What is Information?

Information philosophy is an attempt to examine many classic problems in philosophy from the standpoint of information.

What is information that merits its use as the foundation of a new philosophical method of inquiry?

The simple definition of information is the act of informing – the communication of knowledge from a sender to a receiver that informs (literally shapes) the receiver.

Information theory is the mathematical quantification of communication to describe how information is transmitted and received. Information science is the study of the categorization, classification, manipulation, storage, and retrieval of information. Cognitive science is the study of mental acquisition, retention, and utilization of knowledge, which we can describe as actionableinformation.

Actionable information has pragmatic value.

In our information philosophy, knowledge is the sum of all the information created and preserved by humanity. It is all the information in human minds and in artifacts of every kind – from books and internetworked computers to our dwellings and managed environment.

We shall see that all information in the universe is created by two processes, the only ones capable of generating and maintaining information against the dread second law of thermodynamics, which describes the irresistible increase in disorder or entropy. We call these anti-entropic processes ergodic. They should be appreciated as the creative source of everything we can possibly value, and of everything distinguishable from chaos and therefore interesting.

One process has formed the macrocosmos of galaxies, stars, and planets. This process drives the expansion of the universe and gravity. The other process has generated the particular forms of microscopic matter – atoms, molecules, and the complex molecules that support biological organisms. It includes all quantum cooperative phenomena.

Quantum phenomena control the evolution of life and human knowledge. They help bring new information into the universe in a fundamentally unpredictable way. They drive biological speciation. They facilitate human creativity and free will.

Although information philosophy looks at the universe, life, and intelligence through the single lens of information, it is far from mechanical and reducible to deterministic physics. The growth of information over time – our principle of increasing information – is the essential reason why time matters and individuals are distinguishable. Increasing information explains all emergent phenomena, including many presumed “laws of nature.”

In information philosophy, the future is unpredictable for two basic reasons. First, quantum mechanics shows that some events are not predictable. The world is causal but not determined. Second, the early universe does not contain the information of later times, just as early primates do not contain the information structures for intelligence and verbal communication, and infants do not contain the knowledge and remembered experience they will have as adults.

See I-Phi for more on information