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FQXi BLOGS
August 25, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Guest post: Charles H. Bennett [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Jan. 8, 2014 @ 17:22 GMT
Unfortunately, not everybody that we invited to this year's FQXi conference is able to attend due to other commitments. But while physicist and information theorist Charles H. Bennett of IBM Research cannot be on Vieques Island in person, he has put together a blog post, and slides for the talk that he would have given (attached).

From Charles:

"Unable to attend the Vieques conference in person, I am following it online from chilly New York. Seeing that this afternoon's topics include biological complexity, I wanted to highlight the need for a mathematically rigorous and non-anthropocentric definition of that which increases when a self-organizing system organizes itself. Many have tried to treat such complexity as a kind of "organized information" (in distinction with mere randomness) and measure it in informational units like bits, but I think that is a mistake, in part because it is hard to draw clean distinction between organized and disorganized information. Stimulated by Sean Carroll's and Scott Aaronson's thoughts on the topic at a previous FQXi conference, I argue that the proper measure is "logical depth," the computation time (or other dynamic computation resource) required by a universal computer to generate the object in question from a near-incompressible description.

"The attached pdf slides discuss other topics relevant to the current conference, including the quantum origins of randomness and the ambiguity of the past. The two penultimate slides suggest that logical depth may even have relevance in ethics, while the last slide summarizes the relation among several kinds of entropy, which was a topic for discussion yesterday." 

attachments: Bennett_FQXi_Vieques_2014.pdf

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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Jan. 8, 2014 @ 18:28 GMT
I am thinking that there is a possibility to describe the biologic complexity: it is possible, today, to write a multi-cellular organism simulation (for example the Caenorhabditis elegans); so that the complexity of a biological life can be defined like the shortest program that simulate a biological life (Kolmogorov complexity).

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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Jan. 8, 2014 @ 18:39 GMT
I am thinking that the shortest program length, measured in bits, of a life can be equal to the dna length in bits for optimal life (life that have not more evolution in an environment).

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Jan. 9, 2014 @ 16:03 GMT
Charles Bennett,

Is information and biological complexity really the result of mathematical computations? But where is this "universal computer"? Is there any EVIDENCE of a layer of infrastructure that performs computations anywhere in the universe? What is information if the universe is NOT performing any computations?

- Lorraine Ford

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Jan. 10, 2014 @ 16:08 GMT
Charles, sorry you had to suffer the cold with the rest of us poor souls. Your presentation, however, was quite nice and thanks for sharing it. (Seriously, though -- entangled hippies? Only our generation can truly appreciate that reference.)

My reaction:

On the premise that an omniscient god would know past, present and future -- it doesn't seem feasible to me that such a god would make distinctions between past, present and future. Then the conclusion that even god doesn't know the outcome of a specific binary event doesn't hold. I think the flaw is equating our incomplete knowledge with nature's complete measurement functions.

The polarized pupil -- like Adam and Eve ("Who told you that you were naked?") -- has a choice of whether to be embarrassed or not when exposed to public information. His self-knowledge is also self-limiting, in that what his brain-mind processes ("I am horizontally polarized and have never been otherwise") is discretely entangled with the apparatus (brain-mind), not with the continuous reality independent of apparatus. That we -- representative of Adam and Eve -- choose to be embarrassed at being exposed, is also a product of self-limited knowledge. It could have been otherwise, could it not?

And as long as you spoke of common era Jerusalem and the Sanhedrin, what of the words of the wise jurist Hillel, "If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am for myself only, who am I? And if not now, when?"

Hillel seems closer to Sean Carroll's picture of static quantum fluctuations and non-equilibrium thermodynamics. The particle has a choice, no matter how long or short a time is available to make the decision. To one yet undecided, the motions of those who have already decided appear random, up to the point that the decision is made.

All best,

Tom

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Jan. 10, 2014 @ 16:54 GMT
Tom,

"I think the flaw is equating our incomplete knowledge with nature's complete measurement functions."

"The particle has a choice, no matter how long or short a time is available to make the decision. To one yet undecided, the motions of those who have already decided appear random, up to the point that the decision is made."

Does the particle have a choice, or is it an illusion and if the process of choosing is an illusion, what creates the illusion of the process?

Isn't the point the decision is made, the point at which the various physical inputs interact, ie the process? Even if the functions are predicable, the factors still have to preform them and it is that act of performance which is the decision event.

Regards,

John M

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Jan. 10, 2014 @ 16:57 GMT
"Isn't the point the decision is made, the point at which the various physical inputs interact, ie the process?"

If so, where are the endpoints?

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John Brodix Merryman replied on Jan. 10, 2014 @ 21:57 GMT
Tom,

As Eckard keeps pointing out, T=0 is the now. We can go T+, or T-

The very concept of endpoints is a descriptive what comes into being and ceases. Since energy is conserved, it doesn't have endings, only transitions. End points apply to form and information.

Regards,

John M

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