By painting or drawing, an artist–with skill, with training, and long labor–reconstructs what the eye might see. By contrast, a daguerreotype is in some sense the thing itself–the information, stored, in an instant. It was unimaginable, but there it was. The possibilities made the mind reel. Once storage began, where would it stop? An American essayist immediately connected photography to Babbage’s atmospheric library of sounds: Babbage said that every word was registered somewhere in the air, so perhaps every image, too, left its permanent mark–somewhere.


The universe, which others called a library or an album, then came to resemble a computer. Alan Turing may have noticed this first: observing that the computer, like the universe, is best seen as a collection of states, and the state of the machine at any instant leads to the state at the next instant, and thus all the future of the machine should be predictable from its initial state and its output signals.

The universe is computing its own destiny.

-James Gleick, The Information: A Theory, A History, A Flood