Information, energy and the idea of change

Why it makes sense that information could have mass
by: Neil Keleher
Published: 2020 09 18
Basic principles

I recently shared this article on facebook there is no dark matter, instead information has mass.... The title doesn't really capture why I shared the article. Why I shared it was because it suggests that information could be equivalent to energy, and mass.

For myself, when thinking about and trying to understand "consciousness", an important and complimentary concept is the idea of energy. This is in part a reflection of the mythical connection between the two (shiva and shakti) and in part simple practicality. In my experience, the understanding of a system, whether it is a rifle, the movement system of the human body, a motorcycle or a computer system, is based on two complementary points of view.

  • One of these views is of the system in action.
  • The other when the system is broken down into component parts.

Note that trying to explain the idea of change I often put it in terms of information or energy, as if these three concepts (energy, information or change) were more or less equivalent.

Two basic points of view for understanding any system

In terms of understanding any system, there are two important or key view points. One is the differentiated or component view. The other is the connected view aka the system view, signal view or operational view.

With the component view you look at the individual components of a system, so that you understand their shape or purpose and how they potentially connect to other components.

It's like looking at the parts of a rifle or a computer or a motorcycle when any of these devices has been pulled apart. Obviously the device, the system, won't be able to work, because it is in a state of disassembly. The important point is that because it is disassembled, you can see these individual parts. And an important step in this can be the actual repeated disassembly and re-assembly of the system so that you can see how the parts are meant to fit together.

With the system view, you can follow individual signals, through the system, one at a time and thus gain an understanding of what happens when the system is actually working.

Both views give you "understanding" which can enable you to fix things or improve them or simply explain how the system works.

In terms of understanding anything, the differentiated view is roughly equivalent to consciousness since it involves the differentiation and integration of parts in the dimension of time. The energetic or system view is the view where change happens or is realized. It's the view of the system while it is working.

To fully underestand something you need both views, both "experiences".

Conceptualizing change and information

Trying to explain presence as the state of mind where you notice change as it happens, I've had to think about what "change" is. And I've had to think about what "information" is.

To me, based on my attempts at understanding what understanding is, they are, or could be, one and the same thing.

Anyway, when someone hinted at wanting a better explanation of the article I shared, the following is, for the most part, what I wrote.

Using electricity to charge batteries or transfer information

If you look at electricity, it can be used to power a device or pass information between devices. The simplest example these days is using a usb port to charge a phone while at the same time moving photos or music or other information from one device to another.

A more general term for both operations is change.

The presence (or absence) of electrical flow is potential information

Note that turning the electricity to a USB port on and off is a type of change. You can register this change by noticing the presence or absence of electricity flow. What you then have is information. The presence of electricity flow tells you the devices are connected and the circuit is on. The absence of electricity tells you that the circuit is off.

So whether electricity is used to deliver information or power, in either case it can also be used to give information on the state of the connection between devices.

In a similiar way, the ability of your phone to function gives you information that the battery has a charge. And the ability to display particular photos or play a particular song provides you with the information that both of these were uploaded when the phone was plugged into your computer.

And of course, the photo and the song are sources of information in their own right.

Noticing change, noticing information

If you look at the physical connection between devices, light reflected from the device enters your eye and from there is translated in such a way as to tell you the state of the two devices. Light, in this case, carries information.

When the devices are connected or disconnected you can notice this change delivered by light. Note that to notice the change your eyes have to be open, there has to be light present, and your eyes have to be directed in the direction of the connection. Additionally, to consciously notice the change you have to be paying attention.

If you think of your "consciousness" as something that directs your awareness or the focus of your awareness, then if you direct your awareness appropriately, you can notice change as it happens. You can then notice whether the cord is plugged into the computer or not.

Conserving information

If you think in terms of "change" then change, energy and information are all roughly equivalent. The one thing about information versus energy is that in some cases it requires "conscious" interaction. i.e. you or some conscious entity has to be aware of it in order to make use of it. But perhaps in this case, the idea of potential information and kinetic or used information is also useful.

In terms of energy, an example of something having potential energy is a rock at the edge of a cliff. It has potential energy. When it is pushed over the edge of the cliff, the potential energy becomes kinetic energy since the rock is now dropping, pulled by the force of gravity.

As a side note, one way to quantify energy is that it is force applied over a distance.

If the rock drops one meter, while being pulled by gravity, then the energy used is f*d. Note that when the rock isn't moving, then the distance it moves is zero, hence it's kinetic energy is zero.

In terms of information, you could miss the fact that the rock is at the edge of the cliff. In this case it is only potential information. When you do notice the rock and its proximity to the edge of the cliff, the information is realized and becomes kinetic or actual (or actualized.)

Key differences between energy and information

Perhaps one of the key differences between energy and information is that energy acts only in the physical realm. Meanwhile, information acts in the realm of "consciousness".

A simple way to think of both, without worrying about whether it is energy or information (or both) is to label them as change.

As a side note, how do we know if something is a piece of information? If it creates a measurable or noticeable change in the thing that is receiving the information.

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Thanks, I really appreciate it!



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