Data. When you think about what it is, when you picture it, what do you see?
Do you see a spreadsheet? A pretty graph? A person at a keyboard?
Or do you see the surface of the ocean?
Imagine the ocean, glittering in the sun, the waves and seagulls. Maybe some uke music in background.
I think this is what data is. The point is: the surface of the ocean isn’t the ocean at all. Not reflective at all of its core features of pressure, cold, and relative abundance of viral data. But it’s all that most of us ever see.
That’s the data in the world. Signals from the unknown, the waves on the surface.
Those of us who are attracted to computers are often fascinated by these machines because they are knowable in a way the rest of the world is not. Computers are clean places to build models and tools.
But they are clean exactly because they are designed to be deterministic. A gate is either open or closed. A pixel on or off.
But that’s not the way the ocean, or the world, works. You don’t have to be a dancing wu li master to know that the universe is made of slightly unpredictable energy patterns called quarks (and their subatomic allies like muons, etc). Sure, there are atoms and molecules and guys named Gus, but all that is just data. That’s the surface of the ocean.
Those subatomic interactions at the Planck scale are the Ocean, they are the computer the program is being run on. And to be frank, we have some theories of what is going on down there but…the only way we have to verify them is with atom smashers. Which sounds cool but it’s pretty much like smashing commuter trains together and then looking through the debris to figure out how Capitalism works.
And the one thing we do know, is that while atoms are discrete, something seems to connect these things that form the basis of reality.
I am not a God kinda guy, but I think people should be given space for their Gods. And if you want to find a gap for your God to exist in, I suggest you start thinking the viability of the Planck Length as a home for Deity.
In physics, the Planck length, is a unit of length that is the distance light travels in one unit of Planck time. It is equal to meters. It is a base unit in the system of Planck units, developed by physicist Max Planck. The Planck length can be defined from three fundamental physical constants: the speed of light in a vacuum, the Planck constant, and the gravitational constant.
What makes me both an Atheist (not believing in traditional religious views of God) but also an Agnostic (thinking this might be something we can never know) is that this great unknown could potentially be home for consciousness. Sure, it is a reach for me, but so was the third Iron Man movie. Data can begat data. That’s what life is.
But the thing is, we very well might find out that coherent information doesn’t actually persist down in the ocean, but only at the level of atoms and Gus and Beyonce. The jury on that isn’t only out, the lawyers haven’t even started their arguments yet.
I salute the scientists and writers and philosophers who devote their lives to this quest to understand the Ocean we ride on. My guess is the real answers will come from the Machine Learning based analysis of these explorations. If I were to place a wager, it would be that what scientists using computational intelligence find out, will change us more than the discovery of fire, Space travel, and Myspace combined.
Painting by Simon Stålenhag