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May 27, 2017

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Simplicity to manage complexity

Traveling to Traverse City by Lake Michigan in the U.S. in cold, rainy October, serendipity struck in funny ways. In a bookshop next door to the renovated Art Deco State Theatre movie-house run by film director Michael Moore, I picked up a 2010 book by Serbian physicist Vlatko Vedral on "Decoding Reality," which sees the world through the lens of quantum information. I read the book in Boston, right in the midst of Hurricane Sandy as it tore through the East Coast of the U.S., demonstrating the frightening power of Nature. Stopping in the MIT Coop bookshop, I picked up more books on information theory. It blew my mind how modern quantum physics has begun to integrate the world in a new theory of information, almost as a theory of everything.

Around 300 B.C., the ancient library of Alexandria had perhaps 500,000 scrolls. Its existence spread the knowledge of mathematics from the Arabs to the Greeks and the Romans.

Information and knowledge was used by a small elite to control empires. The Industrial Revolution was a revolution created by science and technology. The New Industrial Revolution is a revolution of information. The arrival of the Internet changed the game by making knowledge accessible to all. By 2010, Google estimated that the world published 2.2 million books annually out of 130 million books in existence. Smartphones in the hands of millions created network power, which was revealed by the impact of Social Media on the Arab Spring revolutions.

Physicists like Vedral are now pushing the envelop by explaining reality or our perception of reality in terms of quantum information theory, since we imagine reality and today process images of reality in terms of digitized information.

Holograms are virtual images of reality.

All theories are really compressions of large amounts of uncertain and complex information into simple laws or principles, with which we try to predict the future. We reduce complexity into simplicity by explaining natural phenomenom in relatively simple equations or mathematical language.

The most famous equation is Einstein's theory of relativity,

E=mc², which explained that matter contains energy equal to its mass times the square of the speed of light.

Reality is today translated into digitized information of bits and bytes (0 and 1), which computers today process into knowledge, using complex mathematics.

A simple picture taken can be reduced to 30 kilobytes of information, but a top-rate camera is now capable of taking the same picture with 20 megapixels.

That has information content of 30 or more megabytes or1,000 times more information for the same picture.

What this means is that if you have one of the top-range cameras, you do not need to have optical (telescope) zoom to see a distant object, you simply blow up your picture with digital zoom.

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