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


360 degrees

360 degrees has a nice feel to it. Its usage in popular culture has become so normal that we hardly even think anything of the number 360. Just as we hardly even think why a week has seven days, or a year has 12 months, and so on. These have become accepted conventions, and by adulthood most of us barely even give them second thought.

Math is the science of abstraction, although it is considered being neither science nor art. In real life there is nothing like a perfect circle, and yet Math studies such a thing as a circle and precisely defines its ideal properties. I call this perfect circle an abstraction of the real life circle, because it does not take into consideration all the imperfections that a real life circle may possess. In fact, it may be more like an ellipse than a circle, like the orbits of the planets. Then again, the orbits of planets are not a perfect ellipse, but slightly altered by the gravity of other planets.

Math can predict real phenomena only as long as it takes into consideration their nature. Understanding that is the objective of the scientific method. Historically, Math and Science have been closely entwined, with one coaxing the development of the other.

A matter of opinion

A man is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as long as he doesn’t speak, he is not discovered.

Few men are rational when asked to offer their opinion. The opinions are always laced with lots of self-interests, and with emotions resulting from deceptions suffered in the past.

I particularly, am considered the honest Indian. Asked for an opinion, I point out the way things are. I am an optimist, a realist, and cynical. To be realistic, cynical is a trait I have inherited from the rest of mankind, but I am optimistic that I can overcome that.

Like the zen master, the next time I am asked for an opinion, I’ll answer with a question, a completely useless phrase, or with silence. AUM!

Our most unique trait

All that science does is explain that which exists. All that is will not suddenly become different because of our understanding of it. What makes science interesting is that in understanding our universe we create.

If we are to quietly accept the scriptures, or become servants of existing knowledge, we cease to create. We cease to be useful to the universe. Our most fruitful purpose in existing is creation. It happens through our biological procreation, music, dance, art, prose, technology, and whatever else that makes our lives meaningful, even some of our religious rituals and ceremonies.

We are fighting for survival, even if it may not seem so at first. The odds are always stacked against us. We don’t know why we exist. Our existence, and our knowledge of the fact that we exist, is a conundrum that we stare at from the moment early childhood leaves us, and we begin to take our first bumbling steps towards adulthood.

In death we see a cruel certainty. We strive to do all that we may, live the most extraordinary experiences, before we die. I have found this desire strange, because once dead, it does not matter what we lived. Then I remember that this desire to explore, have new experiences, set off towards the unknown, are means to liberate our creative spirits.

We have made use of our scientific knowledge, so far, for creature comfort. A good majority of us have become complacent, dull. It is time to jolt ourselves out of our comfort zones. We have to ask hard questions and create innovative solutions. The study of evolution has shown us that very long periods of time pass before a dominant species is subjected to any stress. In a very brief period after that, it goes extinct. We have been subjecting countless species to that end.

It may just be that by eliminating every last biological enemy our survival will be ensured. We may arrive at grand, technological landscapes, that we conjure in our books and movies. These visions have made our lives more meaningful. There is however our biology to contend with, still very deeply entwined with nature.

We have created vast tracts of plantations, but we are far from converting sunlight to food. Our own still live in hungry misery. Our most useful medication is inspired by the very species that are going extinct. We don’t understand our biology enough, or possess the necessary technology, to make medicine from the known elements.

We have to liberate our creativity from the shackles of ignorance. We are collectively at fault. Let this be a manifesto and call for action.

Spiritual dream?

I am not a very religiously inclined individual, even though I come from a family whose ancestors have been Hindu priests. I also do not attach much significance to dreams, in fact I find it hard to remember them. The experience I recount in this post has not changed me much in that respect, but it has given me peace of mind. I hope everyone has a similar experience, whether they believe in the spirit or not.

Four years back, my Dad had been suffering from a terminal illness. As soon as he discovered that fact, I made it my prerogative to go visit him. I was with him for twenty frustrating days and then I had to leave – work, wife and kids can be left behind for only so long. I had no idea how much longer his suffering would last. I just hoped it wouldn’t be much.

Two weeks passed, when one morning I woke up from a series of dreams, earlier than I usually wake up. For some reason I had the intuition that Dad was passing away. I received a call from my sister an hour later saying that he was critical, and a couple of hours after that telling me that he had passed away.

Source: PremiumPsd

It was an unusual experience to say the least. The first dream can be described as a spiritual experience, and it was the second dream that jolted me into wakefulness. If it was not for the second dream I suppose I would have slept longer and forgotten the first.

In my first dream I attended a door and saw an ivory-faced individual peeking at me. The facial features resembled that of my Dad.

I will not go into the details of my second dream, but just say that it involved a loved one drowning, and a rare father will not wake up from such a dream.

The God Dependency

I have a God dependency. It appears when I am going through trying times, a turbulent flight for instance. It mostly leads me to happiness, on rare occassions it leads me to sadness, and sometimes to guilt. For some, it can be obsessive in nature, to the point of making them slave to it, making them want to depend on the will of God for everything.

What is God?

I envision God as infinity, a point beyond which my imagination cannot seek, a point that is the ground zero of my neural network, a moral North star. I see God as the limitless expanse of the universe, a void, filled with energy that coalesces into matter, that forms life. Life that is conscious of itself, quite unlike simple matter, as far we know, and capable of contemplating everything and nothing, infinity and void.

Favorite discourses from I Am That

Here are some of my favorite discourses from the book I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj. A pdf can be found here.

Q: How do I get at it? (the realization of who am I)

M:  You need not get at it, for you are it. It will get at you, if you give it a chance. Let go your attachment to the unreal and the real will swiftly and smoothly step into its own. Stop imagining yourself being or doing this or that and the realisation that you are the source and heart of all will dawn upon you. With this will come great love which is not choice or predilection, nor attachment, but a power which makes all things love-worthy and lovable.

Q:   I am engaged in the study of philosophy, sociology and education. I think more mental development is needed before I can dream of self-realisation. Am I on the right track?

M:  To earn a livelihood some specialised knowledge is needed. General knowledge develops the mind, no doubt. But if you are going to spend your life in amassing knowledge, you build a wall round yourself. To go beyond the mind, a well- furnished mind is not needed.

Q:   If the shape of things is mere appearance, what are they in reality?

M:  In reality there is only perception. The perceiver and the perceived are conceptual, the fact of perceiving is actual.

Q:   Where does the Absolute come in?

M:  The Absolute is the birthplace of Perceiving. It makes perception possible.

But too much analysis leads you nowhere. There is in you the core of being which is beyond analysis, beyond the mind. You can know it in action only. Express it in daily life and its light will grow ever brighter.

The legitimate function of the mind is to tell you what is not. But if you want positive knowledge, you must go beyond the mind.