My answer to the Quora question, “Is it possible that everything is made of information?”

Scientifically minded people tend to like to think of everything as being information because information is the object of science. You can only perform physics (which aims to be the ultimate description of the universe) on measurements, and when you measure something, you get information. I see information as nothing other than an act of “informing,” hence the word “information.” When we’re informed of the state of things, in the way that we like to be informed, we call the resulting knowledge information.

One way of being informed is by taking measurements. This reduces any whole thing-in-itself to numerical values, which carry neither the qualitative nor the substantive aspects of the thing in question. It reduces a holistic gestalt of an item into a specific number of linear values.

So, information can never compose everything, as it’s essentially empty. It can’t even in-itself give rise to experience, because experience is qualitative. If all were information, what would information be made up of, and what would cause the body of information in the world to have one set of values as opposed to any other? These things go deeper than information.

Information exists as a series or other structure of absolutely separate values, which means bits of information can’t interact with each other for the same reasons absolutely separate objects or substances can’t as explained above.

I guess that’s debatable. I guess you could say the universe is all its information plus the laws that act on it, similar to Conway’s Game of Life, but I find that dubious. How are the laws connected to the information without a more fundamental underlying continuum? (Note that Conway’s Game of Life actually runs on a computer or is otherwise simulated by, or even conceived by or encoded with, something or someone that’s much more than the Game of Life itself.) And not to mention the questions of in what form do the laws objectively exist, why and how they act, and why they are the way they are instead of some other way. I guess those could be problems either way, but they seem to be more tractable in a less simplified, more holistic, more continuous, more substantive, and maybe even unlimited kind of universe or multiverse. And, of course, the problem that pure disembodied information can’t give rise to qualia or experience or even independently exist applies.

I tend to think that the universe is one holistic thing, and the laws and the things they “act on” are not fundamentally separate. Laws are just parts of a physical model that are inferred from what’s ultimately all patterns of measurement. I guess if laws are not truly separate from what they “act on,” then this implies that the laws (which actually are just parts of potential models) are ultimately no less complex or whimsical than the universe itself. (If you don’t think it’s rational to say the universe is whimsical, just replace “whimsical” with “random” or “stochastic.”)

I believe much of the Universe, including life/consciousness itself, is ineffable, non-mechanistic magic, which is necessarily anything but informational.

Information, like math, is merely abstraction. I guess information is mathematical. So for information to be real and the basis for all existence, mathematical Platonism would have to be correct. I wrote about why mathematical Platonism is untenable here:

Part of this essay was copied from

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