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Neither Matter nor Energy: Could Information be the Foundation of the Universe?


The universe’s nature just may be based on the constant exchange of information.

The popularization of some of the ideas of modern physics has sensitized us to notions about the origins of the universe, and the roles of matter and energy during that wonderful and still incomprehensible time in the development of the cosmos.

No matter how much we may know of what the Big Bang is, or whether we have some idea of ​​Einstein’s theory of relativity, we need still to consider that a lot remains to be discovered about the nature of the Universe.

Toward such ends is a little-known proposal which posits that information just may be the fundamental element within the constitution of physical reality. Not matter or energy, but that everyday thing we call information.

The origins of this idea can be found in the scientific research of one Claude Elwood Shannon, a mathematician who, in the mid-20th century, laid the foundations for what would later become today’s “digital environment”. This is largely because his research in mathematics applied to information, and he deduced that this could be best understood as measurable units in which the informational content is but one option among other probable options.

His idea revolutionized both the concept of information and its uses and did so simultaneously in communications, too. In fact, based on this early work, Shannon later proposed a theorem which made the transition from analog communications to digital communications possible. It took us from was a way of processing information continuously over time (analogically) to a new method in which processing is possible through sampling and quantification.

Under Shannon’s idea, practically the entire universe can be understood as information units and, therefore, of being processed as such. A subatomic particle, for example, is not so much the sum of the elements making it up as it is the exchanges of information occurring between them (these exchanges are, in turn, information, too).

There’s still a lot to learn about the composition of the cosmos, its behavior, and its phenomena, but on this grand scale and at the more modest level of our daily lives, perhaps we can begin to change the paradigm of our thinking. Understand that, more than a sum of parts, we’re also combinations of interactions. This already puts us on the path to better understanding the phenomena surrounding us.

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