Medium and information

I have been thinking about medium and information lately. Everything around us can be distilled into these two broad categories. Medium represents something physical, having characteristics derived from the material, but whose reason for existence is to sustain information. Though due to the fact that it exists, medium assumes a life of its own.

Information is the abstract, the software, shall we say, supported by the medium. It is in information that we find the codes required to create, sustain or destroy the medium.

The living organism

We all know the medium that carries genetic information, the DNA (or RNA in simpler organisms). DNA itself is part of the complex processes that lead to creation and sustenance of life.

Learnt behavior in animals

At a more visible level is the information stored in the brains of animals. Information that is received through all the senses. This includes complex rituals in humans of writing and reading, besides several others.

Machines and the digital computer

Artificial machines and the digital computer are similarly mediums that store information. In varying manners they all somehow act on that information resulting in some behavior.

Their relationship

Like the yin and yang, chicken and the egg, it is a thoroughly philosophical exercise to discuss what came first, what is more important. The medium has no meaning without information, which cannot exist without the medium.

We have been able to extract information from some media and transpose to other, such as text from paper to the magnetic disc, but the essence remains the same. Maybe that is a distinguishing characteristic of information, it can survive in different media, lifeless, requiring an external agent to interpret it. An agent that can assimilate information and change. Maybe we are that, maybe along the path to that, a perfect combination of both.

Stretching that thought a lot further. Is the entire universe such an agent? Maybe at some level, like mass and energy, media is information, and information is all that is!

Here’s a parting thought…

Anton Zeilinger in his paper A Foundational Principle for Quantum Mechanics


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