Information Originates in Symmetry Breaking
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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We find symmetry attractive. It interests us. Symmetry is often an indicator of the deep structure of things, whether they be natural phenomena, or the creations of artists. For example, the most fundamental conservation laws of physics are all based in symmetry. Similarly, the symmetries found in religious art throughout the world are intended to draw attention to deep spiritual truths. Not only do we find symmetry pleasing, but its discovery is often also surprising and illuminating as well. For these reasons, we are inclined to think that symmetries are informative, and that symmetries contain information. On the other hand, symmetries represent a kind of invariance under transformation. Such invariance implies that symmetrical things contain redundancies. Redundancy, in turn, implies that the information content of a symmetrical structure or configuration is less than that of a similar nonsymmetrical structure. Symmetry, then, entails a reduction in information content. These considerations present us with somewhat of a paradox: On the one hand, many symmetries that we find in the world are surprising, and surprise indicates informativeness. On the other hand, the surprise value of information arises because it presents us with the unexpected or improbable, but symmetries, far from creating the unexpected, ensure that the known can be extended through invariant transformations. How can this paradox be resolved?
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