e=mc squared + information

25 April 2008 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

I was reading Deleuzian Interrogations: A Conversation with Manuel DeLanda, John Protevi, and Torkild Thanem and bumped into this interesting quote:

Delanda:  “I cannot imagine a materialist philosophy which is not also realist. On the other hand, someone who believes that god and the devil exist independently of our minds is also a realist but clearly not a materialist. The only problem with the term ‘materialism’ is that not only matter but also energy and physical information are needed to account for self-organizing phenomena and the processes which fabricate physical entities” (3).

This reminded me of a book I read titled The Bit and the Pendulum: From Quantum Computing to M Theory–The New Physics of Information which left me with the same impression that DeLanda emphasizes here. As author Tom Siegfried writes, “Many scientists now conceive of information as something real, as real as space, time, energy, and matter” (7).    Siegfried speaks of how the study of biology benefits from this perspective as one example of how this new field is changing the sciences:

Information’s reality has reshaped the way biologists study and understand cells, the brain, and the mind. Cells are not merely vats of chemicals that turn food into energy, but sophisticated computers, translating messages from the outside world into the proper biological responses. True, the brain runs on currents of electrical energy through circuits of cellular wires. But the messages in those currents can be appreciated only by understanding the information they represent” (9)

This notion that “information is the foundation of reality” (59) made me consider creating a new neologism to capture this new sense of reality:  “infonomics” — the “management of information.”  Whatever word we use–whether it’s infonomics or energonomics–this book suggests that information must become part of what we consider when we speak of managing energy.

DeLanda points to how the term “materialism” falls short of capturing all that comes into play in the triad of energy-matter-information flows.  He draws attention to this phenomenon in his own book A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History when he concludes that

the flows of materials whose history we described involved more than just matter-energy. They also included *information*, understood not in static terms as mere physical patterns (measured in bits) but in dynamic terms, as patterns capable of self-replication and catalysis (259-60).


Entry filed under: books, delanda, Deleuze, energonomics, philosophy, science.

on Collective Intelligence Deleuze’s difficult style

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