Dear colleagues,

 

Due to the limit of two posts every week, Rafael, Joseph, and I had a
farther off-line discussion about the relationship between “It from bit”
and some classic Chinese thoughts. In fact, the deep dialogue between them
two made me a bystander. But I still want to exposit them here as an
inspiration, especially for those who have the consideration about east
thoughts. From the experience of thousands and thousands of research about
Yi Ching and Tao Te Ching, my impression is: It is imposable for us to have
the answer to “It from bit” within the next 20 years, including physicists
and information scientists.

 

 

Best wishes,

 

Xueshan

11:04, June 23, 2015

Peking University


  _____  

From: Joseph Brenner [mailto:joe.bren...@bluewin.ch] 
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015 3:26 PM
To: raf...@capurro.de; y...@pku.edu.cn
Subject: It-from-Bit and the TAO



Dear Rafael,

 

This is getting back to work with a vengeance! Your note is so dense that I
have expanded it and will comment bit-by-bit (sic), in order to find my
‘place’ in it:

 

1. I understand 'it from bit' indeed as today's pervasive interpretation of
Being from a computational perspective. This does not mean that I believe
that being is computation or that 'it' _is_ 'bit' but that this is the
perspective or the spirit of time (Zeitgeist).

 

JEB: This is certainly correct. However, it does not need to be and is not
my perspective.

 

2. It is an epistemological perspective, and less, I think, a metaphysical
one in the sense that someone can believe (in a new form of Pythagoreanism)
that the universe (a large 'object' isn't it?) is 'made of bits' or even as
in the case of the Platonist Floridi: of 'forms' (in Modernity: of 'laws').
But... yes, there might be computationally oriented scientists that believe
that this is the true 'perspective' in order to understand reality: to see
it only (!) from a computational perspective. 

 

JEB: I am, therefore, justified in resisting such people who push it as an
ontological reality. 

 

3. Biologists in the FIS group feel that this does not meet the phenomenon
biology deals with (life) and so also some physicists that feel that matter
or energy are not to be reduced to 'bits' etc. 

 

JEB: I agree. Matter-energy is not to be reduced to bits in the
computational sense.

 

4. There is then, in my view, a misunderstanding when 'it from bit' is not
understood as an ontological (epistemological in fact if we do not take the
Heideggerian terminology for 'ontology' in the sense of an understanding (!)
of Being) perspective. 

 

JEB: Rephrasing for clarity: we have understanding when it-from-bit is
understood 1) as a non-compuational ontological perspective and 2)
epistemological in fact, excluding for the moment the specific H.
terminology of ontology (only) as an understanding of Being.

 

5. But in order to understand this possibility (or to understand it from bit
as today's pervading Zeitgeist), it is necessary to state the question of
Being (as Heidegger and others did...) and to leave the answer(s) to this
question (there are several of them in history... ) open instead of fixing
it like metaphysics tries again and again with different 'terms' (idea,
matter, energy, etc.). 

 

JEB: I can understand this possibility both 1) as stated and 2) as today’s
pervading Zeitgeist (but not mine). However, I note that what
‘metaphysics’ tries to do with terms like matter-energy does not ipso
facto empty them of reference to reality. There is a ‘third’ way which I
have tried to express in my suggestion of the “naturalization of Capurro”
(Xueshan: my view of Rafael’s work). 

 

6. It is in this sense, i.e. relativizing the metaphysical aspirations of
'it from bit' that I see that the Chinese view of information _as_ a new
term for DAO could be promising. 

 

JEB: YES! This is where your historical perspective is absolutely essential.


 

7. But then, we are leaving the realm of science which is always related to
a particular being (regional ontologies as Husserl called them) and we take
a leap towards a previous _horizon_ where such 'regional ontologies' are
possible. This leap is, I think, what DAO means.

 

JEB: NO! Please see my answer to Point 5. I believe the concept of the realm
of science is not as limited as you seem to indicate here in view, among
other things, of the convergence of science and philosophy under the
influence of information. In this convergence, as in other emergent
processes following the LIR Principle of Dynamic Opposition, the two domains
do not lose their specificities. Look at the effort I have to make to
respond to those who accuse me, of all people, of being unscientific!

To repeat, there is and can be no opposition between the DAO and science.
There is therefore no ‘leap’ (backwards?) to be made since science,
non-science and our understanding of them are all part of the DAO. (Also our
non-understanding).  

 

My conclusion is that the ‘language’ used by Chinese thinkers to discuss
these matters has (at least) one major advantage over others: it forces one
to think beyond static conceptions of reality towards relational
non-separable, non-regional ontologies that have in fact the needed affinity
to both modern physics and digital ontologies. My Logic in Reality is
consistent with such ontologies and indicates aspects of their dynamics. As
I have been discussing with Loet Leydesdorff, people differ in their
capacity to perceive such reality, or reality-as-such, as much as they
differ in their general intelligence. I personally have no difficulty in
accepting that some people have a much greater ability than I do to see
complex relationships at high levels of reality. Such phenomena must be
considered as part of science.  

 

Hoping not to have lost your attention and for comments in due course,

 

All the best,

 

Joseph

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Rafael Capurro <mailto:raf...@capurro.de>  
To: Joseph Brenner <mailto:joe.bren...@bluewin.ch>  ; y...@pku.edu.cn 
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 7:55 PM
Subject: Re: Wheeler's 'Enlightenment'?

Joseph

I understand 'it from bit' indeed as today's pervasive interpretion of Being
from a computational perspective. This does not mean that I believe that
being is computation or that 'it' _is_ 'bit' but that this is the
perspective or the spirit of time (Zeitgeist).  It is an expistemological
perspective, and less, I think, an metaphysical one in the sense that
someone can believe (in a new form of Pythagoreism) that the universe (a
large 'object' isn't it?) is 'made of bits' or even as in the case of the
Platonist Floridi: of 'forms' (in Modernity: of 'laws'). But... yes, there
might be computational oriented scientist that believe that this is the true
'perspective' in order to understand reality: to see it only (!) from a
computational perspective. Biologists in the FIS group, feel that this does
not meet the phenomenon biology deals with (life) and so also some physicist
that feels that matter or energy are not to be reduced to 'bits' etc. There
is then, in my view, a misunderstanding when 'it from bit' is not understood
as an ontological (epistemological in fact if we do not take the
Heideggerian terminology for 'ontology' in the sense of an understanding (!)
of Being) perspetive. But in order to understand this possibility (or to
understand it from bit as today's pervaiding Zeitgeist), it is necessary to
state the question of Being (as Heidegger and others did...) and to to leave
the answer(s) to this question (there are several of them in history... )
open instead of fixing it like metaphysics tries again and again with
different 'terms' (idea, matter, energy, etc.). It is in this sense, i.e.
relativizing the metaphysical aspirations of 'it from bit' that I see that
the Chinese view of information _as_ a new term for DAO could be promising.
But then, we are leaving the realm of science which is always related to a
particular being (regional ontologies as Husserl called them) and we take a
leap towards a previous _horizon_ possibilitating such 'regional
ontologies'. This leap is, I think, what DAO means.

best
Rafael



Dear Xueshan and Rafael,
 
If you, by the term 'Bit', imply something that is open, active, and fertile
like Nothing, then It-from-Bit is not incorrect buts adds nothing to the
original insight.
 
The difficulty is that people like Lloyd, Tegmark and others who use the
term bit see it in its meaning as 'binary digit', and they wish to ground
the universe (I think) on this rather weak computational base. There is no
life or basis of life in the inert abstractions of 0 and 1, only the basis
for calculation. 
 
My conclusion (tentative, of course): It-from-Bit theory in its standard
form is a reduced version of ancient understandings that need to be brought
into modern form. However, this must be done without, literally and
figuratively, denaturing them.  
 
Comments welcome,
 
Best,
 
Joseph

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Xueshan Yan <mailto:y...@pku.edu.cn>  
To: 'Joseph  <mailto:joe.bren...@bluewin.ch> Brenner' 
Cc: 'Rafael  <mailto:raf...@capurro.de> Capurro' 
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 11:42 AM
Subject: RE: [Fis] It from Bit redux . . . Loss of Information. OFF-LINE

Dear Joseph,
 
I have two notes already this week too.
 
Yes, to my knowledge, those Chinese physicists who have close relationship
with Wheeler are very familiar with Yi Jing and Tao Te Ching. According to
our opinion, Chinese word "Nothing" is very close to the "Bit". As you know,
as the supervisor of Wheeler, Bohr is very enthusiastic to Yi Jing and Tao
Te Ching, especially Yin-Yang Fish and Taiji Diagram.
 
It is a pity, the mentioned two books of Shen's “Informatilism" and Wang's
“Unified Information Theory" are all in Chinese.
 
I think both of you and Rafael may have the deep thinking about ancient
Chinese thoughts, thank you!
 
 
Xueshan

17:41, June 17, 2015

Peking University

 
  _____  

From: Joseph Brenner [mailto:joe.bren...@bluewin.ch] 
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2015 4:30 PM
To: y...@pku.edu.cn
Subject: Re: [Fis] It from Bit redux . . . Loss of Information. OFF-LINE


Dear Xueshan,
 
I have posted two notes already this week but want to thank you now for your
important  note. I am somewhat aware of, (not 'familar' with), the Yi Jing
and the Tao Te Ching. They are relevant of course to the current discussion,
and in my opinion in similar ways. One might summarize the situation by
saying that if you believe that a section of the Yi Jing applies to you
exactly you are lost; ("if you do not believe it you are lost"). For the
Tao, if one cannot accept a statement like "The Tao that can be discussed is
not the Tao", one is lost. And did Wheeler understand what he heard about
'nothing'?
 
You can perhaps see why I have reacted as I have to people who keep asking
(the term is mild) for 'exactitude' in relation to information and life.
 
In this connection, I would like to know if English versions or summaries of
the work of Shen and Wang to which you referred are available.
 
Thank you and best wishes,
 
Joseph
  

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Xueshan Yan <mailto:y...@pku.edu.cn>  
To: 'Joseph  <mailto:joe.bren...@bluewin.ch> Brenner' 
Cc: fis@listas.unizar.es 
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2015 9:14 AM
Subject: RE: [Fis] It from Bit redux . . . Loss of Information


Dear Pedro, Joseph, John, Krassimir, Rafael, and All,



Here I tell you some interesting stories about “It from Bit” in China.



Around the year of 2000, The Seminar of Interdisciplinary Information
Science of Peking University came into contact for the first time with
Wheeler’s “It from Bit”, in fact, earlier this theory, we had just
discussed Stonier’s “Information Physics” and had consulted with the Dean
of Physics School, his opinion was: The concept ENTROPY is enough to
physics, it is unnecessary to blunder in the fashion of information for
physicists. Of course, that was over fifteen years ago.



We afterwards had been tracking this information problem in Science of China
History; So far, we found there are at least four doctrines related to “It
from Bit”.



1. It from Taiji. Zhou Wenwang (Ji Chang), see his book: “The Book of
Changes” (Yijing or Zhouyi), B.C. 1050;

2. It from Dao. Laozi. see his book: “Tao Te Ching” (Daodejing), B.C. 500;

3. The world is composed of information. Xinxi Shen, see his book:
“Informatilism”, 2005;

4. The world is informational. Jianghuo Wang, see his book: “Unified
Information Theory”, 2012.



To my knowledge, the last two authors had not contacted Wheeler’s “It from
Bit”, that Ji Chang and Laozi had no contacted with it is very obvious.



In all his lifetime, Wheeler once visited China only one time in 1981, when
he stayed in China, he watched a Beijing Opera named “Feng Ming Qi Shan”.
When a general hold a flag on which a large Chinese word appeared, he asked
the accompany that what is the meaning of that word, they told him its
meaning is NOTHING, he said excitedly: The answer what I am looking for
desperately all my life about the physical reality, your ancestors had
originally given thousands years ago. (see his book: “Wheeler’s Lectures
on Physics and Austerity”, 1982).



So far, on the argument of “It from Bit”, we can not prove it is correct,
but can not prove it is wrong too.



Best wishes,



 

Xueshan

15:13, June 16, 2015

Peking University

 

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-- 

Prof.em. Dr. Rafael Capurro 

Hochschule der Medien (HdM), Stuttgart, Germany

Capurro Fiek Foundation for Information Ethics
(http://www.capurro-fiek-foundation.org)

Distinguished Researcher at the African Centre of Excellence for Information
Ethics (ACEIE), Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria,
South Africa.

Chair, International Center for Information Ethics (ICIE)
(http://icie.zkm.de)

Editor in Chief, International Review of Information Ethics (IRIE)
(http://www.i-r-i-e.net)

Postal Address: Redtenbacherstr. 9, 76133 Karlsruhe, Germany

E-Mail: raf...@capurro.de

Voice: + 49 - 721 - 98 22 9 - 22 (Fax: -21)

Homepage: www.capurro.de

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