Why Information Grows | Cesar A. Hidalgo

Summary of: Why Information Grows: The Evolution of Order, from Atoms to Economies
By: Cesar A. Hidalgo

Introduction

Welcome to the captivating world of information growth as explored by Cesar A. Hidalgo in his book ‘Why Information Grows.’ This intriguing journey delves into the meaning of information, examining its physical nature and how it is present in everything from DNA to objects we use daily. You will also ponder over the fascinating battle between order and chaos within the universe, and discover how our unique planet Earth defies the natural state of entropy. Through this summary, grasp how humans have harnessed the power of information and revolutionized the way we live, communicate, and create networks.

The Physicality of Information

Our concept of information as something intangible is a misconception. Information is a physical order of atoms that exists everywhere, from DNA to computers. Nevertheless, information is meaningless in itself. It is only given meaning through our context and prior knowledge. For instance, letters on a computer screen only have significance because we understand the alphabet. Understanding the physicality of information can provide insight into how we observe and comprehend the world around us.

The Battle Between Order and Chaos in the Universe

The universe is made up of matter, energy, and information, but chaos and order are constantly at odds. Information, or ordered atoms, is rare, while disorder is more common. Entropy, or disorder, is the natural state of the universe, and even smoking a cigarette contributes to the loss of information. Austrian scientist Ludwig Boltzmann was the first to propose this idea, but he was also puzzled by the fact that order was growing on Earth.

The Earth’s Abundant Information

The Earth is unique in its abundance of information, which is due to its mild temperatures. This enables solid matter, like cells and trees, to protect and process information, allowing it to evolve and grow in quantity. The book explains that solids, like trees and humans, are able to compute and take action based on information. The abundance of information on Earth and its computational properties are what make life possible and enable us to transform our environment.

The Unique Information-accumulating Power of Humans

Humans possess a remarkable ability to accumulate and crystallize information through creating products. The products we use every day embody information, which sets us apart from our ancestors.​ Collaboration is essential as individuals are limited in gathering information. This highlights the importance of building new products using collective knowledge from prior generations.

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