Thursday, June 16, 2005

What Could be Reality?

The Nature of Reality Posted by Hello


At 16 June 2005 at 22:31, Anonymous Copthorne McDonald said...

The Medium-Message Interpretation
Reality consists of an enduring medium modulated by transient informational patterns.
• The medium has a physical aspect, a mental aspect, and an algorithmic aspect.
• Physically, the primal medium is energy or proto-energy — the ground of the physical universe.
• Mentally, the primal medium is awareness or proto-awareness — the ground of mind and subjective experience.
• Algorithmically, the medium is the home of "laws of nature" algorithms which, during the life of the universe, allow mental/physical potentials to become actualized. These algorithms, these laws, are the intrinsic rules that guide physical, chemical, geological, and biological change. It is the moment-to-moment functioning of these algorithms that forms, patterns, and modulates the primal medium with information — creating, as it does, that hierarchy of systems we call the universe. In information-processing terms, the universe is equipped with built-in recursive algorithms which repeatedly take the informational situation that exists at this instant and transform it into a new informational situation in the next.
In philosophical/spiritual terms — as these terms are often (but not always) used:
• The medium is Being, Noumenon, the One, Brahman/Atman, Tao, the unmanifested, the implicate, the Real, the Eternal, God, the Godhead.
• The message is form, appearance, the temporal, the illusion, that which passes away.
• The medium when formed/shaped/modulated by the message is existence (physical and mental), phenomena, duality, the many, manifestation, the explicate.
The Nature of Information and Algorithms
Most of us, in recent years, have come to understand that information is more than just news, facts, ideas, and knowledge. With Claude Shannon's formulation of information theory basics in the 1940s (1948), information became something concrete and quantifiable, and his observations revolutionized the way engineers went about designing communication systems. DNA research in the 1950s made it clear that all biological structures are informational structures; that through the magic of biochemistry, information encoded in DNA molecules helps guide the creation of such complex informational patterns as protein molecules, cells, organs, and complete organisms. As a result, the idea of looking at all material objects as encodings of immense amounts of information no longer seems strange to us. Mathematician Rudy Rucker went this far: "It is now considered reasonable to say that, at the deepest, most fundamental level, our world is made of information. . . . For postmodern people, reality is a pattern of information, a pattern in fact space" (Rucker 1987, 31).
The informational reality that Rucker speaks of is the space-time reality of everyday life, the explicate reality we call existence. Unlike Plato's ideal forms, this information is not a disembodied abstraction. Bateson (1975) and others have defined information as a pattern of significant differences, and to exist in our universe that pattern must exist as differences in something. Real-world information requires a real-world medium to form or modulate or encode. The primary medium, the one that underlies the physical world and enables it to exist, is energy; and in one sense or another, all physically expressed information involves the space-time patterning of energy. This is not, of course, a shockingly new way of viewing things. Matter and specific forms of energy are often described as quantum field modulations (see Pagels [1983, 241] and Polkinghorne [1988, 58], for example). Whitehead put it this way:
Matter has been identified with energy, and energy is sheer activity; the passive substratum composed of self-identical enduring bits of matter has been abandoned, so far as concerns any fundamental description. . . . The modern point of view is expressed in terms of energy, activity, and the vibratory differentiations of space-time. (Whitehead 1958, 188)
Space-time is information's frame of reference, its home, the realm in which it exists. The form or shape of a physical object represents information in a very direct sense, but human beings and biological processes also depend on encoded information. The information embodied in the structure of a building, for example, also appears in encoded form in the blueprints that guided its construction. A book written in English and its French translation are two different encodings of an informational construct that appeared in the author's mind. Sometimes the same information appears in many different guises: The same core information exists in the imagination of the composer, the musical score, the performance, the wavy groove of the vinyl record, the electrical signal going to the loudspeaker, the sound in the room, the vibrations of the eardrum, the pattern of neuronal firings in the brain, and the subjective perception of the sound.
A number of researchers have been working on the problem of relating natural law and the functioning of the cosmos to data processing and computer functioning. The emerging view is that not only is existence an informational construct, but the universe is an information processor — though very different from computers of human design. The typical desktop computer runs one program at a time in serial fashion. You put information in. The information gets manipulated or "processed" in accord with the program's algorithm, its intrinsic plan. And the computer sends the changed information out.
In the information-processing cosmos, each physical situation, regardless of location, is input information. And behind each law of nature is a program, a functioning algorithm. Unlike the desktop computer that processes its data in serial fashion, the programs that guide the universe all function at the same time, in parallel. These laws-of-nature algorithms operate everywhere, simultaneously, continuously. It is parallel data processing in the extreme.
Because of this ongoing activity, the informational pattern of the universe constantly changes. An informational situation inherited from the previous instant gets turned into a new informational situation by the operation of various laws of nature. The process never rests. In the next instant the new pattern is once again subjected to that whole matrix of algorithms — and to the extent that the algorithms dictate, again the pattern changes.
I do not see, as Edward Fredkin has, anything necessarily on/off, digital, or computerlike about these algorithms, nor do I envision the universe as a giant digital computer as he has (Wright 1988). I am simply pointing out what to me and researchers like physicist Stephen Wolfram (1984) is obvious — that behind our human descriptive "laws of nature" are intrinsic, functioning actualities. Our laws of nature describe, at least to some extent, embedded operating algorithms, built-in rules of universal functioning. These algorithms are ceaselessly applied to what is now, turning it into what will be.
The universe may or may not be holographic — as David Bohm (1980) and Karl Pribram (1982) have proposed — but Bohm's observation that reality involves separate explicate and implicate orders seems clearly true, as well as a helpful way of looking at things. The informational, explicate order of the universe — its messagelike aspect — arises from an internal implicate order, an algorithmic, programlike order intimately associated with the universe's mediumlike aspect. Physics, chemistry, geology, and biology tell us many things about the space-time informational patterns of explicate reality, and evolutionary theory tells us much about how that order came to exist. Through the language of mathematics, these and other scientific disciplines tell us about the nature of the recursive algorithms which continuously transform this instant's informational patterns into the next instant's patterns. This implicate realm is the realm of medium and algorithmic activity, not the realm of explicit informational patterns. It is the realm of the processor and patterning process, not the explicit pattern itself, the product. For the past 15 or 20 billion years, the algorithms that underlie and define the laws of nature have been applied again and again and again to every informational situation, everywhere in the universe — and it's still happening.


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