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

Yes, Dogs Smile

Google says, “For many years, animal behaviorists largely agreed that animals weren’t smiling because they were experiencing joy, but instead because of a muscular reflex. Because of this, most people also believed that dogs didn’t smile as a way of showing their emotions. That belief, however, has been challenged.”

So, for many years, the prevailing scientific wisdom has been that dogs don’t smile. How typically and tragically scientistic, to reduce something so beautiful, that we all can plainly see with our hearts and minds, to “muscular reflex.” As if, because muscular reflex is a thing we know about, even though it’s obviously a smaller part of a greater whole of causation and meaning, we naturally attribute the the whole of a dog’s smiling to that alone, as if it simply happens for no particular reason.

As with many other domains, science has been asking us here to ignore and occlude our own hearts and sensibilities and deny something beautiful. It’s sad that so many people tend to buy into such pretenses. Yes, it’s true that have a tendency of anthropomorphizing non-human things and animals, but, on the other hand, we also tend to discount one important principle…

There is a sort of connective aspect between all things/beings and their appearance, whereby things have a tendency to “look like” what they really are. Of course, things are bound to look like what they are to some degree, simply because we learn by living to infer aspects of things/beings identities from their appearances. But by this “connective aspect” I mean to imply something more than that. I mean to invoke the mystical.

For example, we know that we can tell a lot by looking into someone’s eyes—we can see their inner light, their emotions, or whatever—but how? Just how much does the eye change in response to emotions, or with respect to one’s inner light, and why?

Some of that perception may not even be in the looks themselves. Maybe some psychic sense informs us of the person’s inner light and the physical sensation of seeing their eyes only acts as something like a “carrier wave” for that impression. How/why else would be be able to see spiritual light through one’s eyes? Gauging emotions from the eyes is a little more understandable (in the mundane sense): evolutionary social psychology could have led us to express emotions via the muscles surrounding the eyes, and also the lacrimal (tear-making) gland because it’s “useful” for others to know how we’re feeling. But the associated changes in eye state are extremely subtle, so that seems somewhat unlikely.

Maybe the connection between emotions and eye state isn’t due to utility at all but is a kind of side effect of our evolutionary development, like many other things. Or maybe it’s cosmic in a way and both the expression and the perception of it tie into the nature of life/consciousness itself. This possibility, of course, is in line with what I’m talking about more generally regarding the connection between appearances and identity being mystical.

The same kind of connection applies to our entire physical form. The ideal human form is not sexy and beautiful just because we were Darwinistically evolved to be sexually and romantically attracted to people whose genes are more evolutionarily fit. They’re sexy and beautiful because they embody cosmic principles, truths or aspects, and/or because they embody traits of certain Universal, or perhaps earthly, gods and goddesses. “Beauty is embodied wisdom,” someone once said was whispered to them by an angel. (That’s especially interesting because I once heard that angels love to whisper secrets.)

The face in particular conveys a lot of information about a person’s identity. Because of the prevalence of scientism and scientific thinking, we tend to see all things and parts and aspects of things as functional “black boxes” that are separated from each other in every way except those ways in which they’re proven to be connected or correlated. Scientific thinking isn’t all bad, of course; it’s produced a lot of knowledge, but it rests on a mentality that must ignore everything that’s not overtly useful, categorically applicable, and particularly amenable to razor-like analysis and abstract modeling, being easily separable into independent factors, unlike the more holistic processing characteristic of right-brained thinking.

So, we carry this independent-“black boxes” worldview into many things, including our assumptions regarding the inherent meanings of various facial features—specifically, the assumption that there aren’t any. You can easily reductio ad absurdum your way out of that delusion, though, by imagining various characters you know as having the faces of completely different people and observing, intuitively, that it wouldn’t make any sense for some of those people to have some of those faces.

This, by the way, is why any kind of modification of the face that’s meant to change or mislead from its original appearance, such as cosmetic surgery, Botox injections, lip fillers, makeup and hair dye, are dishonest and unethical. The closer our looks become to being purely plastic, the less meaning biological beauty actually has. It’s kind of like how if you allow everyone to create whatever coins and bills they want to, money loses its meaning.

That’s an imperfect analogy, of course, since biological beauty isn’t necessarily a commodity and beautiful paintings don’t lose their meaning just because anyone is allowed to be an artist, but biological beauty is a different kind of subject because faces are not beautiful simply because of how they look, but also because of the personality characteristics, or perhaps even the DNA, that they signify—or, more accurately, reflect or convey.

That’s not to imply that all beautiful people are “beautiful on the inside,” as in they’re compassionate, fair, thoughtful, generous or whatever and that all ugly people are ugly on the inside, as in selfish, vindictive, petty, etc.; the correspondence isn’t that simple.

Anyway, harking back to animal appearances, it would also be a mistake to think something like, the fact that house cats look cute has nothing to do with the cuteness of their species’ personality. (Yes, individual cats tend to have very different and unique personalities, but by “species personality,” I mean the dynamics of how their senses, emotions, minds, etc. are basically organized.) Similarly we can tell a lot about any other animal just by the way they look, sound, etc.

This principle probably also applies to landscapes. Are mountains majestic? Yes! Are rainbows magical and happy? Yes! Is the moon feminine, or at least very yin? Yes! Is the scintillating of the sunlight or moonlight reflecting off of ocean waves alive? Probably! Is the sky and everything spiritual it represents actually peaceful and calming, or did we just evolve to like the light blue-green color because it’s a color we see so often? Of course the former! Is snow delicate and gentle? Yes. The beauty of a landscape reflects the beauty of life.

One thing worthy of note is that, in line with this cosmic principle of things tending to be what they appear to be, some people like to infer a lot of things things from words and sentences other than what’s literally intended, based on things like the direct meanings or etymologies of names, alternate meanings of words used, words that sound similar to words used, and possible innuendo/double entendre. There tends to be a lot of truth to it, but it’s tricky. It can be taken too far. Really, without digging deeper into a subject, you can’t know which of such inferences are valid and which aren’t. So they should be taken with a grain of salt if at all.

One other thing worth noting is that things or beings that are specifically designed to simulate, or otherwise “look like” or mimic, other things or beings, are one big class of exceptions to the principle of things uncannily tending to be exactly what they appear to be, because they’re essentially co-opting or overriding the mechanics linking identity to appearance, or another way of looking at it is that they’re taking advantage of and manipulating our cognitive mechanics of taking things as they appear to be, or more accurately, of linking specific identities with specific appearances.

As an example, AI such as ChatGPT is specifically engineered to produce similar output as living intelligence, so its apparent intelligence shouldn’t necessarily be taken as an indication of real intelligence. Similarly, a robot or computer that’s programmed to say “I love you” shouldn’t be taken at face value. Other examples of exceptions are so-called catfish, scams, phishing websites, lies, camouflage, advertisements, manipulation, propaganda, gaslighting, FOX News, politicians, fiction, etc. (Though, of course, fiction usually conveys more truth than untruth, the untruth being mostly confined to the merely literal or factual levels.)

Returning to the science of dog smiles, it’s good that the once-prevailing wisdom that dogs can’t smile is finally being challenged. In this case, the self-correcting mechanism of science has actually paid off in a domain where it matters, where the truth is subtle and sublime. But all too often that isn’t the case, so please, watch out for that and protect your heart!

Vegans Are Right; You’re Wrong.

Apparently, there are some people who are vegans who argue for veganism / try to convince others to become vegan. I know this because there are apparently people who hate vegans who try to shove veganism down their throats. Such people frame the issue as a personal choice of diet, based on taste and/or health benefits, or, at best, they realize that the whole point is about the suffering of animals and thus frame it as personal choice of what level of ethics they want to subscribe to.

This mentality is fundamentally wrong for the same reasons that involuntarily confinement, torture and murder of other humans shouldn’t be personal choices. We just anthropocentrically regard other animals as less-important beings to be dominated, used and abused at will for our convenience and pleasure, regardless of the affects on those animals. It’s partly due to our psychopathic, left-brained tendency to objectify living beings; that is, to regard them as things. (Once, I read that all sin starts with the objectification of living beings.)

Religion may also play a part in this atrocity, as in Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Or maybe it’s merely a relatively inconsequential encoding of an ethic that already existed and hence gave rise to the verse, the prophets having created God in man’s image and used Him to justify all of their depraved moral precepts, most of which they inherited from their society. I say “inconsequential” because Christians will do what they will regardless, in accordance to their character, and then cherry pick verses from the Bible to support their predilections and dispositions, whether they be evil or good.

In any case, when vegans argue for veganism, what they’re essentially doing is speaking up for those mistreated sentient beings who otherwise don’t have a voice. So they’re not simply trying to shove their lifestyle down your throat. It’s a question of morality, and just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s okay.

Just as one example of the mistreatment that goes on, when factory farms keep cows for milking, which is necessary for all dairy products including milk, cream, cheese, butter and ice cream, they often keep them confined to a small space all the time; they continually keep them lactating by impregnating them and then taking their babies away from them over and over again, causing significant emotional distress; they milk their udders automatically with rough machines that cause bleeding and pus; they pump them full of bovine growth hormone; they feed them foods that are unnatural for them such as grains; etc.

Keeping animals in confined spaces where they can’t even turn around, pumping them full of hormones and antibiotics, feeding them unnatural foods (sometimes even foods eerily close to being over their own kind), animals slowly dying of disease from living in their own waste, force-feeding them to make them plump and other such cruelties are common themes for animals in general in the factory farming world.

This is unconscionable. Ethically, it’s unsupportable. Morally, it’s evil. Emotionally, it’s callous. Effectually, it’s cruel. Intellectually, it’s ignorant. Utilitarianly, it’s imbalanced. Spiritually, it’s immature. Deadly-sin-wise, it’s greedy.

It’s easy to be ignorant regarding this issue because we never get to see the actual production of the foods we eat. It just appears on the grocery store shelves, where we then show up to buy it. It’s one of the perversions of modern civilization, which separates us from the natural processes of life in myriad ways.

It also doesn’t help that, in some jurisdictions, the government (of the US) has been stupid and corrupt enough to make it illegal to film the ongoings within livestock facilities in order to expose their cruelty. Actually, the authors of such legislation are animal agriculture companies, and the government is corrupt enough to pass legislation written by and for corporations. It’s a common occurrence, but that’s a topic for another essay.

That, by the way, should serve as some evidence that just because something is legal doesn’t necessarily mean it’s okay. And nor should we allow ourselves to indulge in, or just give in to, the principle of “out of sight, out of mind.” Also, it shows that the factory farmers think they have something to hide. They know that enough people would be outraged if they saw the ongoings within that it would cause problems for them.

Of course, if you actually do your research and insist on only eating meat and dairy from cruelty-free sources, it’s more ethical (if maybe still a bit questionable). But that’s kind of problematic, because labels on foods regarding the treatment of animals are usually/often misleading due to lenient and sometimes nonexistent legal regulations of such claims. So don’t kid yourself too easily.

Oh, regarding the argument that veganism is less healthy because you don’t get all the necessary nutrients, with a little bit of extra work/care you can have a balanced vegan diet, and it’s definitely worth it to decrease the (horrendous) amount of suffering in the world—in this case the suffering of a bunch of other animals caught within the aureole of general human suffering.

Mars Isn’t Plan(et) B.

Individually, a lot of humans tend to be bad at thinking and believe totally untenable things, because they think emotionally, superficially, and “psychologically” for lack of a better word (and also just crazily), but, culturally, the ideas that gain inertia, become social waves, go viral, or just happen to be shared by a lot of people tend to wash out individual follies. However, there are some social waves that retain an uncanny level of folly for being social waves.

One of those insanely ridiculous waves is the idea is that traveling to and colonizing Mars will save us from our own self-destruction and the destruction of Planet Earth.

Why doesn’t this make sense? Mars is completely barren, more so than Earth will ever be. Mars doesn’t have a breathable atmosphere, or hardly any atmosphere at all. 60-mph dust storms are common. The temperature goes down to as low as -225°F. There is no water. There is no plant life. There are no animals. The entire surface is covered by one or two types of rock, all seemingly of the same color. It has no magnetic field, so solar wind, cosmic rays, etc. would be a major threat to anything living on it.

I know that the idea is to transform the surface of Mars into a livable habitat, or “terraform” it, or build buildings with all our necessities in them and wear suits outside to protect us from the elements, but people probably vastly underestimate how difficult this would be, on account of the prevalence of science fiction. Even more importantly, however, is the fact that, no matter how bad Earth gets, it will always be more livable, and/or easier to terraform, than Mars.

What could possibly happen to Earth that would make it more barren and uninhabitable than Mars? Even if we succeed in completely destroying the biosphere, causing global warming, ruining the topsoil, rising the sea levels, and mining out all the minerals, Earth will still be way more livable than Mars because the remains of a once thriving ecosphere and the remnants of other conditions that were once good enough to support human life will still exist. We couldn’t make it as bad as Mars if we tried.

And, probably, whatever resources we need on Mars, we’d have to haul all the way from Earth. Besides the tremendous effort and resources this would take, wouldn’t it just make a lot more sense to keep the resources on Earth and use them there? Maybe “(re-)terraform” Earth?

After all, we’d probably still have an ocean, even if it’s polluted and the habitat is mostly gone. We’d probably still have atmospheric pressure. We’d probably still have oxygen, even if the proportions of various gases would be out of whack. We’d probably have some life left. We would, in all likelihood, still have our magnetic shield. We’d still have our moon, which is vitally important for critters during the night and their evolution. We’d have a more suitable amount of gravity than Mars. We’d still have a relatively wide array of elements and compounds available on the surface, and what we’ve largely mined up we could recover by “mining”/processing dump sites!

And all this is to say nothing of the wisdom of moving to Mars to try to escape our problems even if it were tenable. Obviously, nothing would fundamentally change about the human race just because we move to or expand to a different planet. So, we’d take all our problems with us. What we do on Earth to make ourselves and everybody else miserable and kill all the plants and animals, we’d do on Mars. It would only be a matter of time. And do we really want to be a Borg-esque species that jumps from planet to planet, laying waste to each one before moving onto the next?

And what about the obvious wisdom of trying to fix ourselves up, working in cooperation instead of competition, starting to behave like an intelligent species, stopping destroying the planet, and beginning the process of healing it (and healing ourselves, emotionally), basically growing through the here and now instead of attempting the ultimate in escapism?

Another problem is, besides being escapist an untenable, the idea that we can just move to Mars if we trash this planet up too badly serves to lead people to ignore the problem and keep participating in the devastation of the biosphere with reckless abandon, instead of feeling the very due pressure to engage in activism regarding the environment, degrowth, sustainability, and the governmental reformations or revolution that’s required to enact those things.