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Hiding in Plain Sight (Part 1)

Written by Jeff Drake
2 · 05 · 24

Introduction to My Blog Series on Information

Perhaps it’s just due to my advancing decrepitude, entropy, or whatever you want to call it, but I spend more time these days just thinking about things. It’s my favorite pastime, next to writing and travel.

Recently, I’ve attended several events involving getting together with friends and family. Each time I found myself not only enjoying the experience, but intentionally taking the time to reflect on the experiences themselves. In each situation, surrounded in one case by life-long friends, in another with our son and his family, and still another with my cousin and her husband, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was exactly one thing that each experience clearly shared in common.

Each experience was an exercise in exchanging something tangible, yet ethereal. Something that is oft not important at all, while at other times of critical importance; sometimes personal, other times educational; often humorous, but sometimes sad. Think back to your own last get-together with friends or family. If it was anything like mine, there was a lot of talking going on! Everywhere in the house, or park, or bar, people were sitting or standing and just chatting, back and forth. Yak, yak, yak, right?

But beyond the laughing, the chatting, was something else happening? Indeed there was. Each conversation involved an exchange of something so immaterial one might be tempted to call it mystical, yet it is as real as the floor beneath your feet. I’m talking, of course, about… information.

Information? Yeah, information. When I pound out the word, “information” with my keyboard, I can feel very comfortable that you will know what I am talking about. Right? After all, that’s exactly what is going on in each situation: people exchanging information with each other. It’s what we do on a daily basis, which includes the experiences I mention above, as well as literally any other situation you can think of involving more than one person. Try it. Try thinking of any situation that involves talking to another person and not exchanging information. I’ve tried. You can’t. Yet… and here’s the rub, if I were to ask any of you to define just what information is, I am fairly certain you would struggle as I have.

This is kind of a odd thing, isn’t it? How can something everyone seems to know and use daily be so hard to define? In this, “information” has something in common with another favorite topic of mine, “time,” as it is also a word that is used so frequently, yet few agree on its definition; and let’s not forget about “consciousness,” a word with similar characteristics. But, I digress.

In this blog series I will do a deep dive into the science and philosophy of information. While this may sound like a rather dry subject, hang in there, I will try to present the “information” I have about information and make it engaging. Time will tell if I succeed or not.

I hope to shine a bright light on information, which is all around us and in us, hiding in plain sight, as it were  – that thing we constantly transmit to everyone, yet rarely think about, let alone scrutinize.

I want to shake things up and transform how you think about and understand information. I’ll try to do this by examining information through the lens of physics, biology and philosophy.

For instance, recently, a profound realization has emerged from the work being done in physics and other sciences: Information we are now told, seems to be the most basic building block of reality. More fundamental than matter and energy, information is seen as the common denominator infused through all existence. Personally, this blows my mind!

This revelation has huge implications that I want to explore in this blog series. It means information underlies everything – from cosmic evolution, to quantum randomness, to biological life. Understanding what information truly is, how it interacts with matter to create our world, and its role in empowering intelligence can, I hope, unlock deep mysteries about the universe and ourselves, mysteries I want to investigate.

Here are some questions I want to explore in this series:

  • What gives information its meaning? Is meaning innate to the things that surround us, the cosmos itself, or is it something we create individually with our minds?
  • Does information exist without a conscious observer? Or is it only “real” when perceived by something with a brain?
  • Might understanding information better reveal truths about ourselves, own existence as thinking beings?

My goal with this blog series is to share with you the curiosity and awe I experience from learning that underpinning all of reality is this thing we call information, hiding in plain sight.

Let us know what you think…

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Author

Jeff Drake

Retired IT consultant, world-traveler, hobby photographer, and philosopher.