Saturday, June 11, 2011

It From Bit

Here is a video of a panel talking about digital physics, the description of the world as discrete instead of continuous. John Wheeler gave this the memorable phrase "it from bit".

From the World Science Festival, the following video has these participants:

Skip the first 11:40 of introductions to get at the start of the panel discussion...

At 40:30 Fredkin points out that our universe as a simulation means that "the universe", i.e. "the computer", is somewhere else and what we call reality is just a consequence of that machine running its computations.

At 45:00 Seth Lloyd counters Fredkin with the standard physicist view which is that the world itself if the computer.

At 1:24:00 Seth Lloyd explains why this new view of physics as computation is important. This bit of the discussion arises in the context of looking at Conway's game of Life and seeing how a medium that can support computation can give rise to complex entities. They make the point that all of life is like viruses in that they seize the underlying computational machinery (in this case molecules and chemistry) and use the rules to create emergent complexity, i.e. "life", at a higher level. As he points out, this is where physics as computation can explain complexity whereas traditional physics simply has no power to explain the complexity around us.

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