John Wheeler’s saying “Its from Bits” means that physical objects are generated from information blueprints, which are a prior form of existence than the physical forms they create.
In other words, at the first foundation of reality our science is able to see, the primary substance from which everything is made is information. Not matter, not energy.
Science was already going there, if you look at the scientists leading up to Wheeler.
- Einstein had reintroduced consciousness (implicitly not explicitly — he didn’t make a big issue out of it) when he made time relative to the observer. This injected the subjective back into what is objective reality in a materially tangible way. Our minds are also part of reality and seem to affect it “mysteriously” (in an “unbelievable” way) depending on the velocity at which we are moving.
- Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle questioned whether we ever could know simultaneously the position and vector of an electron or any other object vibrating at wavelengths smaller than that of visible light. On a similar tack of the ultimate un-knowability of the universe arose the idea of a cloud of electrons in a probability shell rather than of actual physical electrons, thus also that virtual particles exist in potential if not yet in manifestation.
- Then came the idea of a probability wave that collapses into a distinct reality only when contacted by the eye of an observer.
- Quantum Mechanics (QM) in general, and the work around Bell’s Theorem in particular, seemed to be saying that distance may be an illusion, that wavicles spring up and disappear from a quantum foam of potentiality residing beneath the superstructure of matter/energy space/time reality as we know it. The theory of alternate universes arising from QM says there is no scientific reason not to believe that at every decision point in the path of observable history, alternative universes could easily also exist, taking that “road not taken ‘here’”.
Therefore every turning point in the recent history of physics has stripped away one more layer of that feeling of solidity we used to have in our idea of the universe.
Wheeler’s observation that bits of data are the underpinning of all of this we call the universe is actually a great simplifier and cohesifier of all that came before in science. Of course it is simplifying: if one type of substance, ideas in some sort of mathematical software code, otherwise known as information — “in formation”, a pattern that is not chaos (modern chaos theorists also see information in chaos) — this simplifies the discussion of string theory, quarks, and the rest of the complexity that has been emerging at the tiniest physical scale of scientific inquiry.
We have seen even from our own infant knowledge of how the universe works, and nascent technology based on this understanding, that within computers and electronic media we can create three-dimensional realities that change based on laws/programs and “random” number generators. If we are all in some sort of computer then it would seem easier to understand how the miraculous manifestations we see can possibly exist. Someone just spent a lot of time coding, that’s all. Perhaps whoever did it didn’t see time as a scarce quantity the way we do.
But how can information bits be the basis for reality, our mind automatically thinks/feels. What then do the information bits float around in? What is the basis on which they exist? Everything exists in some sort of medium, or container, its own petri dish. What about these supposed bits that Wheeler talks about — what do they move around in, what supports them?
My own cosmological Theory of the Conscious Universe (TOTCU) accepts Wheeler’s dictum based on my own intuition (I got there before reading him) and adds that the container in which these seed ideas are brewing into matter, the universe, is itself a biocomputer in the form of a consciousness, which explains how information bits can be the basic stuff of reality.
It’s common knowledge today that information bits are found in computers. We know that information is recorded/coded into brain cells because of the famous experiments of Wilder Penfield, who touched electrodes to specific parts of people’s exposed brains and the subjects (awake and in no pain) reported that certain vivid memories were being evoked at each spot in the brain touched, different memories in different locations.
The signals that the brain sends to the muscles must also be information. Signals are the communication of information.
The tropism that causes plants to orient to the Sun must be as a result of electrochemical signaling from one part of the plant to another. Again, information.
Wheeler and TOTCU go beyond this to postulate that matter itself is maintained by the information layer, which gives it instructions as to how to erect and sustain electron probability clouds around nuclei. And energy is the raw form of matter existing as radiating probability waves whose wavelength, frequency and amplitude instructions come from the layer of information hidden beneath the appearance of a physical universe that our sensorium presents to our consciousness.
Within our consciousness itself, we have feelings, thoughts, images, memories, perceptions, intuitions, kinesthetic sensations of our bodies — all of it information. In fact, consciousness unlike matter and energy is the only phenomenon we detect in the universe that is purely informational, without the appearance of anything else but the information itself. This is the primary clue from which intuitively springs my cosmology, TOTCU. If consciousness is pure information, and everything in the universe arises from information, then is it not possible that consciousness itself IS the information layer Wheeler speaks of?
Again, if information bits are floating around in our bodies and in everything we see, then how could the whole universe be other than some form of Tron-like computer? What else do we know of as a type of thing that can contain information bits?
And if a computer that contains within it a thing we call consciousness, such as among homo sapiens, such as you yourself have as a primary quality, namely again your consciousness, is it possible that the whole container in which this consciousness-thing (you and me) is/are living — might the whole container also have consciousness? Why would it not be possible? Then the consciousness underlying everything IS the information layer postulated by Wheeler. This is the essence of TOTCU.
Wheeler’s “Its from Bits” recapitulates a theme that is present at every level of the universe:
- At the quantum level — the smallest bits of matter and energy, the land of wavicles and virtual particle probability clouds — Wheeler now tells us that if we could see down far enough we would see information bits that program the creation, sustenance, and action of the physical forms they create.
- Earlier science had discovered that at slightly larger scales becoming visible to us, where we could detect genes, DNA and RNA programs living beings at the cellular level. One might see this as the DNA being the actual being itself, and the manifestations in physical form of that being as only its intimate habitation, like a snail has a shell.
- Very recently the human race has conceptualized memes that are the operant DNA genes of idea movements across individuals, at the macro level.
- One might speculate that a higher form of meme exists, the Word that existed at the beginning, at the cosmic level, the largest scale in which we can view everything at once. These phemes — memes creating phenomena downward from the cosmic level — would correspond to the Orders given by God (aka Universal Consciousness) to start the universe and/or sustain it and/or end it. Perhaps there was profound inspiration in the line “In the beginning was the Word”. And the Word was with the Original Consciousness, the primary basis of everything else, and from which everything else is made by means of a superhuman (i.e. beyond our capability) ability to self-program so as to deploy aspects of oneself into phemes creating the universe, and avatar creatures through which to enjoy the play of it all together. In other words, if there is a singular consciousness behind and throughout this universe we experience, and we ourselves are each a single consciousness experiencing this universe, is it not an obvious possibility that the original consciousness is looking out our eyes, playing through the playground IT created? With the further possible option on the part of the Original Consciousness of playing with the universe deus ex machina whenever it felt right to do so. These retrospectively obvious possibilities are given scientific credibility by Wheeler’s dictum that there is an information layer programming the whole universe and everything in it. Without Wheeler, our Theory of the Conscious Universe is purely intuition-based. With Wheeler, TOTCU is an orthodox scientific theory.
As Hermes Trismegistus used to say, “As above, so below”. The same arrangement ending up at every touchpoint level we can detect (quanta, cells, bodies, the universe) gives us firm ground for beginning to accept that we are seeing the way the universe designs itself — Its within Bits, as John Wheeler would say. From which we might dare speculate ahead of what we can measure, and drive our measurement tools toward being able to prove or disprove those speculations/hypotheses/intuitions.
Our Theory of the Conscious Universe (TOTCU), which combines information and consciousness, represents a synthesis of many strands of scientific research (relativity, quantum mechanics, extrasensory perception, psychobiology, cognitive psychology) into a single picture. The manuscript is currently being prepared for release to eReaders in 2012.
Because each of us experiences consciousness directly, this is a funny turnaround for science in a way. For centuries science moved away from introspection toward experiment. Introspective experiments continued in the science of the East, but little in the West. Now, through the external physics of relativity and quantum mechanics, we are led to a resolution of the universe as information existing within a grand biocomputer that is the sum of all of us and in all likelihood has its own perspective on the consciousness that it experiences.
The notion of having a positive relationship with the host of our creation seems as good an idea today as when primitive minds first conceived it. Why not capitalize Host? The universe is at once the most beautiful and impressive thing one can possibly imagine, and now that we know (because Its come from Bits) we must all be living in stuff that supports and works with and is all about information, what could that container be if not some form of computer? What is more like a computer than our own mind? Why cannot mind be the container then?
Just another thing to keep an open mind about.
Best to all,