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A web novel from around 2008 had an interesting theme:

intelligence, thought, ideas and coherent information are all aspects of a superdimensional force, existing alongside gravity and electricity. Information is substance, and can be manipulated.

However, a similar idea (in a completely different way) appeared as far as in 1971 in Stanisław Lem's Star Diaries (Professor Donda, a short story where it is found out that information can have a critical mass).

What is the origin, or first appearance of this idea in sci-fi, that information is a substance, or a fundamental force?

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  • Link is to a blog? Flagging as too debatable as well.
    – user11295
    Feb 10, 2013 at 8:23
  • The link was not to the blog, but to the main menu of the novel itself. Changed the link to the first chapter. I'm in no way affiliated with the writer, I don't know why did anyone consider this question as spam. The novel Fine Structure itself is well-known enough to be on tvtropes, but if it bothers, just tell and I will remove the link and write the title. I don't know in what way does this question differ from other "first appearance of X in sci-fi" questions.
    – vsz
    Feb 10, 2013 at 12:14
  • 3
    This question seems straightforward to me. You're seeking the first instance of this information-as-force trope.
    – user1027
    Feb 10, 2013 at 16:40
  • 1
    If I cite something outside of SciFi, say religion or philosophy, does that count as an answer?
    – kutschkem
    Jan 10, 2015 at 8:22

2 Answers 2

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This passage from Olaf Stapledon's 1930 Last and First Men, Chapter XV, Part 4 (available at Project Gutenberg Australia) seems to suggest that thought has gravitational mass. Or something like that.

You may wonder how we have come to detect these remote lives and intelligences. I can say only that the occurrence of mentality produces certain minute astronomical effects, to which our instruments are sensitive even at great distances. These effects increase slightly with the mere mass of living matter on any astronomical body, but far more with its mental and spiritual development. Long ago it was the spiritual development of the world-community of the Fifth Men that dragged the moon from its orbit. And in our own case, so numerous is our society today, and so greatly developed in mental and spiritual activities, that only by continuous expense of physical energy can we preserve the solar system from confusion.

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Not sure where the trope first appears in fiction, but there are well known analogies between thermodynamics and information theory. It's quite possible that the trope originated from this relationship - art imitating life, as it were.

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