Your Smart Phone Proves the Existence of God

What is the smallest knowable piece of information? I find this consideration a most worthy thought exercise. There are several closely related questions:

  • What is the meaning of "knowable?"

  • If, by "information," we mean, "an answer to a question," then must the question be added to the required information content of the answer?

  • If we have an answer to which we do not know the question, is it information?

  • Indeed, does any information exist which does not require a preexisting context? In other words, is it possible to have an answer without a question?

  • Which came first: the question, or the answer?

What is the meaning of "knowable?"

The idea of "knowable" naturally implies that someone (or some thing) is doing the knowing. At this point, the truth value of the information is not important. The only thing that matters is existence, specifically the existence of a knower—a container, if you will, of the information in question. The information may be either a statement of truth or a false or fallacious assertion. Either way, its knower (by "knowing" or containing it) has potentially the possibility of doing or thinking something in light of what he, she, or it "knows." 

This brings us to the concept of communication, which is the transfer of information from one knower to another. Now note that communication can only take place if at least two knowers exist. See, a broadcast of information does not constitute communication unless someone or some thing receives the message.

Looking further at the idea of the broadcast… here we have information being "sent out," available for the reception of any knower. And where did it come from?

It came from the sender. In this way, we know two things:

  1. If we receive information, then we also know that someone or some thing sent it, and

  2. Information cannot exist without a sender, and ultimately, an original knower.

We know these two things because information does not just make itself up, whether it is true or false information. The most obvious example of this is that when we hear a weather forecast on a radio broadcast, it could be true or false, but somebody (or some thing) sent it. Weather forecasts don't send themselves. We also know, by the most basic application of our own experience, that even if we are the only person receiving the message (which is unlikely), our listening to it did not instantiate its existence any more than did our listening to it instantiate the existence of its sender. A radio station didn't spring into existence because we tuned in to its broadcast. And yes, if there's no one in the forest to hear the tree fall, it still did make a noise. There is such a thing as a noise that no one heard. Let's not get silly about this.

There is no such thing, however, as a noise that nothing made.

If, by "information," we mean, "an answer to a question," then must the question be added to the required information content of the answer?

Practically, Yes, but actually, No.

Often we get an answer which only becomes meaningful to us later, after we have discovered the question which it answers. This, nonetheless, does not diminish the information-value of the original information contained in the answer.

What this does mean, however, is that the question itself has had a pending implied existence. Indeed, a question comprises information as well as does an answer, for the right question, asked at the right time, with its answer already standing before us, can unlock volumes of information that the answer has held all along.

For example, consider a computer hard drive which has been encrypted. We all know that it contains perhaps terabytes of information—a lot of information. It contains the answer to many of our questions. But if we do not know that it is encrypted, it all just looks like nonsense to us, and we could easily pass it off as random noise. Now when a more experienced individual asks us, "Do you know the encryption key?" we suddenly realize that this was the question we needed to discover.

My analogy falls a bit short here, because what we now need is an answer to a question in order to unlock all the other answers to all of our other questions. But my point is this: had we never encountered the key question, "what is the encryption key?" we would never have sought to answer it. In other words, the primal answer before us, which we did not comprehend, was, "if you provide the key, the encryption will be unlocked." Now that we know the question (what is the encryption key?), we have an understanding of what the answer means.

The answer was there, in front of us, with all of its information, whereas the question was implied, not stated explicitly. This did not diminish the information-value of the answer (the decrypted contents of the hard drive).

If we have an answer to which we do not know the question, is it information?

Yes.

Information is informative to those who know how to apply it. A clinical psychologist might read an engineering text on thermodynamics and find very little useful information therein.

In my experience, the dumbest people I've met are the ones who don't ask any questions. And I'm not talking about intellect or intelligence. I've met plenty of perfectly intelligent people who are just basically dumb, because they have no inquisitiveness; no inclination toward asking questions, no desire to learn or to assimilate any of the wealth of information that surrounds us all.

Are these people dumb because the information that only answers implied questions lacks information? No, they are dumb because they, themselves, do not seek, find, and ask the questions.

Indeed, does any information exist which does not require a preexisting context? In other words, is it possible to have an answer without a question?

I think that every answer has a question, else what does it answer? Sometimes, however, the answer is given long before its question arises.

I will say that information alone, in the absence of context, or a framework in which it may be processed and applied, remains largely useless, with this profound exception: that it is instrumental in sparking the interest of people to inquire as to its meaning!

According to tradition, Isaac Newton observed that an apple fell downward out of the tree. This was not new information. Literally everyone in his day could observe this phenomenon. But it was Isaac Newton who paused to ask the question, "Why does the apple fall downward, and what characterizes its trajectory?" 

And then, through extensive study and examination, Newton went on to become the father of classical physics. He did this by finding the questions to the answers that had been in front of all of humanity since the very beginning!

See, the information had always been there. The answers were there for our ready observation. The only thing lacking were the questions which made the information applicable.

Human discovery is about describing the contexts and frameworks which already exist in nature.

Human invention is about building our own contexts and frameworks which work within those of nature.

Which came first: the question, or the answer?

And now we approach the true essence of information and its origins. Where did it come from? When the first kernel of information was released into our universe, what did it "look like?" Was it a question, or was it an answer? And what did it say?

Having considered this question, I have concluded that if it was a question, then it was certainly asked sarcastically. Let me explain…

We know that information came from somewhere, unless it has existed for eternity past. In either case, it's first assertion certainly must have been that of its own existence. There really is no other answer, for we know that information exists today, but who originally told us that? It's not as though information floated along for some untold period of time, and then one day spoke up and said, "Oh, and by the way, I, information, am real, and I do exist." I mean, we didn't just hear about the existence of information a few decades, or a few centuries ago. We were not recently informed of the existence of information.

So we can be sure that as soon as the first person or thing used information, that person or thing was already "aware" of its existence, consciously, subconsciously, or otherwise. Therefore, the first information ever "known" was that of its own existence.

Hence, if the first information was an answer, then it was apparently the following assertion:

"Information exists."

And if the first information was a question, then it was obviously sarcastic:

"Does information exist?"

Obviously, if this question were not sarcastic (meaning that it really means there is no question about its affirmative answer), then it is self-annihilatory, rendering itself (information) non-existent. And of course we know this is not the case.

Therefore, I assert that sound reasoning leads us to the conclusion that the answer came first, questions came later.

And now this begs the question: Whence came this information? How was it communicated? Someone received it. We all know it. So who "sent it out?" Who was its author?

You can't have communication of information without a sender and a receiver. We have all received the knowledge that information exists. We are all now knowers of this. So who was the original knower?

What is the smallest knowable piece of information?

Your smart phone is a truly amazing, truly remarkable piece of hardware. Of course, without its software it would be your dumb phone, and totally non-functional.

But the interesting fact is that the hardware—all the wires and integrated circuitry—have been built in such a way that when the software—the prescribed conditional programming instructions—are installed into its memory, it "behaves" in very clearly defined ways.

Interestingly, none of this could happen without a whole bunch of information. Also interesting to me is how this information is stored and processed… all the information in your smart phone is broken down into ones and zeros. In the final analysis, your smart phone is programmed to respond to only "yes" or "no" questions, giving only "yes" or "no" answers. There is no such thing as "maybe" or "kind of". It's either "yes" or "no." 

And all modern digital computers are the same in this regard. I have always been amazed at the fact that I might work for weeks or months on an engineering project developing a 135-megabyte 3D solid model of an aircraft structure, and the complete description of all my inventive work can then be fully described by answering a string of about one billion yes-no questions! And the computer does this every time I open that CAD file. This amazes me.

But it also clearly and immediately points us to what is the smallest knowable piece of information. And of course, the study of philosophy brings us to the same conclusion: the smallest kernel of information is the answer to the most fundamental question, "Is [something] true or false?" The [something] can be anything, the answer is either "yes" or "no."

So in the case of the answer preceding the question, which we know it did originally, someone—or some thing—somewhere along the line said "yes" to something. I wonder what the question was…

Philosophically speaking, "no" is equivalent to "null," which is in turn equivalent to silence or inaction. True, there may be a case where "no" requires action, but only in the face of an assertion placed a priori. In the case of a universe of complete and total inaction, complete silence, complete stasis, "no" is the default condition. Therefore, the first action is necessarily "yes."

So who said that? Who said "Yes," and what question was He answering?


First there was nothing, and now there is something.

Or

First there was stuff without information, and now there's stuff and information.

So where'd the stuff come from? But more importantly, where did all this information come from? What was the first information, and who or what sent it out?

Perhaps there was a Big Bang. Whence came the information about how, in the wake of a massive explosion, quarks, leptons, and bosons should interact to form protons, neutrons, and electrons, thus proceeding to form the various elements? How did they know? Where did the information of the laws of physics come from?

And seriously… what was before the Big Bang? A whole bunch of stuff crammed into a really small space, in the "middle" of a giant, infinite space? Who put it all there? What brought that about? And what made it go "Bang?" Who lit that match? Why didn't it just sit there, all happily bunched up together? How long was it all sucked together, doing its gravitational thing before it decided to get all jiggy with itself and explode? Why didn't it just become a big black hole?

I think it's pretty clear that we have far more questions than we have answers when it comes to this realm. But the biggest question of all is this: Why are we asking these questions? Why do we care?

Some of us don't, because some of us are dumb in that way. But those of us who ask are the ones whose curiosity has been sparked by the existence of an answer or myriad answers to which we seek to discover the questions that will unlock the information that lies before us.

We care, and we ask, because we have recognized the primal piece of information; the Original Yes. The Original Yes is the answer we have all heard, and we want to know what question is being answered by the Original Yes. The Original Yes begs a question—the Original Question, if you will—posed even before anyone or any thing even existed or was able to ask...

At this point I'll throw my two bits into the ring and give you my best guess as to what the question is:

"Does God exist?"

If the answer had been “No,” then surely no one would be asking the question today.

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