“Grit in the Gears” Costs Energy in Modular Information Systems

Digital information may appear to exist as abstract ones and zeroes, flipping effortlessly from one to another. But in fact there is a minimum amount of energy required to run any computation system, regardless of how “energy efficient” are its component parts. A recent paper from Jim Crutchfield and Alex Boyd at the UC Davis Complexity Sciences Center with Dibyendu Mandal at UC Berkeley shows that there is some inescapable friction, or “grit in the gears” between the levels of organization in an information system.