From Incarnation to Encryption

And God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”  (Genesis 1:3)

Twenty-first Century man measures: “And how many kilobytes of information is that?”

I am fascinated by the modern notion that everything that happens in the universe can be understood, measured and stored as data.  James Gleick in the 8 July 2011 issue of DISCOVER magazine writes:

“The universe, by existing, registers information … by evolving in time, it processes information.”

The existence of the entire universe and all its activity from a macro- to micro- level can measured as information.  Quantum engineer Seth Lloyd of MIT says to date everything that has occurred in the universe, down to every activity of every particle amounts to about 1090 bits of information.  Our entire universe is now quantifiable in numbers which can be crunched in countless ways through computers.

In 1948, the transistor was born in Bell Telephone Labs.  This is the same year, according to Gleick that elsewhere in the Bell Labs, Claude Shannon wrote a a mathematical theory of communication.  It is his thinking which began the conversion of the universe to a measurable form which could then be manipulated through computers.

1951 brought us the concept of the kilobit.  In 1972 thanks to the engineers at IBM whose hardware processed information in 8-bit pieces, we came to our term the byte.   Soon we were speaking in terms of the megabyte, 8 million bits.  By 1991 ever grander terms were needed to name the amount of information being handled – thus the zettabyte (1021 bytes) and the yottabyte (1024 bytes).

Gleick reports that in 1970 a computer with a megabyte of memory could be purchased for $4,674,160 and it took an entire room to hold the necessary transitors.  By 1982, a megabyte could be held on one circuit board costing $36,000.  By 2010, a terabyte (1000 gigabytes) disk drive which fits into the palm of your hand was selling for $100.00.

Digitalizing Our Selves

My lifetime spans approximately the age of the kilobyte to the cheap terabyte.  I am utterly fascinated by how information theory combined with mathematics has made our digital world possible.  I continue to be amazed by a technology that I generally resist.  But now I travel with laptop (my oldest technology!), tablet, cell phone, GPS and digital camera.  A world which did not exist when I was born now accompanies me wherever I go.

The theology of the incarnation contemplates the mystery of God becoming flesh.  Information theory digitalizes all of reality into bits and bytes and opens to us many other mysteries of the universe – but it does not change empirical reality into bytes, but only can re-image all of creation in an electronic form.   It is a de-incarnation of reality re-imagining it all as information stored in digital form.   It has however allowed theory to be worked out in computers which then translates into the creation of new ideas, models, and products.

See also my blog:  Knowledge and Wisdom, Fact and Truth

3 thoughts on “From Incarnation to Encryption

  1. Pingback: Knowledge and Wisdom, Fact and Truth | Fr. Ted's Blog

  2. Pingback: The Word, The Information, and The Bit (PDF) | Fr. Ted's Blog

  3. Pingback: The Word, The Information, The Bit (IV) | Fr. Ted's Blog

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