File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0104, message 17

Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001 21:41:00 -0500
Subject: Re: Information


What you say sounds similar to a book review I read.  Are you familar
with it?

"Information, for most of us, is an airy, abstract thing--the stuff of
ideas, images, and symbols. But for Tom Siegfried and the scientists he
writes about in The Bit and the Pendulum: How the New Physics of
Information Is Revolutionizing Science, information has become something
much more fundamental to the workings of the world. "Information is
real," Siegfried explains. "Information is physical." What that means
depends somewhat on the discipline it's applied to (cosmology, particle
physics, computer science, cognitive theory, and molecular biology are
among the fields examined here), but in general it comes down to the
radically simple notion that the universe, at its deepest levels, is
made not of matter and energy but of bits. Information is real, yes. But
more to the point: reality, in some increasingly meaningful sense, is
So goes the argument anyway. And Siegfried, science editor of the Dallas
Morning News, does a pretty good job of presenting it. His prose,
admittedly, puts the flat in flat-footed, and his explanations of the
relevant scientific phenomena (which include cool stuff like
teleportation and quantum-mechanical computing) are sometimes murkier
than they ought to be. But his knowledge of the last 10 years of
theoretical research is sweeping, and he's especially deft with the
tricky philosophy-of-science issues that pervade his topic. Have
scientists really discovered, in information, the world's true
foundation? Or have they simply found a handy new metaphor with which to
think about the world? Siegfried wisely comes down on neither side of
the question. For him, the power of metaphor is inseparable from the
quest for scientific truth. And his book convincingly suggests that
information, as a concept, will be generating deep scientific truths for
years to come." --Julian Dibbell


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