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Robert J. Marks: Coronavirus and the “Primacy of Information”

David Klinghoffer
Image: Fusion Medical Animation, via Unsplash.

At Mind Matters, information theorist Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón talks with Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks about the little bit of information that has overturned the economic order of our modern world. This is the kind of insight that halts you in your tracks: “Human biology is so finely tuned that less than a kilobyte of information can stop the world.”

From the podcast, “COVID-19: When 900 Bytes Shut Down The World”:

Robert J. Marks: There’s a bunch of coronaviruses and this one deviates from another coronavirus by just a little bit.

Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón: Yes. The easiest type of mutation found for other coronaviruses coming from bats in China has been about 88% similarity so what mutated was about 12%. And that 12% corresponds to about 0.9 kilobytes or 7.2 kilobits.

Robert J. Marks: Okay, we can talk about that as 900 bytes actually. Which is really nothing if you think of a 10 × 10 black square, like a sticker at WhatsApp. Now, this 900 bytes of information, as everybody knows, shut down the world economically.

Robert J. Marks: We read about the fine-tuning of the universe but there’s really a fine-tuning of the biology of the ecosystem, economics, etc., as well. That is a little bit scary. So what is your takeaway from all of this?

Daniel Andrés Díaz-Pachón: I really think that information is more fundamental to nature than matter and energy and what we are seeing here is how this small amount of information can produce a big change. Not only in a small area; it’s the whole world that is paralyzed…

There is a primacy of information, as some physicists have said in the past. It’s the idea that information comes before matter and that it is the primary stuff of the universe. That does not prove that information is generating matter or energy but what it shows is how a small amount of information can produce a big change in a lot of things that we know.

This is, needless to say, at loggerheads with the materialist idea that physical stuff rules the universe and mind is just an epiphenomenon of it.

Life is not sloppily put together by blind material processes alone. It reflects the most exquisitely precise planning and design. The downside is that a tiny departure — those 900 bytes — can turn our lives upside down.

Image: Fusion Medical Animation via Unsplash.