New insights. That we live in an information society is no news. What is interesting is that our view of how the physical world around us is working is also changing. Two centuries ago, physicists viewed the universe, based on the laws of Newton and Kepler, as a kind of huge mechanical timepiece, in which planets revolve around the sun. With the arrival of Einstein’s theory of relativity and Quantum theory, a new step was made in thinking about our environment. Einstein showed that space and time show coherence and that space is curved by matter. The idea came up that everything is determined by types of “fields”: gravitational fields, electromagnetic fields, etc. The Quantum theory showed that very small particles also behave like waves and that an observer can influence the observed. Does reality perhaps consist solely of waves that constantly influence each other?
The universe: a computer? We are now living in the information age and physicists are now wondering whether the universe must be seen as a kind of super computer or large information system. Some physicists even speculate whether matter itself is a form of information. Einstein proved with his famous formula E = mc2, in which the E stands for energy, the m for mass and the c for the speed of light, that matter or mass and energy are equivalent. In that vision matter is a form of compressed energy. The next step could be that we also find a formula where we can express both matter and energy in information units. We therewith come to the field of the qubits (particles that can take several positions simultaneously between 0 and 1) and the quantum computer.
Useful information? Thinking in this way, the universe could contain an unimaginable amount of information. We do not yet know to what extent there is structured or interrelated information in the matter or energy in the universe. Man has invented chips for information storage and needs complicated devices to read that information. But in theory all matter contains unimaginable amounts of information that has formed over billions of years. But is it useful information and how should we read that information?
Everything communicates with each other. We know that organisms, such as people, animals, plants, fungi, earth, are related information systems with forms of intelligence that can communicate with each other in different ways. Besides with the senses also through exchange of all kinds of chemical substances. We do not know what life actually is; the separation between dead or living matter or beings appears to be an artificial one. If everything is to be understood as different types of information systems, then the idea is not so strange that there may be more forms of information exchange and intelligence than we previously thought possible. Just like there is in the “human world” a hyperconnected world, thanks to new technologies, it so appears that in nature everything is also connected to everything and communicates.
Does the universe have memory? Everything we perceive consists of matter or energy that “vibrates”. It now appears also to be an information system. There is not only communication in a variety of ways over short distances within ecosystems. Vibrations that occur in distant galaxies can be observed over distances of millions of light years. We do not know to what extent these vibrations are subsequently absorbed by other “information systems” in the universe and are stored there, just like in a memory chip. Thinking in this way, it is quite possible, not even unlikely, that the history of the universe is stored in the billions of galaxies around us through an information footprint.
Galactic intelligence? Light and gravity vibrations spread information in the universe over distances of millions of light years. In addition to unimaginable distances, it is also about unimaginable time periods of billions of years. If the universe is a kind of information system, perhaps with memory, the question arises whether that system also has intelligence or consciousness. There is currently no scientific evidence for this. However, we also know that we can only partially perceive the universe. The latest insights tell us that about 95% of the universe consists of so-called dark matter and energy. We don’t know what happens within. But it is certain that there is much more cohesion in the world around us than we thought until recently.
Man is not unique. Taking into account the long existence of the universe and the gigantic distances between systems, man is a tiny being, which has only existed for a very short time. The old notion that man is completely unique and the only being who has intelligence is outdated and arrogant. We discover every day more about the higher as expected intelligence of animals like elephants, squid, primates. There is also increasing evidence that what happened on earth with the emergence of our ecosystem most likely also have taken place at some other places. Whether we should be happy with that is another story. Stephen Hawking, the recently deceased British physicist, rightly stated that there is a good chance that other civilizations have evolved already for several million years. They will then regard us as mankind most likely as extremely primitive. And we see what the consequences of our own irresponsible behaviour is towards nature that surrounds us. Not pleasant when invaders will treat us alike.
It is an intriguing thought that everything around us should be viewed as mutually communicating “information systems”. That will undoubtedly lead totally new ideas and thoughts for research in the coming years.