Is information the primary fabric of the universe? (quotes)

Physics and quantum theory is increasingly being couched in terms of information

  • What I believe but cannot prove is that quantum physics requires us to abandon the distinction between information and reality. Anton Zeilinger
  • Some of the pioneers of modern theoretical physics have, for a long time, suspected that information plays a fundamental role in nature. James B. Glattfelder
  • The physicist B. Roy Frieden utilizes Fisher information to claim that, in general, “information is at the root of all fields of science”. James B. Glattfelder
  • Information has a significant role in quantum physics, and that role seems to go beyond the role it plays in physics… We can now make a very important observation. This is the observation that the concepts reality and information cannot be separated from each other.  Anton Zeilinger
  • Information is the unifying thread connecting aspects of classical physics, complexity theory, quantum mechanics, cosmology , string/M-theory and loop quantum gravity. Slowly, a computational and information-theoretic approach to reality is emerging. Specifically, information is a prime candidate for the foundations of the world. James B. Glattfelder
  • The connection between quantum physics and information has been emerging gradually over the last few years with the conceptual groundwork for this connection going back to the works of von Weizsaecker and Wheeler. It is the notion that information is the basic concept of quantum physics itself. That is, quantum physics is only indirectly a science of reality but more immediately a science of knowledge. Zeilinger
  • Digital physics, and by extension, digital philosophy, is a movement of contemporary scientists who believe in the fundamental nature of information. By taking the notion of digital information seriously, a new worldview emerges. For one, the universe is a giant information-processing machine—a digital computer. Then, reality is a finite structure and infinities are only harbored in the abstract realm the human mind can access. James B. Glattfelder
  • John Wheeler said the universe had three parts: First, “Everything is Particles,” second, “Everything is Fields,” and third, “Everything is information.” In the 1980s, he began exploring possible connections between information theory and quantum mechanics. It was during this period he coined the phrase “It from bit.” The idea is that the universe emanates from the information inherent within it. Each it or particle is a bit. It from bit. Philip Perry
  • Quantum theory itself is increasingly being couched in terms of information and computation. Some physicists feel that, at its most fundamental level, nature might not be pure mathematics but pure information: bits, like the ones and zeros of computers. The influential theoretical physicist John Wheeler dubbed this notion “It From Bit”. In this view, everything that happens, from the interactions of fundamental particles upwards, is a kind of computation. Philip Ball
  • Over the past century, there has been a steady progression away from thinking about physics, at its deepest level, as a description of material objects and their interactions, and towards physics as a description of the evolution of information about, and in, the physical world. Information theory encompasses the apparently inherent probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, our statistical understanding of thermodynamical systems, and computer science, where the encoding of data is described classically using rules laid out by Claude Shannon. Recent years have seen an explosion of interest at the nexus of physics and information, driven by the information age in which we live and by developments in quantum information theory and computer science. The idea that information is more fundamental than the matter that conveys it was famously encapsulated by physicist John Archibald Wheeler in the phrase “It from Bit” . A Aguirre
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Some physics now believe the universe is actually made out of information…

  • The fact that 3D printers now can print 3D pixels of objects shows us that most objects can be broken down as information. Rizwan Virk
  • Information is the new atom or electron, the fundamental building block of the universe … We now see the world as entirely made of information: it’s bits all the way down. Bryan Appleyard
  • Indeed, according to information realists, matter arises from information processing, not the other way around. Even mind—psyche, soul—is supposedly a derivative phenomenon of purely abstract information manipulation. Bernardo Kastrup
  • But to Susskind at least, the idea that reality might be rooted in 0s and 1s is poetically beautiful. Perhaps, he says, we will one day be able to sum up the universe in a simple epigram: “ah, everything is information” . Ananthaswamy
  • In the materialist-dominated world of modern science, it is natural to infer that matter (or fields that move matter) is the fundamental reality. But careful consideration of nature, and particularly biology, suggests that information is the basic reality, of which matter is a medium in which information is manifest. Michael Egnor
  • What if the fundamental “stuff” of the universe isn’t matter or energy, but information? That’s the idea some theorists are pursuing as they search for ever-more elegant and concise descriptions of the laws that govern our universe. Could our universe, in all its richness and diversity, really be just a bunch of bits? Kate Becker
  • The burgeoning field of computer science has shifted our view of the physical world from that of a collection of interacting material particles to one of a seething network of information. In this way of looking at nature, the laws of physics are a form of software, or algorithm, while the material world-the hardware-plays the role of a gigantic computer. Paul Davies
  • Ask anybody what the physical world is made of, and you are likely to be told matter and energy. Yet if we have learned anything from engineering, biology and physics, information is just as crucial an ingredient. A current trend, initiated by John A. Wheeler of Princeton University, is to regard the physical world as made of information, with energy and matter as incidentals. Jacob D. Bekenstein
  • There are lots of theories on what are the basis of the universe is. Some physicists say its subatomic particles. Others believe its energy or even space-time. One of the more radical theories suggests that information is the most basic element of the cosmos. Although this line of thinking emanates from the mid-20th century, it seems to be enjoying a bit of a Renaissance among a sliver of prominent scientists today. Philip Perry
  • What are the basic building blocks of the cosmos? Atoms, particles, mass energy? Quantum mechanics, forces, fields? Space and time — space-time? Tiny strings with many dimensions? A new candidate is “information,” which some scientists claim is the foundation of reality. The late distinguished physicist John Archibald Wheeler characterized the idea as “It from bit” — “it” referring to all the stuff of the universe and “bit” meaning information.   Robert Lawrence Kuhn
  • Electrons have spins, which are described by the laws of quantum mechanics. Electrons can take only two distinguishable values: spinning up or spinning down — the same binary characters as computer bits. So, at rock bottom, the universe consists of information; every elementary particle carries information. So, what is the universe? The universe is a physical system that contains and processes information in a systematic fashion and that can do everything a computer can do.   Seth Lloyd
  • Lately scientists have begun to question this conventional thinking and speculate that space—and its extension according to general relativity, spacetime—is actually composed of tiny chunks of information. These chunks might interact to create spacetime and give rise to its properties, such as the concept that curvature in spacetime causes gravity. Clara Moskowitz
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…quantum information…

  • Even the definition of a particle in physics is “kind of fuzzy,” Virk added, “and may be in fact just be a qubit — a quantum computing bit. Rizwan Virk
  • The world cannot be a giant machine, ruled by any preestablished continuum physical law. There is no such thing at the microscopic level as space or time or spacetime continuum. John A. Wheeler
  • A central question when considering information in relation to the foundations of quantum mechanics is whether quantum information and classical information differ, and if so, how fundamental their differences are. Gregg Jaeger
  • The rules of quantum information provide the most “compact” description of physics. Information, it seems to me, requires fewer assumptions about anything else we could postulate. As soon as you talk about matter and energy, you have to write down the laws that govern matter and energy.  Vlatko Vedral
  • It from Qubit: The “it” i is spacetime, and the qubit (pronounced “cue-bit,” from “quantum bit”) represents the smallest possible amount of information—a computer “bit” on a quantum scale. The idea suggests the universe is built up from some underlying code, and that by cracking this code, physicists will finally have a way to understand the quantum nature of large-scale events in the cosmos. Ashitha Nagesh
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…mathematical information

  • In his 2014 book, Our Mathematical Universe, physicist Max Tegmark boldly claims that “protons, atoms, molecules, cells and stars” are all redundant “baggage.” Only the mathematical apparatus used to describe the behavior of matter is supposedly real, not matter itself. For Tegmark, the universe is a “set of abstract entities with relations between them,” which “can be described in a baggage-independent way”—i.e., without matter. He attributes existence solely to descriptions, while incongruously denying the very thing that is described in the first place. Matter is done away with and only information itself is taken to be ultimately real. Bernardo Kastrup
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Everything in the universe is based on binary bits

  • At the core level, everything is information, everything is based on bits. John Wheeler
  • [E]verything in the universe is made of bits. Not chunks of stuff, but chunks of information—ones and zeros. S. Lloyd
  • Quantum mechanics, and thus reality, is about information. Reality is quantized because information is quantized. “The bit is the ultimate unsplittable particle” James B. Glattfelder
  • What we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions. All things physical are information-theoretic in origin, and this is a participatory universe. John Archibald Wheeler
  • “IT FROM bit.” This phrase, coined by physicist John Wheeler, encapsulates what a lot of physicists have come to believe: that tangible physical reality, the “it”, is ultimately made from information, or bits. Anil Ananthaswamy
  • It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom…an immaterial source and explanation…that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe. John Archibald Wheeler
  • All creation, from this perch, is made from this incredible foundation. Every mountain, every star, the smallest salamander or woodland tick, each thought in our mind, each flight of a ball is but a web of elemental yes/ nos woven together. Kevin Kelly
  • In his autobiography, Wheeler summarized three phases of his long career in physics: “Everything is Particles” evolved to “Everything is Fields” which eventually evolved to “Everything is Information”. The “it” is the physical world. The “bit” is the information. Rizwan Virk
  • Every it–every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself–derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely–even if in some contexts indirectly–from the apparatus-elicited answers to yes-or-no questions, binary choices, bits. John Wheeler
  • Information theory utilizes discrete mathematics. The unbridgeable infinity of real numbers between 0 and 1 is overcome by postulating two binary states. In essence, information is quantized, similarly to the idea Max Planck invoked at the genesis of quantum physics. James B. Glattfelder
  • Our observation that the most elementary system carries only one bit of information simply means that it can carry only the answer to one question or the truth value of one proposition only. We can now show how this simple, innocuous observation leads to an understanding of such basic notions as complementarity, of the randomness of individual quantum events, and of entanglement.   Zeilinger
  • It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom — at a very deep bottom, in most instances — an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the resistering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and that this is a participatory universe. John Wheeler
  • Quantum theory itself is increasingly being couched in terms of information and computation. Some physicists feel that, at its most fundamental level, nature might not be pure mathematics but pure information: bits, like the ones and zeros of computers. The influential theoretical physicist John Wheeler dubbed this notion “It From Bit”. In this view, everything that happens, from the interactions of fundamental particles upwards, is a kind of computation. Philip Ball
  • Increasingly, the physicists and the information theorists are one and the same. The bit is a fundamental particle of a different sort: not just tiny but abstract—a binary digit, a flip-flop, a yes-or-no. It is insubstantial, yet as scientists finally come to understand information, they wonder whether it may be primary: more fundamental than matter itself. They suggest that the bit is the irreducible kernel and that information forms the very core of existence. J. Gleick
  • John Wheeler came up with a famous phrase called “it from bit,” which is the idea that anything we see as physical is really the result of bits of information. He didn’t live to see quantum computers come into reality, but it’s looking more like that. So I would say that if the world isn’t really physical, if it’s based on information, then a simpler explanation might in fact be that we are in a simulation that is generated based on computer science and information. Rizwan Virk
  • Bridging the physics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, John Archibald Wheeler, the last surviving collaborator of both Einstein and Bohr, put this manifesto in oracular monosyllables: “It from Bit.” Information gives rise to “every it—every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself.” This is another way of fathoming the paradox of the observer: that the outcome of an experiment is affected, or even determined, when it is observed. Not only is the observer observing, she is asking questions and making statements that must ultimately be expressed in discrete bits. J. Gleick
  • It from bit. Otherwise put, every it—every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself—derives its function, its meaning, its very existence entirely—even if in some contexts indirectly—from the apparatuselicited answers to yes or no questions, binary choices, bits. It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom—at a very deep bottom, in most instances—an immaterial source and explanation; that what we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that all things physical are information-theoretic in origin and this is a participatory universe. John A. Wheeler
  • If one zooms into the fabric of the universe one hits an endpoint. This is reached at the Planck length, where every Planck area carries one bit (or qubit) of information. From this foundation, our illusion of three spatial dimensions is being computed, in which elementary particles (with and without mass) interact. James B. Glattfelder
  • The notion that spacetime has bits or is “made up” of anything is a departure from the traditional picture according to general relativity. According to the new view, spacetime, rather than being fundamental, might “emerge” via the interactions of such bits. What, exactly, are these bits made of and what kind of information do they contain? Scientists do not know. Yet intriguingly, “what matters are the relationships” between the bits more than the bits themselves. Ashitha Nagesh
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The rules governing subatomic particles have features that resemble computer codes

  • In 2017, a multidisciplinary group of researchers at the University of Washington proved that they could embed malicious computer code into physical strands of DNA. Their aim was to show that computers working in gene sequencing were vulnerable to attack. But they may also have inadvertently revealed that what we perceive to be biological reality was in fact computer code all along. Matt Stieb
  • Seemingly not-crazy theoretical physicist James Gates claims he has identified what appears to be actual computer code embedded in the equations of string theory that describe the fundamental particles of our universe. He says he found “error-correcting codes — they’re what make [web] browsers work. So why were they in the equation I was studying about quarks and electrons and supersymmetry?” Matt Stieb
  • Based on his own research in fundamental physics, James Gates of the University of Maryland thinks there is a more specific reason for suspecting that the laws of physics are dictated by a computer simulation. Gates studies matter at the level of subatomic particles like quarks, the constituents of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus. He says the rules governing these particles’ behaviour turn out to have features that resemble the codes that correct for errors in manipulating data in computers. So perhaps those rules really are computer codes? Philip Ball
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In other words, the universe appears to be computational

  • Reality’s finite structure is brought about by the digital nature of information. [Information bounds, “it from bit”] The universe is a computational engine. James B. Glattfelder
  • All interactions of elementary particles in the universe not only convey energy but crucially also information. In this sense the entire universe is computing reality. James B. Glattfelder
  • It seems that at the core of reality we find a computational engine which needs to be fed with information. As a consequence, the “Book of Nature” should be closer to a computational device in which the algorithms of reality are encoded. The static physical “pages” are replaced with a dynamic and fluid “display.” James B. Glattfelder
  • Many different and unrelated theoretical frameworks are converging on one key idea: information is the basis of reality. Moreover, the seemingly intangible notion of information has strikingly physical properties. From this bedrock the physical universe emerges as a computational entity. Space and time are emergent phenomena. In essence, all of reality is fundamentally finite and infinities are only found in the human mind. Crucially, this picture is currently been reconfirmed at the interface of theoretical computer science and theoretical physics. A new paradigm is emerging, replacing the old materialistic and reductionistic scientific worldview. James B. Glattfelde
  • The computational paradigm for the universe supplements the ordinary mechanistic paradigm: the universe is not just a machine, it is a machine that processes information. The universe computes. The computing universe is not a metaphor, but a mathematical fact: the universe is a physical system that can be programmed at its most microscopic level to perform universal digital computation. Moreover, the universe is not just a computer: it is a quantum computer. Quantum mechanics is constantly injecting fresh, random bits into the universe. Because of its computational nature, the universe processes and interprets those bits, naturally giving rise to all sorts of complex order and structure (Lloyd, 2006). Paul Davies
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The universe is an information processor…

  • Merely by existing, all physical systems register information. And by evolving dynamically in time, they transform and process that information. The laws of physics determine the amount of information that a physical system can register (number of bits) and the number of elementary logic operations that a system can perform (number of ops). Lloyd
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… a kind of quantum computer

  • The whole universe is seen as a computer—a cosmic information-processing machine. James B. Glattfelder
  • Atoms and electrons are bits. Atomic collisions are “ops” [logical operations per second]. Machine language is the laws of physics. The universe is a quantum computer. Lloyd
  • There is only one real computer – the universe – whose hardware is made up of non-spatial states of consciousness and software is made up of superhuman as well as non-superhuman thoughts. Kedar Joshi
  • Quantum information is useful stuff—but what is it telling us about the essential nature of our reality? Some thinkers argue that it suggests our entire universe is itself a quantum computer. Kate Becker
  • Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor specializing in quantum information, likens the universe to a computer, a physical system that breaks up information into bits, and flips those bits in a systematic fashion. Robert Lawrence Kuhn
  • [N]ot only does the universe register and process information at its most fundamental level, as was discovered in the nineteenth century, it is literally a computer: a system that can be programmed to perform arbitrary digital computations. Lloyd
  • The Universe can be regarded as a giant quantum computer. If one looks at the ‘guts’ of the Universe – the structure of matter at its smallest scale – then those guts consist of nothing more than [quantum] bits undergoing local, digital operations. Seth Lloyd
  • The first person to claim that the universe is a digital computer was the IT pioneer Konrad Zuse. Specifically, he proposed that the cosmos is being computed by some kind of computational systems, for instance, by cellular automata . This idea was outlined in his 1969 book called Rechnender Raum —the calculating space. James B. Glattfelder
  • To Seth Lloyd, information is not just a way of appreciating or approximating how the universe works, but the literal, most fundamental way it actually works. He sees the universe not like a computer as an explanatory metaphor; it really is a computer as scientific fact. As such, he claims that all changes in the universe are “computations. Robert Lawrence Kuhn
  • To look at information theory from a quantum viewpoint, the positions of particles, their movement, how they behave, and all of their properties, give us information about them and the physical forces behind them. Every aspect of a particle can be expressed as information, and put into binary code. And so subatomic particles may be the bits that the universe is processing, as a giant supercomputer. Philip Perry
  • In physics, the view of the universe and its workings as the ebb and flow of information was first observed by Wheeler. This shift of paradigm from understanding the universe as energy transformation to the information processing universe leads to the emergence of a new branch of science called quantum computation. Quantum evolution of a system is represented in quantum computation by a quantum circuit built from quantum gates. Consequently, two views of the world emerged, the first one, proposes that the universe is a quantum computer and the other one proposes that the system performing the simulation is distinct from its simulation (the universe). Barry Dainton
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Information is argued by some to be the actual substance of reality in an ontological sense

  • To some theorists, though, information is more than just a description of our universe and the stuff in it: it is the most basic currency of existence, occupying what theorist Paul Davies terms the “ontological basement” of reality. Kate Becker
  • An alternative view is gaining in popularity: a view in which information is regarded as the primary entity from which physical reality is built. It is popular among scientists and mathematicians who work on the foundations of computing, and physicists who work in the theory of quantum computing. Paul Davies
  • Historically, matter has been at the bottom of the explanatory chain, and information has been a sort of secondary derivative of it. Now, there’s increasing interest among at least a small group of physicists to turn this upside down and say, maybe at rock bottom, the universe is about information and information processing, and it’s matter that emerges as a secondary concept.  Paul Davies
  • Cosmologist Paul Davies argues in the book Information and the Nature of Reality that information “occupies the ontological basement”. In other words, it is not about something, it is itself something. Sean Carroll at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena disagrees. Even if all of reality emerges from information, he says, this information is just knowledge about the universe’s basic quantum state. Anil Ananthaswamy
  • In the long journey of the human mind attempting to decode the workings of reality, one trusted companion has to be abandoned: the materialistic and reductionistic scientific worldview. What new notion should fill the void? Slowly a novel worldview is emerging, supported by different theoretical traditions. Most intriguingly, at the nexus of these formal approaches a new ontology of reality is becoming most apparent. Two novel mantras are spreading through humanity’s collective mind: “Information is physical” and “Information represents the ultimate nature of reality.” James B. Glattfelder
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Information lies at the heart of all living things…

  • There is enough information capacity in a single human cell to store the Encyclopedia Britannica, all 30 volumes of it, three or four times over. Richard Dawkins
  • What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, not warm breath, not a ‘spark of life.’ It is information, words, instructions… If you want to understand life, don’t think about vibrant, throbbing gels and oozes, think about information technology. Richard Dawkins
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…which means we ourselves are information

  • If reality is just information, then we are no more or less “real” if we are in a simulation or not. In either case, information is all we can be. Philip Ball
  • If all the information of the cosmos flows through our pores at every moment, then our current notion of our human potential is only a glimmer of what it should be. Lynne McTaggart
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Our very consciousness is intrinsically woven into the informational fabric of existence

  • I believe that consciousness is the way information feels when being processed. Max Tegmark
  • If the nature of reality is in fact reducible to information itself, that implies a conscious mind on the receiving end, to interpret and comprehend it. Wheeler himself believed in a participatory universe, where consciousness holds a central role. Some scientists argue that the cosmos seems to have specific properties which allow it to create and sustain life. Perhaps what it desires most is an audience captivated in awe as it whirls in prodigious splendor. Philip Perry
  • Reality is animated by information; subjective consciousness is intimately intertwined with objective reality. James B. Glattfelder
  • Consciousness is intrinsically woven into the informational fabric of existence. The notion that the world exists “out there” independent of the mind is a view which is abandoned. James B. Glattfelder
  • The concept of information makes no sense in the absence of something to be informed—that is, a conscious observer capable of choice, or free will […]. If all the humans in the world vanished tomorrow, all the information would vanish, too. John Horgan
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Even our thoughts are information

  • The mechanical brain does not secrete thought “as the liver does bile,” as the earlier materialists claimed, nor does it put it out in the form of energy, as the muscle puts out its activity. Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day. Norbert Wiener
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Some argue the universe is a computer simulation

  • If information is primary and the universe is fundamentally a computer, then it should be at least theoretically feasible, in principle, to simulate whole worlds on future supercomputers. Hence, we could not now reject the possibility that our universe is a simulation. Alan Guth
  • Stephen Wolfram and others argue that computation is a part of our physical world, embedded within all other biological, chemical, and physical processes. This finding of the universality of computation and information science makes it even more likely that we are in some kind of computer simulation Rizwan Virk
  • Can we go a step further? Could this illusion be more elaborate than we dare to dream? Is reality itself perhaps a vast simulation? Is “it from bit” and digital physics actually uncovering a radically different ontology of reality? One in which everything is simulated? In effect, the ontology we are embedded in is one which is simulated—most likely computed—in a vaster and more fundamental ontology encompassing the simulation. James B. Glattfelder
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Others argue the universe is a hologram…

  • Our physical three-dimensional universe is an illusion. It is a hologram that is isomorphic to the quantum information encoded on the surface of its boundary. James B. Glattfelder
  • A team of physicists earlier this year (2017) announced research conclusions that would make Wheeler smile. We might be caught inside a giant hologram they state. In this view, the cosmos is a projection, much like a 3D simulation. What’s weird is that the laws of physics operate well in a 2D quantum field within a 3D gravitational one. Philip Perry
  • We are beginning to see the entire universe as a holographically interlinked network of energy and information, organically whole and self-referential at all scales of its existence. We, and all things in the universe, are non-locally connected with each other and with all other things in ways that are unfettered by the hitherto known limitations of space and time. Ervin Laszlo
  • We are beginning to see the entire universe as a holographically interlinked network of energy and information, organically whole and self referential at all scales of its existence. We, and all things in the universe, are non-locally connected with each other and with all other things in ways that are unfettered by the hitherto known limitations of space and time. Ervin Laszlo
  • The amalgamation of information theory, black hole thermodynamics, and string theory is hinting at a radical ontology: The universe is a hologram. In other words, our three-dimensional reality is an illusion created by the information content encoded on a two-dimensional area. Indeed, space and time appear to be emergent properties arising from pure quantum entanglement. James B. Glattfelder
  • When something is organized holographically, all semblance of location breaks down. Saying that every part of a piece of holographic film contains all the information possessed by the whole is really just another way of saying that the information is distributed nonlocally. Hence, if the universe is organized according to holographic principles, it, too, would be expected to have nonlocal properties. Michael Talbot
  • Perhaps the most mind-bending theory is the holographic principle. Expanding on the idea that the 2d surface of an event horizon can store quantum information, this principle suggests that the very boundary of the observable universe is also a 2d surface encoded with information about real 3d objects. If this is true, it’s possible that reality as we know it is just a holographic projection of that information.  Fabio Pacucci
  • Holography may be a guide to a better theory. What is the fundamental theory like? The chain of reasoning involving holography suggests to some, notably Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo [a pioneer of loop quantum gravity], that such a final theory must be concerned not with fields, not even with spacetime, but rather with information exchange among physical processes. If so, the vision of information as the stuff the world is made of will have found a worthy embodiment. Bodendorfer
  • One specific and outlandish picture of reality emerges at the interface of information theory, black hole cosmology and thermodynamics, and string theory. Our three-dimensional universe is an illusion arising from a two-dimensional computational process. Reality, at its foundation, is a two-dimensional grid comprised of Planck areas each able to register one bit of information. We inhabit a hologram. From such mind-boggling suggestions about the ultimate nature of reality it is not hard to conceive of all of reality as fictitious. Specifically, the suspicion that the universe is a simulation. However, where does consciousness fit into this picture? James B. Glattfelder
  • Here, then, is the conclusion that Hooft and I had reached: the three-dimensional world of ordinary experience—the universe filled with galaxies, stars, planets, houses, boulders, and people—is a hologram, an image of reality coded on a distant two-dimensional (2D) surface. This new law of physics, known as the holographic principle, asserts that everything inside a region of space can be described by bits of information restricted to the boundary. This principle is now widely embraced in theoretical physics. Observers have no access to “objects” in “space.” Observers only have access to information—bits—written on a boundary that surrounds space. Leonard Susskind and Gerard ‘t Hooft
  • The It from Qubit scientists are banking on an idea known as the holographic principle to help them. This principle suggests that some physical theories are equivalent to simpler theories that work in a lower-dimensional universe, in the same way that a 2-D postcard with a hologram of a unicorn on it can contain all the information necessary to describe and portray the 3-D shape of the unicorn. Because finding a working theory of quantum gravity is so hard, the thinking goes, physicists could aim to discover an equivalent, easier-to-work-with theory that operates in a universe with fewer dimensions than ours. Ashitha Nagesh
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…created by quantum information encoded on the two-dimensional surface of its cosmic boundary

  • What appears as a three-dimensional universe is the result of quantum information encoded on its two-dimensional surface. James B. Glattfelder
  • All the information contained in a region of apparent three-dimensional space can be represented as a hologram of the information held on its two-dimensional boundary. Jude Currivan and Ervin Laszlo
  • A holographic Universe means information that makes up what we perceive as a 3D reality is stored on a 2D surface, including time. This means, essentially, everything you see and experience is an illusion. Abigail Beall
  • In a larger and more speculative sense, the theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a two-dimensional information structure “painted” on the cosmological horizon, so that the three dimensions we observe are only an effective description at low energies. Michelle Starr
  • To some theorists, the duality isn’t just mathematical. The universe as we experience it, they say, may actually be the projection of information encoded on some distant cosmic boundary. Where this boundary lies and how the projection occurs are still open questions, but these theorists argue that our reality may be, in essence, a hologram analogous to the silvery images on museum store postcards. Kate Becker
  • Jacob Bekenstein and Stephen Hawking showed that the amount of information you can cram into a region of space is proportional to the area of the surface surrounding that space. That’s right, the area, not the volume. They first discovered this rule for black holes, but then realized it holds for any region of spacetime, not just regions containing a black hole. This rule is called the “holographic principle.” Donald Hoffman
  • As physicists Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein discovered in the 1970s, the entropy of a black hole increases with the black hole’s two-dimensional surface area, as defined by an imaginary spherical shell with radius R s . This is bizarre; you would expect the amount of information you can pack into any object, like a book or a hard drive, to grow with the three-dimensional volume of the object, not its surface area. This discrepancy is more than just theoretical arcana. To physicists, it suggests that the fundamental laws of physics may have a simpler representation in two dimensions rather than the traditional three.  Kate Becker
  • In the everyday world, a hologram is a special kind of photograph that generates a full three-dimensional image when it is illuminated in the right manner. All the information describing the 3-D scene is encoded into the pattern of light and dark areas on the two-dimensional piece of film, ready to be regenerated. The holographic principle contends that an analogue of this visual magic applies to the full physical description of any system occupying a 3-D region: it proposes that another physical theory defined only on the 2-D boundary of the region completely describes the 3-D physics. If a 3-D system can be fully described by a physical theory operating solely on its 2-D boundary, one would expect the information content of the system not to exceed that of the description on the boundary. ’t Hooft and Susskind
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The universe as information explains all sorts of paradoxes…

  • Once you adopt the notion that reality and information are the same, all quantum paradoxes and puzzles—like the measurement problem […]—disappear. Anton Zeilinger
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…and explains the complexity of the universe

  • Everywhere you look, you see immense variation and complexity. Why? How did the universe get this way? We know from astronomical observation that the initial state of the universe, fourteen billion years ago, was extremely flat, regular, and simple. Similarly, the laws of physics are simple: the known laws of physics could fit on the back of a T-shirt. Simple laws, simple initial state. So where did all of this complexity come from? The laws of physics are silent on this subject. By contrast, the computational theory of the universe has a simple and direct explanation for how and why the universe became complex. The history of the universe in terms of information-processing revolutions, each arising naturally from the previous one, already hints at why a computing universe necessarily gives rise to complexity. In fact, we can prove mathematically that a universe that computes must, with high probability, give rise to a stream of ever-more-complex structures.  Seth Lloyd
  • The computational capability of the universe explains one of the great mysteries of nature: how complex systems such as living creatures can arise from fundamentally simple physical laws. Seth Lloyd
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The information of the universe can never be destroyed

  • According to quantum mechanics, information may never be destroyed. The deterministic laws of physics require the states of a physical system at one instance to determine the states at the next instance; in microscopic detail, the laws are reversible, and information must be preserved. […] The loss of information would violate unitarity, the principle that probabilities must add up to one. Gleick
  • Information is physical: by deleting its physical manifestation as strings of bits, the universe reacts. Experiments have confirmed the validity of this principle. In essence, the process of erasing a bit in one place transfers information to another place, in the form of heat. In other words: Information cannot be destroyed.  James B. Glattfelder
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Some questions what it actually means that the universe is made of information?

  • Physics suggests information is more fundamental than matter, energy, space and time – the problems start when we try to work out what that means. Anil Ananthaswamy
  • But what is this information? Is it “ontological” – a real thing from which space, time and matter emerge, just as an atom emerges from fundamental particles such as electrons and quarks and gluons? Or is it “epistemic” – something that just represents our state of knowledge about reality? Anil Ananthaswamy
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Not all agree that the universe is made of information

  • The idea that physics is reducible to information is problematic for at least two reasons. One difficulty is that it is far from clear that all physical things have anything intrinsic corresponding to informational magnitudes, much less that they are “submitting to information-theoretical descriptions” in all their aspects. […] A second, insurmountable difficulty is that any information-theoretic description of an object is, by definition, entirely different from the existent it describes. A physical entity is not a simulacrum and cannot be equated with its own description; that this issue could have been ignored is a symptom of the influence of postmodernism […]. Gregg Jaeger
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Some argue information is a property of an underlying substrate associated with the substrate’s possible configurations—not an ontological entity unto itself

  • Our intuitive understanding of the concept of information—as cogently captured by Claude Shannon in 1948—is that it is merely a measure of the number of possible states of an independently existing system. As such, information is a property of an underlying substrate associated with the substrate’s possible configurations—not an entity unto itself. Bernardo Kastrup
  • To say that information exists in and of itself is akin to speaking of spin without the top, of ripples without water, of a dance without the dancer, or of the Cheshire Cat’s grin without the cat. It is a grammatically valid statement devoid of sense; a word game less meaningful than fantasy, for internally consistent fantasy can at least be explicitly and coherently conceived of as such. Bernardo Kastrup
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Time is also a mystery that the universe as information does not explain

  • Time, among all concepts in the world of physics, puts up the greatest resistance to being dethroned from ideal continuum to the world of the discrete, of information, of bits…. Of all obstacles to a thoroughly penetrating account of existence, none looms up more dismayingly than ‘time.’ Explain time? Not without explaining existence. Explain existence? Not without explaining time. To uncover the deep and hidden connection between time and existence … is a task for the future. John Archibald Wheeler