Two Bits

I was listening to the Jerry Garcia Band shortly after Jerry died and distinctly remember being in awe that I was hearing his voice and music though he was no longer around.  I was reminded of this episode the other night while reading a book about Information Theory.  The author shows how a theory developed to improve telecommunications in the 1940’s revolutionized our understanding of computing and the cosmos.  Behold the power of the bit!  In fact, the author  shows that information is at the heart of both Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics.  He discusses that Life itself can also be understood as a fight to propagate information in a universe that is constantly crumbling into a completely dissipated stasis.  DNA, for example, has one job and is remarkably effective at it.  It replicates information.  Even evolution is really all about making sure information can be preserved.

Unfortunately the author neglects what seems like the most interesting question of all:  why?  Why is DNA driven to replicate?  Why is there something deep inside all of us that desires to preserve our information through art or posterity?  In fact anciently the greatest curse of an angry god was to cut off ones posterity so as to be left without root or branch.  Why was that such a devastating threat?  Back then there was only one way to ensure your information would be carried on when you left: a large posterity.  Today there are thousands of ways to store bits about yourself.  People go nuts over YouTube, blogs, and Facebook because there are now venues to preserve in some small measure our own information.

Fame was never about money or glory but about being remembered, about preserving a part of your own information.  So what do you want to be remembered for?  If you could capture one thing about your life that would be immortalized, what would it be?  Would it be something that would improve the lives of later generations, or would it be a waste of space like some JackAss stunt?

Jerry Garcia left libraries worth of hi-fidelity information.  What will your two bits be?


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