One of my favorite albeit heavily paraphrased quotes from Albert Einstein is his assertion that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. (What he actually said, in his 1936 work “Physics and Reality,” is more longwinded, and includes a digression into Immanuel Kant and the meaning of “comprehensibility,” but he does write “… the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”) In truth, this statement holds back a little. The greater mystery is that the universe is actually capable of self-comprehension.
From a time nearly 14 billion years ago when all matter and energy existed in an exquisitely uniform and boring state, the cosmos has evolved to contain complex structures that—in at least one tiny spot in our solar system—have gained mysterious things like agency and consciousness that compel them to try to decode reality. In doing so they (meaning we) also produce interpreted versions of reality that they place in a “dataome.”
By dataome, I mean all of the data (and the information it contains) that we generate, utilize, and propagate but which is not encoded in our DNA. The dataome encompasses cave paintings to books, flash drives to cloud servers, and all the structures built in service of those things. We exist in an uneasy symbiosis with this dataome, whose interests may not always align with ours even though the information it carries for us is critical for our evolutionary success. That includes the information we create describing our experience of reality itself. [Continue reading…]