Information Paradox

The black hole information paradox raises a lot of questions. When something goes into a black hole some theories state that ‘physical information’ could be gone. This means that physical states would evolve into the same state as each other. Why is this a paradox? Because the value of a wave function of an organism at a certain point in time should be able to determine the value of this organism at any other time. I am not actually sure how the black hole contradicts this because if we know things will devolve into the same state then aren’t we still conjecturing a known value based on a current observation?

Stephen Hawking’s final co-authored paper (Black Hole Entropy and Soft Hair) continues to challenge us here. Hawking and black holes have gone way back. Einstein’s general relativity had three factors for black holes. They were mass, charge and spin. Hawking added a fourth factor called temperature. Because heat is lost into space the fate of the black hole would be to lose its physical information and no longer be observable. Hence the information paradox was born.

However Hawking’s final paper makes some progress on the paradox. A black hole’s entropy can be measured in a non random way by the photons around it. These photons on the black hole’s border (event horizon) are called soft hair. The problem that remains is a question of how much of the black hole’s entropy is measured in the soft hair. We know the soft hair may change when an object enters a black hole (which changes the black hole’s heat which changes its entropy). But what if this doesn’t have all its measurements?

Still, the implication is that even when things disappear into a black hole they still are there in some way, they are measurable, we just can’t measure them. So when a black hole disappears? Do we know nothing of what entered into it? Does the rabbit go into the magic hat only for us never to know the trick?

But here I would really like to argue we do know the trick. Sure the information we know goes into the black hole and as it evaporates we really don’t know what is going on in there. However why should we assume anything fishy is going on in the black hole just because we can’t see it? If there are really laws of physics than why would these be violated in a space we can’t see?

The information paradox then presents us with its own sort of paradox about information itself. The laws of physics may say information is not lost but what we know is not that information is lost, only that we don’t have it. Therefore the paradox itself is not even capable of drawing its own conclusions, namely that we know that we know less and that we know we should not know less. In reality we only know that we know less and we know we should know the same.

In the so-called Information Age we know more, or at least our systems know more, but that hardly means we act on what we know. Memories are hurt by always having knowledge at ones fingertips. The amount of information today is its own sort of entropic chaos where the more there is to know the more alternatives to the truth there is. We are told we know now more than ever but we spend more time than ever alienated from our natural observable environment so we know everything except for what is actually there.

Our minds act like black holes. We know what enters them, we don’t know what comes out. It must be some result of what came in but the links between the elements appear random. We search for ways to string our theories together. But we are left with humble pie. We only know what we do not know.

Is this our political ideology today? Has the internet created a black hole of sorts where the real nature of life simply cannot compete with what is on the screen? Has our capacity to consume information become so overwhelming that the real can no longer be even remembered? With information, true and false, petty and sublime, all at our fingertips, has history, has a contingency between time and space completely evaporated into the immediate individual?

Such is the assumption, but the internet too is a real place of sorts. It uses real energy, costs real money. It is not accessible to the poor, who live in a state of reality, where covid and climate change aren’t up for a debate of hoaxes. Where populism isn’t code for fascism, where the politics of neoliberal austerity and war can’t be obscured, let alone tolerated.

Optimistically let’s remember that what actually happens when information loses meaning is not that the world becomes a maze of horrors, of conspiracies, of difference, of conflict. What actually happens when information can no longer be interpreted is that we are left with nothing but naked reality. We cannot be fooled when we are all naked. In the face of capitalism’s utter failure to provide for the poor and for the planet there is no truth but what is right in front of us. What we have in front of us is a giant polluting wasteful violent ridiculous excuse of a mess. Most of the world isn’t making it.

Do not listen for a second to the naysayers who say there is “no left”. Such naysayers are stuck in the ideological realm, the post-reality that only exists as long as there is an “I”. We hear the proud ones saying “there is no left”. Which is always of course code for the cry for help “I am the left, no one is with me”.

We must listen to Martin Luther King in his final most radical moments. Look around at the response to COVID crisis. Where capitalism has failed, people have succeeded. The mutual aid, rising miraculously from networks of the poor in times of crisis who have recognized as Ralph Nader puts it “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” What makes someone “left?” Is there anything more left than going out into the world and helping your neighbor, when you yourself can barely put clothes on your back, food in your stomach?

Perhaps we long for a more systematic victory for the left. As states fail and turn fascist we wonder where the left has gone. The left is here. Where it always has been. In the hearts and minds and goodness of the people. The system is designed against, rigged against, such solidarity. We should want a systematic return of the left, in positions of power, organized not just in communities or families but in an international way. However such power can only be built. There is no energy for despair or division when such odds are against the poor people of the world.

Why is there no “left”? Well most people live paycheck to paycheck, in war, in chaos, in crisis, without a job, without knowing what will happen tomorrow or who will decide it. Some leave it to God, some wonder how there could be one. The left, the solidarity between those left behind is overwhelming. But we can’t forget how many people, no matter how they define their struggle, are already there, acting as part in a whole, following a calling, organized politically, economically, spiritually, around the exterior, the world which made us, the people which bind us.

Of course the challenge always is beyond the radical nature of survival against the grain of cruelty, against the grain of the rich and powerful saying: your life is expendable. We are radical just for surviving when some people are indifferent and often intolerant to our very existence. The question is though not how we can survive today, how we can help our sisters, brothers and non binary folks survive today. The question always is about our political tomorrow. How will the logic of tomorrow cut against the capitalist logic of the moment? The moment which always needs to be growing, profiting, on the move. How can the logic of existence for its own sake, for the sake of simple sustainable love cut against the avalanche of junk for sale and the avalanche of people left behind.

Such is the need for organized socialism, as expressed as more than the noble individual, but rather the noble society. Where one is not defined as an individual for how socialist or how generous they are. Rather socialism must be baked not into the individual but rather the very relationship. For what is an individual without a relation? How could we even conceptualize any one thing without its relation to another? How is difference to the outside not the very form in which one coherent subject is formed?

What we must aim for is not to find heroes but rather to create a society where the heroic is normal, expected and necessary. For every day we silence our heroes. We plug our ears to the overwhelming kindness of others and rather seek narratives of people’s worst qualities. We look to the difference rather than the shared interest. Let’s stop ignoring the greatness of every one of us. How hard it is to make it under capitalism and how many people do so much more.

Organizing such a force politically is a challenge even if we know that most people are on the side of the left. But we acknowledge that most people are so poor and beaten down that surviving for one’s life and one’s community is first priority. In the same sentence we say: there is no left!

Really? Is it that easy? The first step to growth in the non-capitalist sense is loving and honoring exactly where one is at this moment in time. Once we do that, we know that person, we know what can be done, what can’t be and what must be. We know our fate as much as we know our failure. From this moment of radical love for the self where the ego collapses we see the Other emerging as the first and last priority, the inescapable obligation that is inevitably returned to us in equal form.

From here we no longer ask personal questions of how we have failed or of what the left is to the I. Rather we see how a whole world of organisms can be organized as a unit. With each doing what they can, each failing radically, with each success being even more radical precisely because it persevered through failure.

We now see no way forward except through the Other. We try expressing this in personal ways but it leaves us on an island, proud of ourselves, horrified by society. The next inevitable step is socialism. The next step, which can’t be avoided, is the normalization of love through its political expression. We are no longer romantic heroes. We are sustainable, ordinary, real and dependent Matter. Flawed, in need of love, with socialism running in our veins, nothing more and nothing less than the way of being in the world.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com