Friday, December 18, 2015

Information Theory and the Planetovores

I wanted to point everyone to a great introduction to how information theory is changing the way physicists think of the universe.  The post from PBS is available here.  After a brief recap, I will talk about how this approach works well with The Strange and informs my approach to planetovores.

macro crayon melting -- Chris Dlugosz (flikr)
I apologize in advance if I get some of the science wrong -- I think I get the sense of it right.

Information theory characterizes objects by the number of states that its fundamental particles (think sub-atomic particles like electrons, etc.) can take while the object retains its form.  The more states the fundamental articles can take, the more complex the object.  Entropy can be understood as the reduction in this complexity -- or the reduction of the information content of an object.  The formal understanding of information theory and entropy is less important for our purposes than the interpretation of everything in the universe as being composed of information -- which is intimately tied to complexity.  The more complex the object, the more information is contains.

This expression of the fundamental elements on the universe is entirely consistent with the use of recursions and the information network in The Strange.  One can follow information theory deeper into holographic theory and you can find a sophisticated model for recursions that draw into question even the "reality" of base Earth in the setting.

What interests me most, though, is how to interpret plentovores from this perspective.  In a previous post, I discuss my pitch for the term ontovores -- devourers of reality -- rather than invoking images of planet swallowing space dragons.  The information theory approach to the setting provides a means of elaborating on how planetovores actually consume recursions (and threaten Earth).  If all of reality is made up of information, planetovores must be consuming information.  How can one use this in campaign development?

In the previous post, I emphasized that planetovores actually consume recursions rather than planets (hence my preference for ontovore -- in my home campaign).  The information perspective provides even more clarity and opportunity for their operations.  A planetovore is consuming the information content of a recursion.  This eventually reduces the complexity of the recursion until it is uniform -- uniform temperature, uniform composition, uniform everything.  In a computer science analogue, they reduce the information of a recursion until it is a collection of all zeros.

I like to think that this can happen at both the macro and the micro level.  The giant space dragon can gnaw on the outside of the recursion if you like.  On the other hand, it could be fun if the recursion "interprets" this loss of information in the form of specific agents acting to reduce the information content of the recursion.  While the planetovore gnaws on the outside of the recursion, agents of the planetovore work within the recursion itself.  It is these agents that the PCs are likely to encounter at any given time.

The information approach also opens up entirely new possibilities for the operations of these agents.  It would certainly be fair to interpret the reduction of complexity/information as creatures that are degrading the physical elements of the recursion.  A creature that melts anything it touches would fit the bill.  A creature that consumes energy or even burns everything around it would be straightforward interpretations of these agents.  It is a short step to consider creatures that consume forces like gravity or radiation.

We are not limited to traditional forms of energy and matter, though.  If we do think of these creatures as consuming complexity, many other non-conventional options open up.  A creature could consume the complexity of social relationships.  This would not be as flashy as absorbing light or heat but they could work to breakdown complex social relationships like hierarchy and community.  Imagine a creation that fostered anarchy to feed on the resulting reduction in patterned social interaction.  This approach provides some variety for potential planetovore antagonists.  One could have a traditional monster front with mindless devouring creatures.  Another front could be scientific and working on what looks like vanguard research -- but actually developing efficient methods for consuming energy and matter.  A final front can be attacking social complexity by fostering regionalism, anarchism, and radical independence.  Each of these fronts represents a different strategy for a planetovore seeking to consume all of the information content of the recursion.  Each front seeks to melt different parts of the recursion.

Just an idea - have fun...

Update:  The original post on the ontovores as a "front" is available here.


  1. this is fabulous. thanks for taking the time to write and post this. great ideas all through this.

    i looked through your most recent previous post, "Review of Strange Revelations" but didn't see anything concerning "ontovores." could you be more specific please about which post you were referring to? thanks!

  2. Ahh - I forgot to link to the older post introducing the ontovore interpretation of the planetovores. I recap most of it here but this is the original --