Information philosophy is an attempt to examine some classic problems in philosophy from the standpoint of information.
What is information that merits its use as the foundation of a new philosophical method of inquiry? Abstract information is neither matter nor energy, yet it needs matter for its concrete embodiment and energy for its communication. Information is immaterial.
It is the modern spirit, the ghost in the machine. Immaterial information is perhaps as close as a physical or biological scientist can get to the idea of a soul or spirit that departs the body at death. When a living being dies, it is the maintenance of biological information that ceases. The matter remains. Biological systems are different from purely physical systems primarily because they create, store, and communicate information. Living things store information in a memory of the past that they use to shape their future. Fundamental physical objects like atoms have no history. And when human beings export some of their personal information to make it a part of human culture, that information moves closer to becoming immortal. Human beings differ from other animals in their extraordinary ability to communicate information and store it in external artifacts. In the last decade the amount of external information per person may have grown to exceed an individual's purely biological information. Information is an excellent basis for philosophy, and for science as well, capable of answering questions about metaphysics (the ontology of things themselves), epistemology (the existential status of ideas and how we know them), idealism (pure information), the mind-body problem, the problem of free will, and the "hard" problem of consciousness.
The simple definition of information is the act of informing - the communication of knowledge from a sender to a receiver that informs (literally shapes) the receiver. A message that is certain to tell you something you already know contains no new information. If everything that happens was certain to happen, as determinist philosophers claim, no new information would ever enter the universe. Information would be a universal constant. There would be "nothing new under the sun." Every past and future event can in principle be known by a super-intelligence with access to such a fixed totality of information. Information is emergent. And there are three distinct kinds of information emergence:
Actionable information has pragmatic value.
In our information philosophy, knowledge is the sum of all the information created and preserved by humanity. It is all the information in human minds and in artifacts of every kind - from books and internetworked computers to our dwellings and managed environment.
We shall see that all information in the universe is created by a single two-part process, the only one capable of generating and maintaining information in spite of the dread second law of thermodynamics, which describes the irresistible increase in disorder or entropy. We call this anti-entropic process ergodic. It should be appreciated as the creative source of everything we can possibly value, and of everything distinguishable from chaos and therefore interesting.
Enabled by the general relativistic expansion of the universe, the cosmic creative process has formed the macrocosmos of galaxies, stars, and planets. It has also generated the particular forms of microscopic matter - atoms, molecules, and the complex macromolecules that support biological organisms. It includes all quantum cooperative phenomena.
Quantum phenomena control the evolution of life and human knowledge. They help bring new information into the universe in a fundamentally unpredictable way. They drive biological speciation. They facilitate human creativity and free will.
Although information philosophy looks at the universe, life, and intelligence through the single lens of information, it is far from mechanical and reducible to a deterministic physics. The growth of information over time - our principle of increasing information - is the essential reason why time matters and individuals are distinguishable.
Information is the principal reason that biology is not reducible to chemistry and physics. Increasing information (a combination of perfect replication with occasional copying errors) explains all emergent phenomena, including many "laws of nature."
In information philosophy, the future is unpredictable for two basic reasons. First, quantum mechanics shows that some events are not predictable. The world is causal, but not pre-determined. Second, the early universe does not contain the information of later times, just as early primates do not contain the information structures for intelligence and verbal communication, and infants do not contain the knowledge and remembered experience they will have as adults.
In the naive world of Laplace's demon and strict determinism, all the information in the universe is constant at all times. "Determinism" itself is an emergent idea, realized only when large numbers of particles assemble into bodies that can average over the irreducible microscopic indeterminacy of their component atoms.
Two principles of information philosophy and a corollary
The Principle of Increasing Information. In our open and expanding universe, the maximum possible entropy is increasing faster than the actual entropy. The difference between maximum possible entropy and the current entropy is called negative entropy. To give this very positive quantity a positive name, we call it "Ergo." Ergodic processes provide room to increase the information structures in the universe. As pointed out by David Layzer, the Arrow of Time points not only to increasing disorder but also to increasing information.
The universe is its own observer. The increase of biological information is primarily by perfect replication of prior existing information, but it is critically important that replication errors occur from time to time. They are the source of new species and creative new ideas.
The Principle of "Soft" Causality. Events are always caused but not always determined. An event is caused by prior and proximate events (technically those within its relativistic light cone from the past), but not every event is predictable, because some quantum events are only statistically caused, indeed are uncaused "causa sui." As logical philosophers would then put it, determinism (more correctly, pre-determinism) is not "true." The determinism we have is merely "adequate determinism".
A "soft" causality does not entail strict pre-determinism.
The Corollary. The universe is creative. Information structures and processes are emergent. Some laws of nature are emergent. Adequately deterministic phenomena are emergent. The very idea of determinism is emergent. Knowledge of the present did not all exist in the past. We have only a rough idea of the exact future. The creative process continues. Life and humanity are a part of the process. What gets created is in part our responsibility. We can choose to help create and preserve information. Or we can choose to destroy it.
We are free to create our own future.