March 1997

Root Page of Article: Techgnosis, Infomysticism, and the War Against Entropy, by Steve Mizrach

The Metaphysics of Information

The physics of information ultimately leads people into deeper questions, including the one raised originally--about eschatology or the fate of the universe. Some physicists suggest the universe has only two possible fates, depending on the curvature constant of spacetime: continual expansion, in which it will spread out into entropic heat death; or recollapse, into the Big Stop, which may possibly be the seed of a succeeding Big Bang. But this pondering of the fate of the universe doesn't take into account a third possibility. Some physicists like Frank Tipler suggest that at the last possible moment, all conscious life with unite into one Omega Point supermind, whereby placing the cosmos under its control, annulling heat death. This viewpoint is the inverse of Deism, essentially postulating the Creator at the end of time rather than at the beginning.

Tipler's assumption is that various negentropic processes are actually driving the universe toward improbability--in this case, the most improbable thing imaginable, a Universal Mind. But one can take a sort of weak position with regard to Tiplerian theory, and merely state that the universe is becoming more and more self-aware (through the sense organisms of conscious life), and, as a result, a more self-organizing system, reducing its own entropy. (Whether it ever becomes totally self-aware can be left to the mystics.) That is to say, the universe isn't a box which requires a Maxwellian demon roaming about. The box is the demon, becoming more and more aware of what's inside of it, and also what's outside.

The other thing such theorizing about the end of the universe assumes, is that the universe is a closed system. Einsteinian physics suggests that it is (sort of)--finite yet unbounded. But is our universe the only one? Or does it coexist with other parallel universes, cross-connected through space-time wormholes, in which case it's an open system capable of importing negentropy from outside? Furthermore, the heat death prediction does not take chaos into account. As was suggested earlier, chaos is not the same thing as disorder. What physicists call chaos (nonlinear iterative processes) are in fact often descriptions of systems that obey nonequilibrium thermodynamics--in other words, they appear to be negentropic; and further, as the examinations of fractals and strange attractors indicate, chaos displays a bizarre sort of non-obvious, higher level order.

Following Teilhard de Chardin, a number of non-idealist "info-mystics" suggest that, while the universe is made of matter, it is evolving into pure information or pure mind (the noosphere). While the matter in the universe is falling into entropy, ultimately life and consciousness may be able to escape this fate by becoming forms of information which are material-independent, i.e. patterns of organization, and enter into hyperspace or other dimensions. I suggest that these mystics are non-idealist in that they subscribe to emergence--they don't see mind as prior to matter, but rather something which emerged out of matter and may eventually be able to leave its material substrate. It may be the escape route from entropy.
[] The Rev. Phillip J. Cunningham outlines Teilhard de Chardin's ideas and evolution.

Ultimately, metaphysics always returns to the question of teleology or purpose and meaning. Infomysticism begins from the premise that there seem to be purposeful things about the universe--the curious constants which are the basis of the Strong Anthropological Cosmological Principle (the universe seems optimized for the emergence of conscious observers, which according to one interpretation of quantum mechanics, need to exist in order to collapse the universe's wave function.) But it tends toward pantheism, in that this is ultimately part of the Universe's Plan to save itself from entropy, a fact of necessity and universal law rather than prior intention. The emergence of reproductive (self-replicating), reflexive (self-organizing), and then reflective (self-aware) systems, capable of preserving or even creating order, is part of this 'plan.' --

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