ideas have a hard time accepting that information can give rise to anything substantial, to any “stuff” at all. But when we think deeply we realize that all the “stuff” we see and feel around us can as validly be framed as information as matter or energy or pure consciousness. These are all just labels for the ding an sich, Kant’s thing in itself, which he pointed out convincingly (as Plato did much earlier) we’ll never know about fully. Framing all stuff as information, as Cahill and Wheeler and many others have tried to do, may have the advantage, however, of being inherently quantifiable. Or not. Because quantifying information in bits is just convention and there’s no particular reason to believe that reality at its most fundamental level is comprised of any type of bits. These are all just models for what is ultimately unknowable and the hard task for thinkers is to determine how best our models can match reality and lead to useful insights.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Like I said, Berkleyan idealism. Which means that you had better attend to the philosophical arguments addressed to that position over the past 400 years. It’s not like this pops up de novo. This is a philosophical issue that cannot be solved by appealing to physics, no matter what the physics is.

      • It’s not really Berkeleyan idealism because he of course concluded that all stuff must be kept in the mind of God. We can hold an idealist position without believing in God as a necessary feature of our ontology. As you know, I’m a card-carrying Whiteheadian panpsychist, but I can’t say idealism is “wrong.” None of these theories are “wrong” – they’re just more or less in keeping with one’s intuitions and more or less explanatory with more or less parsimony.

        • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

          Berkleyan idealism does not rely upon the mind of God but upon the primary/secondary qualities distinction, eliminating primary qualities. The mind of God is a solution to the subsequent problem of the persistence of unobserved objects, as the pair of limericks by Ronald Knox explained:

          There was a young man who said “God Must find it exceedingly odd To think that the tree Should continue to be When there’s no one about in the quad.”

          “Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd; _I_ am always about in the quad. And that’s why the tree Will continue to be Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.”

      • Jonathan Jonathan

        You’re confusing information, the logarithmic measure of uncertainty in a system, with data, the symbolic representation of a system.

      • Thanks for the correction John – I’m rusty on my Berkeley and need to go back and review. Or are the limericks themselves a sufficient re-statement of Berkeley’s thought? 🙂

    • Jonathan Jonathan

      Why didn’t you reply to my actual post so that the reply would be in the same thread?

      Also, you didn’t use the >blockquote< tag or quotation marks, so I’m going to guess that just that one paragraph is his.

      Just because relativity and quantum mechanics disagree on a subject doesn’t mean your theory is wrong. But if they both agree it does mean that it’s almost certainly right. Considering black holes are places where the density of mass is great enough to give gravity meaningful effects at quantum scales, the study of black holes is a place where relativity and QM are frequently forced to work together.

      More generally, I agree that we can frame all of reality as information. This seems very strange at first b/c most people new to these ideas have a hard time accepting that information can give rise to anything substantial, to any “stuff” at all. But when we think deeply we realize that all
      the “stuff” we see and feel around us can as validly be framed as information as matter or energy or pure consciousness. These are all just labels for the ding an sich, Kant’s thing in itself, which he pointed out convincingly (as Plato did much earlier) we’ll never know about fully.

      And, you’ve completely missed my point. Let’s step through this again. Information in this sense has a formal definition. That definition is much different than the colloquial usage. You are making a common error in conflating “information” with “data”. Take a hard drive. Increase its entropy. Congratulation! Your data is gone. The total information on the disk, however, has increased. Data can describe an thing. Information is a fundamental property of stuff. Information is as integral to physical substance as mass and energy.

      Because quantifying information in bits is just convention and there’s no particular reason to believe that reality at its most fundamental level is comprised of any type of bits.

      You obviously don’t understand the technical definition of a “bit” in information theory. This goes back to your not understanding the distinction between “data” and “information”. A bit of information is the amount of information needed to decrease uncertainty about an object by half. This makes a bit a logarithmic measure of information. It also means that each bit in a bit string reduces proportionally less information than the previous bits. Thus the amount of information in a bit is relative to the amount of uncertainty in the system being described. Data are the symbols used to express and encode information. The holographic information theory is discussing the Universe being made of information, not data.

      I’d like you to consider the double-slot experiment. Take a screen with two slots in it. Send electrons at the screen one at a time. Observe the interference pattern on a detection screen on the other side of the first screen. The electrons will leave an interference pattern on the detector. This is because electrons, being quantum particles, have a degree of uncertainty about there vector vs their energy level. Thus we express the movement or electrons as a probability wave. But this isn’t just a matter of notation or conceptualization. The electron is actually physically existing as a probability wave. Thus the electron can even interfere with itself to leave the interference pattern on the detector. If you use a photon (laser beam) to measure the vector of an electron, the probability wave collapses and the electron, now certain in vector and more uncertain in energy, becomes a particle, in the context of vector. The electron is now a particle, in the context of vector, and no longer leave an interference pattern on the detector (unless you measure the energy of the particles hitting the detector, which will still leave a interference pattern when plotted, not their vector). The vector-energy uncertainty of the electron is as fundamental to its nature as its mass and charge. Since information is uncertainty, information then is a fundamental property of all known physical substances.

      • Jonathan, you’re overly certain of your conclusions. Words mean what we want them to mean. I am using “information” in a different way than you are.

        Moreover, your statements are arguably contradictory because you are defining information in such a way that it is entirely derivative from matter and yet you are claiming that information is fundamental. The “it from bit” debate is generally framed as a debate between information as fundamental in that it ontologically precedes matter versus the traditional substantialist/materialist view that matter and energy are fundamental and information/data derivative therefrom.

        My general point is that these are all word games and the labels we use don’t matter as much as the concepts we’re getting at – all trying to get at the “thing in itself,” a venture destined for failure but I do believe in “asymptotic truth” as we learn more and more about the universe around us and inside of us.

        As for the double-slit experiment, your description shows that you subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation of this experiment. I don’t because I find it non-sensical to claim that a particle is a wave from a different angle. Rather, I find the Bohmian interpretation more compelling, in which there is a particle AND a guiding wave that represents the “quantum potential” as a key component of determining the particle’s behavior.

      • Jonathan Jonathan

        Jonathan, you’re overly certain of your conclusions. Words mean what we want them to mean. I am using “information” in a different way than you are.

        Of course you are. That was my whole point. This is a discussion of the physical theory that all of reality is just information. Physicists have to define their terms before constructing a theory. There is a technical definition of information in the physics/mathematics argot. That definition is the logarithmic measure of uncertainty in a system. So when they talk about the Universe being made of information, that is information they are talking about. To use any other definition to discuss the theory is to be purposefully obtuse.

        Moreover, your statements are arguably contradictory because you are defining information in such a way that it is entirely derivative from matter and yet you are claiming that information is fundamental.

        Information is the uncertainty within a system. Uncertainty is a fundamental attribute of quantum mechanical systems. Information is not derived from matter. Data is derived from matter. You keep confusing the two because you refuse to use the technical terminology correctly in a discussion of a technical theory. Quantum mechanical systems, i.e. reality, cannot function without inherent uncertainty. If uncertainty is an inherent property of a system, then so is information.

        The “it from bit” debate is generally framed as a debate between information as fundamental in that it ontologically precedes matter versus the traditional substantialist/materialist view that matter and energy are fundamental and information/data derivative therefrom.

        That might be how it’s defined in philosophical discussions. This, however, is not a discussion about a philosophical supposition. It is a discussion of a scientific theory. In quantum mechanics, a science, information neither precedes nor follows matter. It is instead a fundamental property of those systems. There can be no information without material substances; and there can be no material substances without information.

        As for the double-slit experiment, your description shows that you subscribe to the Copenhagen interpretation of this experiment. I don’t because I find it non-sensical to claim that a particle is a wave from a different angle. Rather, I find the Bohmian interpretation more compelling, in which there is a particle AND a guiding wave that represents the “quantum potential” as a key component of determining the particle’s behavior.

        The Hidden Variable Theory of quantum mechanics has been rather thoroughly disproven. The majority of physicists hold the Copenhagen interpretation. Considering physicists are the professionals here, I’ll trust their interpretations over yours.

        It’s been shown since Newton that the Universe not only doesn’t adhere to religious doctrine but that it also does not adhere to intuition. The fact that you find something nonsensical in no way impacts on whether or not it is true.

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