On the reflection of life, information, space, and time


This particular post might not be important for others, so feel free to skip. I sat now typing due to my brain screaming, trying to convince myself to write this. Perhaps as a memento, or just to dump the thought, so to speak. Regardless, I’m feeling that I have to write this so that in the future I can reflect it back and remember what a journey my life has been. And finally I got past a difficult times.

By the name of Allah, Most Gracious and Most Merciful,

I know religion is a personal thing, but so does my current thought. As a fellow human being let me ask my fellow readers to be a little bit more inclusive and express my thought as it flows. For fellow muslims, join me by saying bismillah as a sign of unity. For non-muslims friends, don’t let it bother you. Just treat it as a personal quirks, as a sign grateful and peace.

It was after I finished my Shubuh (Dawn) prayer that I began to type. The collective thought, however, has already been piling up since weeks ago. As I began to reflect back into late December 2019, this feelings just can’t be suppressed anymore and waiting to be compressed into written form. Some depressing things happens, as also some happiness. Changes are constant thing in life, so I learned it bit by bit. There are low and high time. Small and wide space. But I keep trying to move on, into the promise of entropy.

Speaking of entropy, this whole blog started because I am feeling disappointed in life.

In 11 September 2019, B. J. Habibie, a technopreneur, engineer, and a former president of Republic of Indonesia, has passed away. It was so shocking to me and emotional. Over my whole life, I’ve heard key figures, persons, and significant other, told me how Habibie brings about change to us. If I were to use an analogy like Erdos Number or Social Graph, perhaps it is safe to say that my whole life were closely impacted by him in personal way. So I have a wish that one day, I was able to talk with him directly. In 11 September 2019, that wish was guaranteed to never happen.

Habibie was very inspiring. He is a good role model among politician, astonishing engineer, historically romantic, and impactful. I aspired to like science (specifically math and physics) because of how my uncle used to talk about him. Although his time in ITB (Bandung Institute of Technology) was short, it is enough to made me want to study there. His stories about Germany made me want to work there too, just to experience it. Lastly, he is the reason why East Timor became independent from Indonesia, which in turn, made it possible for me to eventually met a person that is going to become my wife.

The unstable tendencies in politics in 2019 and how social media works reveals how ugly society can be. Watching twitter feeds filled with accounts (and fake accounts) shout each other with non-conducive discussion made me realized that intellectual chaos is real. I also realized how powerless I am as an individual. An opinion of an honest citizen can be overwhelmed by fake bots easily, spreading hate and misinformation. Entropy-wise, the information are averaged to be not meaningful at all.

The nail in the coffin was perhaps, COVID-19 pandemic that we already saw from the news in December. I was really-really disappointed by how the government did. Or rather, not doing. They ignore the entire crisis and people were powerless. It was a chaos and I couldn’t really understand why we can’t be that united against a real crisis like this. There has to be some insentive, I know. But it is a real emergency and things are moving to slow. At the beginning, I was depressed on how myself see the possible future. If Murphy’s Law going to say that bad thing can happen, well, I hope I’m not caught up in that.

I was supposed to fly to Japan for a job interview. I was real close on making a good stride of “visiting Japan, like I always want to do” and “working in Europe, possibly Germany”, as if killing two birds with one stone. I also found an interesting way to contribute on open source software via Kubernetes and Nix contributions. My dad who was recently retired and wished to go Hajj to Mecca, changed his mind. Things were changing and it was not a good change. Everything was cancelled.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, I experienced something different. My usual “free” (as in free to act) nature was suddenly constrained. I told myself to self-quarantine, avoiding spreading COVID-19 unknowingly. I refrained myself from travelling (which is an activity that I really like) and doing sport (like badminton). Things has been so stressful. I managed to get pass that but everything about me is never going to be the same after that.

It was the disappointment.

It really was the disappointment that breaks me. Seeing myself struggling in the hope of keeping my family safe, while at the same time seeing stupid people doing stupid things everyday. Endangering others in all sorts of mean. I lose faith. I thought, “Dear God, why these stupid people survives who endanger others survives, while all these innocents died because of them? What are you trying to show me?”

When I finally got hit with COVID-19 myself, I thought I was going to die. Die worthlessly, contributing nothing to society, while not finding my happiness as well. I feel like there’s no point in living.

I did survived though, but my perspectives shifted. Almost everything doesn’t feel the same way again. I’m not sure if it was due to stress or not, I felt increasing anxiety as the date for me talk in a software conference approaches. I also lost the enthusiasm I have towards the job I love. There’s not just enough inner gratification for me to motivate myself. I even wondered if asking a salary payraise will improve my motivation, because it is the most primitive source of happiness. I mean, who doesn’t like money?

Things got even worse when I lose any material appreciation towards value or money. I imagined if I were suddenly became a billionaire, it will not change a thing towards my mental health. It gets really painful. I’m afraid that I will jeopardizes the place where I worked. I’d rather resign and suffer myself, rather than doing half-assed worked because I couldn’t function and risks the trust my friends put in me. My pride won’t allow this.

Thus I began planning my resignation. I was thinking that perhaps if it is difficult to work on the things you care (because you are afraid to be disappointed), then maybe it would be easier to work professionally in the things that you don’t really care. So the connection was just purely professional. For example, I don’t care about Go, perhaps it is easier if I work on coding in Go?

I’m starting to write this blog, with the intention on learning Javascript again. After all, the easiest job to get for Software Developer is web application development.

In this period, I feel numb to almost everything. Things that I do, now I found it lacks of joy. I can’t enjoy myself playing games anymore. Playing games are the things that I initially thought would never waver until I grew up old. I thought I always loved it. For some reason, now I feel indifferent. When I woke up, I couldn’t think of anything that made me excited to get thru the day, or waiting for a weekend. Why wait for a weekend, when there’s nothing you want to do anyway?

One by one, my routines got lost. I lost the joy of watching anime/movies. I lost the joy of making a music playlist. I lost the joy of reading. Etc. By the time I was writing this, outside my actual responsibilities, only badminton made me eager to do it. I even realized now that I only play badminton, not because I want to play badminton, but because I want to interact with people. Same thing with playing monster hunter games, etc.

At this point of saturation, it dawns on me the function of religion. As a muslim now I understand the function of faith. You can rationalize faith all you want, but faith can be independently achieved without logic. Now I appreciate the value of it. It feels liberating having to believe on something without having to make a rational logic and exhaustive train of thought. You kind of living in the moment.

Due to this change of mindset, I began to switch my thinking towards my other goal in life. But now, I tried to eliminate the constraints by making it not mandatory at all. As an example, imagine you have an activity that you want to do. But you didn’t do it because of some reasons. In the next step, imagine if the blockers were hypothetically gone. Would you still do it?

Sometimes we put unreasonable goal upon ourselves, and eventually it is suffocating. I was the same. I make this blog with a promise that I want to write articles every week. It didn’t happen, and it stressing you out. Rather than that, now I feel at ease by thinking: “I make a blog, so that I can write my thoughts, whenever I want to do. It doesn’t matter when, but when I do, this blog is here to store my thought.”

Apply this to everything…

“I will make friends today, in case later on I will appreciate the beauty of friendship”

“I’m going to learn this language, in case when someday I decided to master it, I didn’t have to do it from scratch.”

“I’m going to do this… Because someday I will die, and then none of it matters.”

You will be surprised that some activities became enjoyable when you think that at the end it doesn’t even matter. Just like what Linkin Park said. If I were to quote some muslim proverbs as well, you got to prepare for death. But do it not because you are afraid and disappointed. Do it like you want to greet an old friend.

Now that finished my ranting, let me get to the point now.

At some phase in my life, I was obsessed with math and physics. I thought it was the sure way to find the truth about God, in a rational approach. If money didn’t matter, or if somehow we have an ideal government that fully supports its citizens with their ideal dream, I was really sure I’m going to try to become a polymath. I like writing, math, and physics. My love for gaming was driven by my passion to write meaningful and impactful games. Which of course, needs writing, math, and physics theory/knowledge/skills.

Life dictates that I must pursue my goals realistically. I gave up on studying formal physics/math when I failed to pass a national physics olympiad. I took CS major instead because it is realistically the cheapest way to succeed at that time. I would never regret this decision.

But my dream is still there. I’m dreaming on finally understanding the secret of life, in a physical sense. The theory of everything was hinged upon the idea of unifying gravity with quantum mechanics. As I learn more, I feel like it’s a behemoth of task. I was perhaps will never be able to experience it in my lifetime. I’m not Einstein, so it’s not realistically possible to solve this myself. There’s also no guarantee there comes another Einstein that will solve this. But do we have to wait? I don’t think so.

If I were to ask myself, “would you rather figure it out yourself, or uncovering the secrets, even though it was found by others?” I would rather learn the truth, regardless from where.

“Would you rather stop trying, or just trying aimlessly and fail?” I would rather try and be proven fail, rather than not trying at all.

“Would you rather forget the problem, or be mocked by others in an attempt to solve it?” I’m not trying to “solve” it, as arrogant as it may seem. I’m trying to understand it. I believe it is a fundamental human desire to understand thing. I want to know the answer

After I answered these question, it is clear for me what I should do. No one has been able to find the answer, so there is no right or wrong. I’m not a physicist, so clearly I’m not in the circle who is close with the problem. Big big probability that what I wrote in the end is nonsense. But I’m going to be really happy when eventually someone will have the answers. Then I can dissect my previous ideas and see where I was wrong. It’s going to be exciting.

The space, time, gravity, and information. I believe it is all related. It could be a personal experience because for some reason my life is an intersection of these concept. I once solved Basel Problem borrowing a concept from gravity. From there, I believe a problem just needs to be perceived from a different perspectives. Spacetime and gravity are proven to be the same thing after a change of perspectives. Now, I want to believe that information is the fundamental concept that gave birth to our notion of spacetime, gravity, and quantum mechanics.

I wrote an article here regarding this, believing that someday someone will prove it to be true. It is a simple idea I’ve thought about in a long time, that information entropy and physical entropy is not mere coincidence to be in the same form.

I want to believe that dimension such as time and space can be recovered under the assumption/first principle that interaction is caused by information transfer. In the case of space, such as distance. The axis is created due to the correlation of information. For example when several signals are coming and observed, we can’t really tell the direction where the signal came without some kind of reference. Thus, in the case of no signal correlation, we can only measure a 1D distance. It is because of additional information that we can conclude there exists several dimensions in space.

The problem with this line of thinking is how to define time itself. If entropy is more likely to increase, then it will give time a preferred direction. Can we prove that time does raise from the increase of observable information? I was hoping to know the answer. Googling won’t help unless I am within a circle of physicist that usually up to date with the research. That would be unfeasible for me.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago. My son was born. It was a refreshing change of pace. I suddenly have a space and time for thinking about everything in my life. As I craddled my son and feeling his heartbeat, I realized that the key was a reflection. It felt like a revelation, and I suddenly at peace. For a brief moment, I felt like I understood everything and got a hint.

The remaining piece of puzzles were to put this into an equation from first principle, in which existing framework can be derived. I wish I can see it finally been completed in my lifetime.

It doesn’t matter who will eventually solve it. I just can’t wait anymore.

Rizky Maulana Nugraha

Written by Rizky Maulana Nugraha
Software Developer. Currently remotely working from Indonesia.
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