I was reading the book The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. The book attempts to answer three fundamental questions (1. Why is there something rather than nothing? 2. Why do we exist? 3. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?) and also elaborates on the 11 dimension M-theory as the acceptable model for the universe. Before going there, they describe the earlier laws of nature as expressed by leading scientists of the time, and how they have evolved.
For example, consider the theory of light. Sir Isaac Newton proposed that light was made up of little particles or corpuscles. This explained why light traveled in straight lines and why it got bent or refracted when it passed from one medium to another.
However, this theory failed to explain the phenomenon of Newton’s rings – a pattern caused by the reflection of light between two surfaces – a spherical surface and an adjacent flat surface. When viewed with monochromatic light it appears as a series of concentric, alternating bright and dark rings centered at the point of contact between the two surfaces.
Then came the wave theory of light, which was able to explain that the light and dark rings are caused by a phenomenon called interference. An excerpt from the book The Grand Design:
A wave, such as a water wave, consists of a series of crests and troughs. When waves collide, if those crests and troughs happened to correspond, they reinforce each other, yielding a larger wave. That is called constructive interference. In that case, the waves are said to be “in phase”. At the other extremes, when the waves meet, the crests of one wave might coincide with the troughs of the other. In that case, the waves cancel each other, and are said to be “out of phase”. That situation is called destructive interference.
In a picture accompanying this description, Hawking and Mlodinow had written:
Like people, when waves meet, they can tend to enhance or diminish each other.
This particular line set me towards thinking about what would be the theory for information. Information comprises of smalls bits of data that has been meaningfully related and interpreted. In that sense, we can easily apply the corpuscle theory to information.
However, at this point, I must acknowledge that I remembered another line from a Tamil film song Yaakkai Thiri from Aaydha Ezuththu, penned by lyricist Vairamuthu. “All the love in this world is the same, it just keeps traveling from one heart to another.” (உலகத்தின் காதல் எல்லாம் ஒன்றே, ஒன்றே, அது உள்ளங்கள் மாறி மாறிப் பயணம் போகும்!) I was inclined to think that the same principle applies to information and knowledge as well, it originates in one person’s mind and keeps traveling from one to another, especially in the era of social networking tools. This made me realise that information also follows the wave theory. The only variation is that unlike light waves, there is no destructive interference when two waves of information meet each other. It is always a constructive interference.
Let me illustrate. I grew up in Periyar Nagar, a suburban area in Chennai. We had a local library where a group of readers came together and founded the Reader’s Circle. My father and I were regular participants in the weekly meetings where we exchanged thoughts and ideas on dicverse topics. It was the most illuminating experience of my life and helped me improve a lot in terms of logical thinking and communication skills. As part of recruiting more participants, my father would use this analogy: If both you and I had a one-rupee coin each and we decided to exchange them, there is no material difference after the transaction; however, if both of us came with an idea each and decided to exhange them, we are both richer after the transaction. Hence my conclusion that wew only have a constructive interference while two information waves meet. Even in the scenario where I was holding an inaccurate view on something and I come across an alternate viewpoint that is accurate, I only stand corrected with the new information and not nullified in any manner.
The additional twist I came across while thinking about this is that some times, when I come across a new
piece wave 🙂 of information, I can combine it with something else that I already know and come up with new insights or ideas. Please note that I am considering this as something slightly more than just constructive interference. Fredrik Haren, the reknowned speaker on innovation defines idea as nothing but combining two known concepts into something new. Following this, I propose that the combination of information follows a fusion reaction, similar to what happens in the core of our sun, generating all that heat and energy. It is no coincidence that whenever I get a new idea, I get into a state with a lot of increased energy. 😉
Combining all of these, let me briefly state the key postulates of my grand M-theory of information and knowledge:
1. Information follows the wave-particle duality, similar to all other matter in the universe.
2. In wave state, it undergoes only constructive interference while meeting other waves.
3. Information particles can undergo fusion with each other generating new insights and associated “energy”
I have named it as M-thoery, not only as a reference to the emerging M-theory of the universe, but also because M is the first letter of my given name, so it made a lot of sense to appropriate it, before somebody else laid a claim to it! 😉
Do share your thoughts and views through the comments.