INFORMATION AND ENERGY


This is an attempt to get clearer about the vexed question of the relationship between information and energy. The problem concerns synergetics, and also afflicts many discussions about the possibilities of paranormal communications. We start with a few definitions.

The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics:

bit: the amount of information required to specify one of two alternatives, such as the 0 and 1 in the binary system.

Chambers Science and Technology Dictionary:

"bit: a unit of information content equal to that of a message, the a priori probability of which is one-half."

Bateson, ("Steps to an Ecology of Mind", 1973, p.378):

"The quantity of information is conventionally expressed as the log to base 2 of the improbability of the actual event ... Probability, being a ratio between quantities which have similar dimensions, is itself of zero dimensions."

Bateson's definition of information is "a difference which makes a difference".

He cites Korzybski's dictum, "the map is not the territory", and says:

"Differences are the things that get on to a map. But what is a difference? ... It is certainly not a thing or an event." (p.426)

In the paper, "Double Bind", included in "Steps to an Ecology of Mind", he says:

"A difference which makes a difference is an idea. It is a 'bit', a unit of information."

In "Form, Substance and Difference" in the same book, he writes:

"We know the territory does not get on to the map... Differences are the things that get on to a map. But what is a difference? ... It is certainly not a thing or an event."

In the book "Mind and Nature" there are numerous mentions of this concept, several of which might be commensurate in some sense with many synergetics concepts, excepting of course the identifying of information with energy.

It is not a question of seeking a chink in the Fullerian armour such that the whole system might collapse. Perhaps certain conceptual shifts here and there would constitute refinement and regeneration.

Hence, for example, on p.36:

"...perception operates only upon difference. All receipt of information is necessarily the receipt of news of difference, and all perception of difference is limited by threshold. Differences that are too slight or too slowly presented are not perceivable. They are not food for perception."

Connections could be developed here with Fuller's concept of frequency modulation.

Again, on p.78:

"To produce news of difference, i.e., information, there must be two entities (real or imagined) such that the difference between them can be immanent in their mutual relationship; and the whole affair must be such that news of their difference can be represented as a difference inside some information-processing entity such as a brain or, perhaps, a computer. There is a profound and unanswerable question about the nature of those 'at least two' things that between them generate the difference which becomes information by making a difference."

Perhaps this can be related to Fuller's "unity is plural and at minimum two".



"Physical is always special case. Energy is physical and always special case. Information is always special case. Energy is information: information is energy."
(Synergetics 1075.12)

This looks suspiciously like the fallacy of the undistributed middle:

Energy is special case. Information is special case. Therefore information is energy.

Even if Fuller was not intending a syllogism in that passage, there remains a problem with the nature of information. The unit of information is the bit. This is not derivable, like energy, from the physical quantities of mass, length and time.

Wilden refers to the "epistemological error of confusing matter-energy with information". He also points out that:

"The distinction between energy and information is itself equivalent to Wittgenstein's warning not to confuse the signification (Bedeutung) of a name (the information) with the BEARER of a name (its 'marker')."

The reference is to remark no.40 in "Philosophical Investigations".



"Intellect mensurates and modulates relative energy events and event interrelationships. The total quantity of energy operative in Universe is a constant, but a dependent, function of intellect. Universe is the integral of all meta-physical and physical phenomena."
(Synergetics 1075.22)

How can the total quantity of energy operative in Universe be a constant if it is also a dependent function of intellect? The so-called metaphysical component is supposed to increase, according to Fuller's account.



In response to those who have argued that information is identical with energy, I ask the following questions:

Suppose a particle "experiences" energy by being shoved, attracted, or even shattered, how can it be said to also experience information? What is this information about? What does it represent? To whom?

To those who confuse usage with logic in these matters, I would say:

Physics is not a branch of sociolinguistics. No doubt it's very interesting to sociolinguists that some people use "energy" and "information" interchangeably, but that doesn't throw any light on the actual relationship between energy and information.



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Paul Taylor 2001