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2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
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2013 Physics of Information
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2010 The Nature of Time
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2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

David Wolpert
Santa Fe Institute

Project Title

A Semantic Information-Theory Model of Reality

Project Summary

Ever since Wheeler discussed 'it from bit', there has been great interest in whether the ultimate nature of reality can be formulated in purely information-theoretic terms, and what insights such a formulation would provide, e.g., as a priori restrictions on the nature of reality. The mathematics of inference devices (ID's) - mathematical abstractions of any physical device that can be used for observation, prediction, or control - provides such an information theory. Already ID theory has provided a non-quantum-mechanical 'uncertainty principle' that restricts the possible nature of reality. This suggests that we formalize reality as the information that a set of ID's have about one another and about other physical variables. A challenge with this approach is that the definition of ID's is too weak to fully capture the concept of semantic information, and contains no notion of distance. I propose to introduce extra structure into ID theory to overcome both of these shortcomings. This extension to ID theory may allow us to capture all testable aspects of physical reality in terms of ID theory, and the mathematics of this extended ID theory should provide very powerful a priori restrictions on the nature of reality.

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