Monday, October 24, 2016

What is a Theory of Everything?

 A theory of everything must explain all phenomenon and how everything relates to each other. By its definition, that it is about everything it can not be reduced to only explaining phenomenon in one discipline. This article argues that understanding information will lead us to a theory of everything.

Is it possible to understand to explain all phenomenon? All phenomenon is not just particles, atoms, and physics, all phenomenon must include the housefly, human beings, otherwise it can never be a theory of everything. Everything is everything, you can not limit it. The wonders of the internet is that information is not far away, going to, the definition of everything is “everything or particular of an aggregate or total; all.”  Given this definition, can any concept fulfill this role or is the concept to big.

A theory of everything must explain what is common to everything, if it does not then we are giving a grand title to a concept that is misleading because it does not explain everything. What is everything? How do we know something, how do we know a thing? We know a thing because we have investigated it, or simply because we have by some means come into contact with it. How do we come into contact with this thing, we could be walking and we bump into it, a different kind of soil, a different kind of shrub or plant? Without even investigating we have bumped into something new.

We therefore know things because they essentially tell us what they are, a red stone tells us it is different from the white stones, it does not even have to speak, but it tells us it is different. Even with the familiar, when we get into our living rooms, we know that is a television, that is a chair, that is a fridge, that is food inside the fridge, everything tells us what it is, everything informs us of what it is, everything is information. Everything is information because everything informs us of its nature and characteristics even at the most basic level. Everything is therefore information, a theory of everything must deal with this concept of information, it must speak the language of information.

For philosophy’s sake, philosophers like to argue which is good, it improves our arguments, but one could argue that information is a human construct, that information comes from the thing, and not the thing from information, after all the stars and galaxies existed long before humans came into existence. This seems like a valid argument at first but completely falls apart because the fact is that those very laws of existence, the very laws that created the sun billions of years ago deemed fit to create human beings a few hundred thousand years ago. That means if human beings did not exist right now, the laws of the universe would be different, if life did not exist the laws of the universe would be very different because the fact that life and human beings have evolved in the galaxy means that the laws deemed that if such and such happens, billions of years later you will get life. Human beings can not ever be taken out of the equation because it would be a totally different universe, it might not have gravity, or the electromagnetic spectrum.

Life and humans are part and parcel of everything, you can not have a theory of everything without including life, then it is not the theory of everything but something else. That thing one talks of is merely information to a human being and to a large extent of life. A snake knows it must catch a mouse, it does not do it by instinct it hunts mice and rats. Therefore, a snake itself everything is merely information, it knows it can eat this and it can not eat that. This idea that only humans can think is a Western idea coming from the believe that only humans have a soul and this idea has been culturally placed into science, figure that out. Grizzly bears understand the patterns of their surroundings, they know when the salmon is coming, they have learnt how to hunt. Even crocodiles who are not taught how to hunt understand they must eat what is living, they don’t eat rocks by instinct.

We are humans, we are what could be considered an advanced life form built on the same structure of life as plants, genes. To a human, that thing is information, it informs us of its nature, the sun informs us it is a star, not a planet, a gnat or a television. A human being informs us that this is a human being, not a star, or leopard, or a galaxy. Everything is information, everything informs us about itself in many ways besides physical nature, location, speed, these are all part of information, differentiating information, even when it seems similar, for example no two electrons are the same, they occupy two different locations, just as no two humans or viruses are the same. You cannot study something and pretend you are not there, you will by principle miss the whole picture.

To say you want to study something as if humans don’t exist, why not study something as if nothing exists, the laws of the universe still operate in a vacuum, if you pour matter into a vacuum it will behave according to the laws, so at the end of the day one can say even the information is not important, the thing is not important, only the laws are, but the thing is there, the humans are there.

What is Common to all Information

A theory of everything must unite what is familiar to everything, what is familiar to information. A core similarity of information is that all information comes in packages from the smallest piece of information, the most basic of particles, to the largest information packages in the universe, galaxies, and everything in-between. That includes stars, planets, humans, asteroids, viruses.

All information is discrete, that means a thing is a whole, dividing it would mean it is no longer that thing but something else.

How do we know a thing is a thing? We know because information can be isolated. Looking at a dinner table, we know that this is a table, this table cloth, that a plate, and these utensils. There is a galaxy, it can be isolated to individual solar systems, to planets, to the elements that are the composition of those planets. The elements can be isolated to atomic structure, that can be isolated to sub atomic particles. Thus a galaxy can be isolated from the galaxy itself to the sub atomic particles.

As information is discrete and can be isolated, this is what allows us to learn. If information could not be isolated, how could it ever be possible to learn, we would not be able to tell the difference between a table and the utensils. We would not be able to learn this is iron and this is gold, all information would be just a continuous muddle. Luckily this is not the way things are, otherwise learning would be impossible, one would have to know everything or nothing at all. That is why we need to be careful of those who want to take the human out of the picture and say what if, there is no what if, they have never asked themselves how do they know what they know, as if televisions occur in nature without human beings, it’s because information can be isolated and with the isolation exploited. Things can be isolated from other things.

People do not learn in the same manner, one can learn addition first up to 10 + 10 = 20, or one could learn addition first up to 5 + 5 = 10, and then learn subtraction, 5 – 3 = 2. This points to another crucial factor of information, all information is independent, it exists because of the laws of the universe, a thing is because it has been deemed to be so by the laws of the universe, because of its nature. This allows discoveries to be made by taking different paths, there is no set path, what is important is that information is extracted, this extracted information becomes an individuals or societies knowledge base.

If this quality of a thing being what it is was not true, this quality of independence, all societies would have to behave in the same manner to progress, every society would continuously have to reinvent the wheel to progress, this is obviously not so. 

A not so obvious feature of information is that all information can be used to compute. I first learnt of this whilst listening to a discussion on youtube entitled “The Physics of Information: From Entanglement to Black Holes” featuring four Western scientists Leonard Susskind, Sir Anthony Leggett, Christopher Fuchs, Seth Lloyd, and Bob McDonald, a good video out of many that agree that information is everything.

Everything can be used to compute, you can use an abacus, you can use galaxies, you can use cows, pastoral societies in Southern Africa, Shepherd learnt to count by counting cows, whilst ancient far East people used an abacus, today we use electrons in microchips, but you can use bottles of beers even though it will be might tedious. If life did not exist would it be possible to use everything for computing, in that sterile world, what is going to find it necessary to compute, but life exists, you can never wish it away, it will end when the laws of the universe say it is time to end because of whatever factors that shall arise, but the factors that arise can not break any laws of information.

Relationships and Information

How is it that information can be isolated, what is it being isolated from? Information when talking in the physical sense is isolated from other information, it is isolated from a relationship. Everything is related to something, atoms, particles, lions, humans, trees, stars, planets, everything is related to something. It takes energy to have a relationship. All relationships involve a loss of freedom; all relationships take energy to sustain them. Can we truly put down a physical law, that is the law, all relationships take energy to maintain? How else can one possibly put this?

The first law of information, the first law of everything is that every relationship has a loss of freedom. We can put it at it’s most crude as every relationship has a cost.

It is how we think, if we think as things being separated it will be difficult to see, accepting this simple reality, that all relationships are a commitment therefore involve a loss of freedom and take energy our whole perspective changes. This affects all information, and information in reality will be found in a relation with other information. All elements involve the relationship between electrons, protons and neutrons. It takes energy for this commitment to be maintained, and all the participants, the electron, proton, and neutron have loss of freedom and must give energy for this relationship.

Difficult to comprehend, a man meets a woman in a library, they fall in love and get married, a relationship takes place, both parties must give something to the relationship. This something is in terms of energy. Time that could have been used for another activity is now used to maintain the relationship.

Why are we talking of energy, because energy is what allows things to transform into something else. That same single woman is transformed when she enters a relationship, she is now married. But energy is also what allows things to do things. That single man when he is married in the strictest sense should not have relationships outside that arrangement, relationships that are meant to be between a man and a woman, there are restrictions.

A theory of everything therefore must accept the fact that all relationships in the universe restrict freedom, any relationship results in an increase in complexity. What is complexity? There really is no clear definition one will find even on the world wide web. We can think of complexity as a package made up of dissimilar information. Thus an atom is more complex than its constituents. The more variables involved, the more complex. Take a human being and a star. A human is far more complex than a sun, a sun is just a big ball of hydrogen, one element. A human on the other hand is a hydro carbon that also needs various minerals like zinc, iron, potassium to survive, a human is highly complex. The earth is far more complex than a star.

The more complex means several relationships between information take place, each stage resulting in more and more energy and less and less stability. A human even in mythological biblical times lived for a mere 800 years, a star can burn for billions of years, it is less complex, a proton which is even less complex will be around for 2 x 1029 years, that is a very very long time, nobody knows how that is calculated.

This ratio of the amount of energy that holds the system together, and there is still energy left for transformation, once we get that, we will understand the universe better as we will know how much energy is used up each time there is a relationship. These ratios have to be there, our best bet is to find them in computer simulations, why? Because everything is information, the ratios should be there, a computer simulates information, once we understand those ratios, even computer simulations will be better as we will purposely put this information in algorithms. This is another idea, needs working.

A theory of everything comes from accepting everything is information and therefore will not come from one discipline, if it only comes from physics, it then negates all other disciplines, if it comes from chemistry, what about biology they are also dealing with understanding information, what about psychology or zoology, they are all dealing with information, it is a comprehensive term, a theory of everything.

Our Everyday Lives

Humans are social animals, we survive and thrive on relationships. It is therefore important to be aware of how relationships work, all relationships are the same. Take a simple metal bar, heat it up, we have a relationship, the excess energy is lost as heat, light and other phenomenon of the electromagnetic spectrum as the two systems combine in this relationship. The electromagnetic spectrum is a fancy word for different types of radiation, light is radiation. What happens when 2 corporations come together in a merger, there is excess energy, people get laid off as the two systems get into a relationship. This in physics is known as the conservation of energy. A system can not deal with more energy than it needs. Having got rid of this energy what is left is energy that binds the system, but there is still more potential for mergers, this potential is the free energy of the system.

When we consider trade deals we need to consider how relationships will be affected, this disregard for how relationships occur has to be a major factor why people are now rejecting trade deals. This is nothing against trade deals but we need to understand things before just jumping in, understanding relationships will allow people to ask, is this relationship beneficial to a large number of the society or only a few, if not, they are immoral, human lives must come down to what is moral or not. But to answer the question is something moral we need to understand the process, and when dealing with humans, or any relationship we must understand information and what is common to all information.

If relationships are not handled properly, we are asking for chaos, we are asking for bloodshed, why should people who are cheated accept the status quo. Society should be such that all can achieve maximum potential in the relationship with each other understanding that we are all human beings. If we had understood 20 years ago that everything is just information, these trade deals would have been less troublesome today than they are, this is a major global problem of our times, haste and lack of knowledge has caused massive social upheavals, giving us demagogues and nationalists everywhere.

We are all dealing with information, all research is about extracting information, be one a sociologist, an engineer, a physicist, a chemist, a vet, an economist, all research is dealing with understanding the relationships between information, no need for anybody to be arrogant towards others, all information basically behaves the same. Knowledge is just information that we know, we probably know less than we think, hopefully we do at least understand a theory of everything can not logically be reduced to one discipline, then it is not a theory of everything, a theory of everything has to encompass all disciplines by its very definition that it is dealing with everything.

Bhekuzulu Khumalo

This was added two weeks after original article on 9 November 2017, it is a comment from Google +, it is worth sharing. 

Refering back to the second paragraph of the original discussion statement: are you stating something as simple as when information is identified it therefore categorizes itself by 'being' therefore the cost is also the 'not being' of something else that comes along with this categorization? I could well be completely misunderstanding you. However when discussed in context of the theory of everything which sounds reminiscent of the age when philosophers were the fathers of science then I would have to weigh in that indeterminism would be a philosophically more realistic standpoint to begin with than freedom as freedom denotes in and of itself being 'free of' something, thereby excluding that 'something' from the postulated theory of everything?Of course being late to the discussion and slightly philosophically rusty I may well have missed both your points altogether.

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Bhekuzulu Khumalo

I write about knowledge economics, information, liberty, and freedom