Large Grants
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Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Andrew J P Garner
National University of Singapore

Mile Gu
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


Vlatko Vedral, National University of Singapore

Project Title

Observer-dependent complexity: The quantum-classical divergence over 'what is complex?'

Project Summary

The most interesting phenomena are complex, lying at the border between order and chaos. Complex systems exhibit rich behaviour, from emergence and self-organization to the ability to perform universal computation. Understanding complexity is thus considered essential to describe nearly all non-trivial phenomena around us, from phase transitions in the physical sciences to life itself. A fundamental concern in complexity science is to formalize our intuition of ‚"what is complex?", into quantifiable values. Statistical complexity achieves this by asking "How much memory must an observer maintain to understand a process?",It has been recently established that the answer to this depends not only on the complex system itself, but also on properties of the observer, who judges the system -- especially if one observer has access to the power of quantum information. This could herald entirely new ways for complexity to behave, opening a new paradigm where "what is complex?", fundamentally depends on the physics of the observer. Our project establishes this by providing a formal framework for the physics of the observer. We examine the extent to which observers can disagree about complexity, and ascertain the consequences of their disagreement, including both in their thermal behaviour and impact on causality.

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