If you look at the image heading for this blog (a section of the Orion Nebula), you may be forgiven for thinking that it is merely a tenuous link to the futurist tagline, or that I simply typed “striking space image” into Google in an attempt to hook new readers.
However, the real reason for my choice (although I must confess that I do have a weakness for Hubble images) is that I was inspired by John Archibald Wheeler’s famous dictum “It from Bit”, expressed in 1990 (and quoted in The Information by James Gleick, p. 356):
Every it—every particle, every field of force, even the space-time continuum itself—derives its function, its meaning, its very existence…from bits.
Now, anyone who has watched a Carl Sagan documentary or visited a planetarium is surely already familiar with the concept of “We Are All Stardust”, but It from Bit takes this one stage further: not only are the materials (the It) of the universe mutable and recyclable, but its underlying information can always be expressed in a uniform way (the Bit), whether applied to fundamental particles and forces, the trajectories of every cosmological object involved in the collision of two mighty galaxies, or merely the words that I am typing right now into this box.
The principle of information being the true building-blocks of the universe has also been applied to other sciences, notably the concept of “The Selfish Gene” advocated by Richard Dawkins, in which the codified information for the creation, sustenance and replication of life—the gene—assumes primacy over the survival of individuals. Dawkins also postulated that the same concept could be applied to the transmission cultural information, and proposed a new moniker—the meme—to describe it. As anyone who is reading this self-evidently has access to the internet, I hardly need to describe the acceptance and exponential growth in memes that has since occurred due to the communications revolution provided by this technology.
Returning to the design (I should really use the phrase “Information Architecture”!) of this blog, the tagline (“Welcome to the library of tomorrow!”) is itself a meme, as any fans of a certain television programme should be aware. So, whilst superficially frivolous, my choices are rooted in the fundamental principles of information theory. Alternatively, I can at least write a few hundred words pretending that they are, which is perhaps of greater consequence.