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III. An Organic, Conducive, Habitable MultiUniVerse

1. Quantum Participatory (QBism) Information

This 2017 subsection grew out of Quantum Cosmology and Information Computation entries and elsewhere as it became evident that along with Complex System features (prior section) quantum realms possess a distinct informational quality. While intimated in the 1980s and 1990s by the sage physicist John Archibald Wheeler, Rolf Landauer, David Deutsch, and others, initial 21st century perceptions were of two kinds. The 2000 work Quantum Computation and Quantum Information by Michael Nielsen and Isaac Chuang was mainly about mechanics, qubits, Shannon communications and so on. This school continues apace with many volumes such as Quantum Computer Science by David Mermin (2007) and Quantum Information Theory by Mark Wilde (2nd ed. 2017).

But the other turn sought deeper insights whence natural quantum phenomena is most distinguished by a prescriptive essence. An initial entry may be the 2003 paper Characterizing Quantum Theory in Terms of Information-Theoretic Constraints by Rob Clifton, Jeffery Bub and Hans Halverson, along with by Gennaro Auletta’s 2005 Quantum Information. In 2010 Vlatko Vedral wrote Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information. Later works by Christopher Timpson (2013), Giulio Chiribella, Giacomo D’Ariano, again David Deutsch with Chiara Marletto, Andrei Khrennikov (Foundations of Physics) grew into an expansive model as cited herein.

A collection about nature’s communicative content, as it may pass from a programmable universe to retrospective observations, is an apropos place for J. A. Wheeler’s overall arc of It (sentient entities) from Bit (originally Byte, a code-like basis). His novel theory was that a quantum reality requires some manner of self-aware “measurement, witness, recognition,” to try to gloss, to come into full manifestation. By 2017, this intimation has become a popular default view (Edward Witten interview) for it contains at once an informational source while giving emergent human beings a central role. An embodiment is the Quantum Bayesian or QBism approach advanced by Christopher Fuchs and colleagues, search here and the arXiv preprint site, whence our cognitive inquiries proceed and gain clarity by iterative, more probable, estimations.

2016 Physics of the Observer. www.fqxi.org/grants/large/awardees/list. This is the site for the Fundamental Questions Institute’s latest funding of topical subjects with regard to the ultimate nature of reality and our human presence. FQXi is directed by Max Tegmark at MIT, and endowed by the Templeton Foundation. Some awards are James Crutchfield for Information Thermodynamics of the Observer, Christopher Fuchs and Christopher Timpson on Does Participatory Realism Make Sense?, David Wolpert – Observers as Self-Maintaining Non-Equilibrium Systems, and Accommodating Observers in Fundamental Physics by Sara Walker and Chiara Marletto, whose abstract follows a project summary.

The current request for proposals targets research on Physics of the Observer, both in physics and also in related fields including cosmology, astrophysics, philosophy of physics, complex systems, biophysics, neuroscience, computer science, and mathematics. Many problems in physics and cosmology implicitly or explicitly include an observer. But an understandable tendency within physics to focus on objective phenomena and eschew subjective considerations has led to a general avoidance of discussing exactly what an observer is. While the term "observer" is used frequently in physics and cosmology, it is thus often with the idea that its real meaning is unimportant and "any definition will do". Hence, it is a ripe problem for programs that can be serious and respectable yet foundational and daring.

Accommodating Observers in Fundamental Physics Among the most perplexing problems in modern physics is reconciling our experience of reality with our most fundamental physical theories. Nowhere is this more evident than with observers - physical systems that actively utilize information to affect the world. This behavior seems at odds with the current best physical explanations, because they are all cast as predictions of a single trajectory for the whole universe, specified by an initial state and fixed dynamical laws. To the end of unifying observers' causal power with fundamental physics, we propose a new theoretical framework, called Causal Mechanics. By taking information as a fundamental aspect of physical reality, via the new conceptual tools of the recently proposed Constructor Theory of Information, many of the perplexing dilemmas associated with unifying physics and observers, are resolved. We test Causal Mechanics in cellular automata models, examining how to reconcile information with causal power, as necessary for observers to be active participants in the unfolding of the universe, and local, reversible laws as characterize our universe. (Walker, Marletto)

FQXi Essay Contest 2016. http://fqxi.org/community/essay/rules. The Foundational Questions Institute, conceived and run at MIT by Max Tegmark and funded by the Templeton Foundation, has for some years conducted this popular feature. Prior and present entries are available in full from the home page. A number of books have resulted, search Aguirre, Merala. The topic this time is: Wandering Towards a Goal: How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intentions?, see below. In April 2017 one can click on Essays to access over a hundred. For example, we note World without World: Observer-Dependent Physics by the University of Sydney philosopher Dean Rickles, which cites J. A. Wheeler’s participatory universe model as an answer. Other entries are by George Ellis, Simon DeDeo, Marc Sequin, Mama Promise, George Rajna, Sean Carroll, and Sara Imari Walker, among a multitude.

This year’s theme is: Wandering Towards a Goal – How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intentions? One way to think of physics is as a set of mathematical laws of dynamics. But many phenomena admit another description – sometimes a vastly more useful one – in terms of long-term, large-scale goals, aims, and intentions. Many-body systems can seem hopelessly complex when looked at in terms of their constituents' detailed dynamic motions, but neatly elegant when viewed as attempting to minimize energy or maximize entropy. Living systems efficiently organize their simplest components with the intricate aims of survival, reproduction, and other biological ends; and intelligent systems can employ a panoply of physical effects to accomplish many flexibly chosen goals. How does this work? How do goal-oriented systems arise, and how do they exist and function in a world that we can describe in terms of goal-free mathematical evolution?

Relevant essays might address questions such as: How did physical systems that pursue the goal of reproduction arise from an a-biological world? What general features — like information processing, computation, learning, complexity thresholds, and/or departures from equilibrium — allow (or proscribe) agency? How are goals (versus accomplishments) linked to “arrows of time”? What separates systems that are intelligent from those that are not? What is the relationship between causality – the explanation of events in terms of causes – and teleology – the explanation of events in terms of purposes? Is goal-oriented behavior a physical or cosmic trend, an accident or an imperative?

It from Bit or Bit from It. www.fqxi.org/community/essay. An announcement by the Templeton Foundation project “Fundamental Questions Institute” (FQXi), directed by MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark, for its 2013 essay contest. By the turn of 2014, on this web page can be found the several winning papers. The above title comes from John Archibald Wheeler’s famous phrase, and invites thought pieces about the role of such an ultimate program-like quality in a self-developing universe that seems require, in order to come into full being, its own sentient recognition by phenomenal observers like us.

The past century in fundamental physics has shown a steady progression away from thinking about physics, at its deepest level, as a description of material objects and their interactions, and towards physics as a description of the evolution of information about and in the physical world. Moreover, recent years have shown an explosion of interest at the nexus of physics and information, driven by the "information age" in which we live, and more importantly by developments in quantum information theory and computer science. We must ask the question, though, is information truly fundamental or not? Can we realize John Wheeler’s dream, or is it unattainable?

Aguirre, Anthony, et al, eds. It From Bit or Bit From It?: On Physics and Information. Berlin: Springer, 2015. A collection of 2013 essay winners to this exploration of John Archibald Wheeler’s phrase for a self-activating universe by way of knowledgeable observers as ourselves. First prize went to Matthew Leifer for It from Bit and the Quantum Probability Rule, and seconds to Angelo Bassi, et al for Information and the Foundations of Quantum Theory and Relative Information at the Foundation of Physics by Carl Rovelli (search). Other notables could be Information-Based Physics by Kevin Knuth, and Contextuality: Wheeler’s Universal Regulating Principle by Ian Durham. See also Questioning the Foundations of Physics, a 2012 collection (Aguirre) where again an informational quality becomes the ultimate source and conveyance from universe to human.

Asano, Masanari, et al. Quantum Information Biology: From Information Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics to Applications in Molecular Biology and Cognitive Psychology. arXiv:1503.02515. As an example of the current revolution to join life’s natural genesis with this physical foundation, an international team from Japan and Sweden waxes over how well this deepest informative source can be readily and beneficially integrated with and applied to evolution and intelligence. See also a book length version Quantum Adaptivity in Biology: From Genetics to Cognition by most of the same team (Springer, April, 2015).

We discuss foundational issues of quantum information biology (QIB) -- one of the most successful applications of the quantum formalism outside of physics. QIB provides a multi-scale model of information processing in bio-systems: from proteins and cells to cognitive and social systems. This theory has to be sharply distinguished from "traditional quantum biophysics". The latter is about quantum bio-physical processes, e.g., in cells or brains. QIB models the dynamics of information states of bio-systems. It is based on the quantum-like paradigm: complex bio-systems process information in accordance with the laws of quantum information and probability. This paradigm is supported by plenty of statistical bio-data collected at all scales, from molecular biology and genetics/epigenetics to cognitive psychology and behavioral economics. We argue that the information interpretation of quantum mechanics (its various forms were elaborated by Zeilinger and Brukner, Fuchs and Mermin, and D' Ariano) is the most natural interpretation of QIB. We also point out that QBIsm (Quantum Bayesianism) can serve to find a proper interpretation of bio-quantum probabilities. Biologically QIB is based on two principles: a) adaptivity; b) openness (bio-systems are fundamentally open). These principles are mathematically represented in the framework of a novel formalism -- quantum adaptive dynamics which, in particular, contains the standard theory of open quantum systems as a special case of adaptivity (to environment). (Abstract)

Auletta, Gennaro. Quantum Information as a General Paradigm. Foundations of Physics. 35/5, 2005. The Pontifical Gregorian University physicist philosopher (search) achieves a prescient statement of this welling, historic revision of the essence of substantial materiality.

Quantum–mechanical systems may be understood in terms of information. When they interact, they modify the information they carry or represent in two, and only two, ways: by selecting a part of the initial amount of (potential) information and by sharing information with other systems. As a consequence, quantum systems are informationally shielded. These features are shown to be general features of nature. In particular, it is shown that matter arises from quantum–mechanical processes through the constitution of larger ensembles that share some information while living organisms make use of a special form of information selection. (Abstract, 787)

Bawden, David, et al. “Potentialities or Possibilities:” Towards Quantum Information Science.. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST). Online June, 2014. The City University London, Centre for Information Science, scholar continues his project to broaden appreciations of our distinguishing capacity for knowledge and conversation by finding occasions and roots for it in such substantial physics domains.

The use of quantum concepts and formalisms in the information sciences is assessed through an analysis of published literature. Five categories are identified: use of loose analogies and metaphors between concepts in quantum physics and library/information science; use of quantum concepts and formalisms in information retrieval; use of quantum concepts and formalisms in studying meaning and concepts; quantum social science, in areas adjacent to information science; and the qualitative application of quantum concepts in the information disciplines. Quantum issues have led to demonstrable progress in information retrieval and semantic modelling, with less clear-cut progress elsewhere. Whether there may be a future “quantum turn” in the information sciences is debated, the implications of such a turn are considered, and a research agenda outlined. (Abstract)

Bynum, Terrell Ward. Ethics, Information, and Our “It-from-Bit” Universe. arXiv:1802.02029. The Southern Connecticut State University metaphilosopher (search) continues his project to bring Norbert Weiner and John A. Wheeler’s intimations of nature’s physical, algorithmic, textual and personal essence, along with other views, into these later 2010s. Novel expansions include quantum information theories, and an informational emphasis led by Luciano Floridi. As this perception grows stronger, the extant environment might well be appreciated as a “dynamic data structure.” And if one may gloss, a grand narrative or library of cosmos seems alluded which we are invited and summoned to read and continue. See also Bynum’s Informational Metaphysics in The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Information (2016).

Using information technology, humans have brought about the Information Revolution, which is changing the world faster and more profoundly than ever before. How is this possible? An answer is suggested by comments of James Moor, regarding Logical Malleability, in his classic paper, What Is Computer Ethics?, 1985. The present essay combines Moor's ideas with the hypothesis that all physical entities, including spacetime and the universe as a whole, are dynamic data structures. To show the usefulness of taking such an approach, in both physics and information ethics, a suggested it from bit model of the universe is briefly sketched, and relevant predictions are offered about the future of computer and information ethics. (Abstract)

Given all that has been said above, and also assuming that Loop Quantum Gravity will indeed be confirmed, it is reasonable to conclude that the universe is a single, enormous, incredibly complex, constantly changing data structure. So the data structure of the universe encompasses everything from gigantic galaxy clusters, to large everyday objects like stars, planets, oceans, mountains, buildings, living organisms, grains of sand, and so on, all the way down to nano entities and even remarkably tiny quantum “packets” of space billions of times smaller than a proton. If so, blessed with ideas, laws, tools and methods of classical and quantum information theory, humanity has just begun to analyze, understand, explain, predict — and in many cases construct, manipulate and control — a vast number of objects and processes previously inaccessible, or not well understood, or not yet even in existence. (Conclusion, 14)

Chiribella, Giulio and Robert Spekkens, eds. Quantum Theory: Information Foundations and Foils. Dordrecht: Springer, 2015. University of Hong Kong and Perimeter Institute, Canada physicists edit a significant volume to begin to gather, recognize and establish a 21st century revolutionary about this deepest realm. Typical chapters are Optimal Information Transfer and Real-Vector-Space Quantum Theory by William Wooters, Information Theoretic Postulates for Quantum by Markus Muller, et al, and Reconstructing Quantum Theory by Lucien Hardy. As this section, Quantum Complex Systems, Information Computation Turn, and elsewhere report, an intrinsic physical nature is gaining a new generative dimension and source by way of a dynamic informative content. See also Quantum Theory from First Principles: An Informational Approach (Cambridge, 2017) edited by GC and others.

This book provides the first unified overview of the burgeoning research area at the interface between Quantum Foundations and Quantum Information. Topics include: operational alternatives to quantum theory, information-theoretic reconstructions of the quantum formalism, mathematical frameworks for operational theories, and device-independent features of the set of quantum correlations. Powered by the injection of fresh ideas from the field of Quantum Information and Computation, the foundations of Quantum Mechanics are in the midst of a renaissance. The last two decades have seen an explosion of new results and research directions, attracting broad interest in the scientific community. The variety and number of different approaches, however, makes it challenging for a newcomer to obtain a big picture of the field and of its high-level goals. Here, fourteen original contributions from leading experts in the field cover some of the most promising research directions that have emerged in the new wave of quantum foundations.

Chiribella, Giulio, et al. Informational Derivation of Quantum Theory. Physical Review A. 84/012311, 2011. In an extensive technical paper that has gained notice and peer approval, e.g. Science News for August 13, 2011, Perimeter Institute physicists proceed to explain the quantum realm as guided by and based upon this innate quality. With other recent additions to this section, such as Vlatko Verdal, ought we realize an historic discovery that natural, material reality, of which quantum phenomena are an iconic measure, as tradition knows, is actually a literal, poetic, essential script? By so doing, as SN editor Tom Siegfried, and the authors note, John Archibald Wheeler’s mantra of “it from bit” gains a 21st century verification. And in this case and model are we the “it” selves who are, by virtue of our observation, to choose and activate the cosmos?

In this paper we provide a complete derivation of finite dimensional quantum theory based on purely operational principles. More specifically, our principles are of informational nature: they assert basic properties of information processing, such as the possibility or impossibility to carry out certain tasks by manipulating physical systems. In this approach the rules by which information can be processed determine the physical theory, in accordance with Wheeler’s program “it from bit,” for which he argued that “all things physical are information-theoretic in origin.”

Chiribella, Giulio, et al. Quantum Theory, Namely the Pure and Reversible Theory of Information. Entropy. 14/11, 2012. Chiribella, now Center for Quantum Information, Tsinghua University, with Giacomo D’Ariano and Paolo Perinotti, University of Pavia, join a chorus of physicists who call for a revised “more fundamental understanding” of their field in terms of growing evidence for a natural programmic basis. As often in this regard, a reference is made to John Archibald Wheeler’s digital “It from Bit” of a self-observing, self-acknowledging, participatory cosmos. While the Abstract says “non-technical” this is relative, and its Theory is a “reversible computation of and interaction with a pure environment.” And we note here, as this entry is logged in along with Goyal, Zenil, et al, Dodig Crnkovic and Giovagnoli, and other papers, from a natural philosophy vista they could be seen as coming upon and describing, in contrast to a waning string multiverse, a profoundly vital, self-creating reality by virtue of such genetic-like guidance.

After more than a century since its birth, Quantum Theory still eludes our understanding. If asked to describe it, we have to resort to abstract and ad hoc principles about complex Hilbert spaces. How is it possible that a fundamental physical theory cannot be described using the ordinary language of Physics? Here we offer a contribution to the problem from the angle of Quantum Information, providing a short non-technical presentation of a recent derivation of Quantum Theory from information-theoretic principles. The broad picture emerging from the principles is that Quantum Theory is the only standard theory of information that is compatible with the purity and reversibility of physical processes. (Abstract)

More precisely, when we state that Quantum Theory is a theory of information, we mean that the mathematical framework of the theory can be expressed by using only concepts and statements that have an informational significance, such as the concept of signalling, of distinguishability of states, or of encoding/decoding. Here we refer to “information” and “informational significance” in a very basic, primitive sense: in this paper we will not rely on specific measures of information, such as the Shannon, von Neumann, or Renyi entropies. (1879) The informational concepts used in this paper are connected to the more traditional language of physics by viewing the possible physical processes as information processing events. (1879)

Clifton, Rob, et al. Characterizing Quantum Theory in Terms of Information-Theoretic Constraints. Foundations of Physics. 33/11, 2003. To correct deficiencies in 20th century quantum physics, and to implement the waxing appreciation of “It from Bit” insights of John Archibald Wheeler, a new formulation by the late Rob Clifton, Jeffery Bub and Hans Halvorson (CBH) is proposed which expresses an informational essence. To also accord with Einstein’s views, rather than a “constructive” method which represents complex phenomena out of simple elements, this approach is a “principle” theory based on intrinsic mathematical qualities.

We therefore suggest substituting for the conceptually problematic mechanical perspective on quantum theory an information-theoretic perspective. That is, we are suggesting that quantum theory be viewed, not as first and foremost a mechanical theory of waves and particles, but as a theory about the possibilities and impossibilities of information transfer. (1563)

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