If reality hacking is the art and science of manipulating the information substrate, then what is information?
Information is the stuff of communication, information is meaning. But what is that? In order to avoid messy linguistic minefields, we shall use information in numeric form, digital form.
Why digital? John Archibald Wheeler, a collaborator of both Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, said of reality: “What we call ‘reality’ arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions.”
Yes and no. On and off. 1 and 0. The information substrate’s atom, its basic unit, is the bit.
So, consider the following sequence:
1 1 1 1 1 1 1 ?
What is the next element of the sequence? Obviously it is 1 again. The entire, potentially endless sequence of 1s can be reduced to a simple algorithm. There is no new information being imparted by the sequence.
Although there seems to be more information in the next sequence, it turns out to be just as predictable:
1 2 1 2 1 2 1 2 1 ?
Simple enough: The next number is 2. There is a pattern that allows prediction. All patterns are compressible into an algorithm, and once you have obtained the algorithm there is no need for further data transmission.
The more predictable a signal is, the less information it conveys. Conversely, the more information a sequence contains, the less predictable it is, the more random it is.
Restated: Information is Uncertainty. Information is Entropy.
Consider this sequence:
56 829 3 1929 3526 7 22 803 4 74 ?
This seems like a completely random string of numbers (in fact I have entered it at random). This means it is difficult if not impossible to predict what the next number will be because the sequence is irreducible. This also means that the next number in the sequence will contain more information than the missing numbers in the previous two sequences.
If a message cannot be compressed or deduced from a small portion of that message, then it has more information than a message whose entire content can be predicted using some pattern.
What does this have to do with reality hacking?
If reality hacking has to do with the manipulation of information, then the amount of entropy, the amount of surprise involved in receiving and transmitting a message is crucial. If one presents a bland exterior to others then one is behaving like a predictable number sequence can be easily dismissed. Behaving according to stereotype is behaving predictably.
Conversely, when a flash mob appears suddenly, performs a seemingly random act, and disappears, then entropy has been introduced into the consciousness of all observers, the predictability of reality becomes shattered. Anything could happen. Reality has become hacked.
This works on an individual scale. If one behaves predictably and expects predictability from daily life then there is no new information being introduced. If one acts randomly and is able to handle more uncertainty then one becomes open to new information. One’s own reality has become hacked.
When was the last time you were open to new information? As Robert Anton Wilson put it, if your reality is becoming more exciting, more stimulating, sexier, then this is a clear sign of new information. Conversely if one’s reality becomes more routine, more predictable, more boring, then no more new information is being introduced.
The practice of reality hacking, therefore, is the intentional introduction of entropy and surprise into one’s experience.
The most tedious, most boring people are the ones who already know ‘what’s what’ and feel no need to learn anything new. This is an attitude, not a reflection of actual knowledge. Narrow-minded people often know very little, but they act as if that tiny bit of knowledge can account for anything else that may arise. This is the real danger of a little knowledge as described by the old saying. This is called neophobia.
Reality hacking is an intentional cultivation of neophilia. It is a conscious love of uncertainty and randomness. Reality hacking is hacking open the calcified knowledge structures that prevent the introduction of entropy, on the individual and the societal levels.
Does this sound interesting? Or have you heard it all before?