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Current Essay Contest


Contest Partners: Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation

Previous Contests

Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest
December 24, 2019 - April 24, 2020
Contest Partners: Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation
read/discusswinners

What Is “Fundamental”
October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018
Sponsored by the Fetzer Franklin Fund and The Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation
read/discusswinners

Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.
read/discusswinners

Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American

read/discusswinners

How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American
read/discusswinners

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American
read/discusswinners

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American
read/discusswinners

Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American
read/discusswinners

What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams
read/discusswinners

The Nature of Time
August - December 2008
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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Vladimir Fedorov: on 5/18/20 at 12:35pm UTC, wrote Dear Leroy, I greatly appreciated your work and discussion. I am very glad...

Leroy Cronin: on 5/10/20 at 13:00pm UTC, wrote Dear Alyssa, Thanks for your comments. Assembly theory will work for...

Leroy Cronin: on 5/10/20 at 12:50pm UTC, wrote Dear Simon, Thanks for these comments. You are right. I'm developing...

Yutaka Shikano: on 5/4/20 at 22:03pm UTC, wrote Dear Lee, I learned a lot things of the entropies in your essay. Thank...

Alyssa Adams: on 4/30/20 at 22:20pm UTC, wrote Hi Lee! Awesome essay! I really loved learning about this new idea,...

Simon DeDeo: on 4/29/20 at 23:02pm UTC, wrote Hello Lee — Very nice to see your essay in the mix this year! I really,...

Kwame Bennett: on 4/25/20 at 16:23pm UTC, wrote Quantum mechanics is very dynamic

Leroy Cronin: on 4/25/20 at 11:52am UTC, wrote Essay Abstract The Universe appears to be inherently unpredictable,...


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FQXi FORUM
September 17, 2021

CATEGORY: Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest (2019-2020) [back]
TOPIC: Self-Assembling Universes Maximize Novelty by Leroy Cronin [refresh]
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Author Leroy Cronin wrote on Apr. 25, 2020 @ 11:52 GMT
Essay Abstract

The Universe appears to be inherently unpredictable, not just for fundamental reasons from the limits of mathematical proof, or the consequences of quantum mechanics, but also due to how complex systems express or develop new rules at higher levels which emerge independently of their lower levels. However, most of these complex systems are still simple, and have few constraints which places limits on the nature of the unpredictability of the dynamics shown by these systems. Living systems are not only able to exhibit more unpredictable behaviors, but these are intrinsically more novel than the unpredictable behaviors associated with the abiotic universe. In this essay I discuss how a new theory I have been developing, assembly theory, can be used to identify if a given object has been constructed or not by exploring the constraints required for the object to form from undirected or random processes. I try to explain that the more assembled a given a system is, the more of the possible state space is accessible, and hence how both unpredictable and capable of generating novelty the system is. Finally, I argue that living systems are also intrinsically unpredictable in terms of their ability to express novelty and outline a scale of assembly which might provide a way to distinguish living systems from non-living systems.

Author Bio

Leroy (Lee) Cronin is the Regius Professor of Chemistry in Glasgow. His research has four main aims 1) the construction of an artificial life form / work out how inorganic chemistry transitioned to biology / searching for new life forms; 2) the digitization of chemistry; and 3) the use of artificial intelligence in chemistry including the construction of ‘wet’ chemical computers and to self-assemble a chemical brain; 4) The exploration of complexity and information in chemistry. He runs a team of around 60 people funded by grants from the UK EPSRC, US DARPA, Templeton, Google.

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Kwame A Bennett wrote on Apr. 25, 2020 @ 16:23 GMT
Quantum mechanics is very dynamic

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Member Simon DeDeo wrote on Apr. 29, 2020 @ 23:02 GMT
Hello Lee —

Very nice to see your essay in the mix this year!

I really, really like pathway assembly. This may have been something you were telling me about the last time we met in DC—if so, I finally understand it! It is, indeed, computable—and, OK, fine, it's in NP, I think (just because it's a shortest path problem), but the way in which it is computed is quite...

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Author Leroy Cronin replied on May. 10, 2020 @ 12:50 GMT
Dear Simon,

Thanks for these comments. You are right. I'm developing assembly theory to go way beyond biology but look at the intrinsic historhy associated with a given configuration in a state space. This will apply to everything; quantum states; letters; social systems and so on. I'm working up a general representation of the theory and I aim this will replace our confused notion of 'complexity' rather looking at hwo assembled the universe is and how much assembly information is required to get to that configuration. I'm writing up the theory now and we have one or two experimental results that show how this theory can lead to new insights, understanding and predictions.

Thanks,

Lee

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Alyssa Adams wrote on Apr. 30, 2020 @ 22:20 GMT
Hi Lee!

Awesome essay! I really loved learning about this new idea, especially when it comes to thinking about proteins and how they fold. Speaking of proteins, do you think this framework is general enough to structures with that change the landscape of possible transformations over time? Using proteins as an example, most of them fold in such a way that makes it physically more difficult for other objects to attach to certain regions. So in a sense, as a structure grows, transformations are no longer equally as likely as occurring as they were before. The reason why I think this is potentially interesting is because it suggests that structures change their space of possible transformations as they evolve. Then by the time you arrive at a final structure to measure the Assembly Complexity, you might have to take this into account. I wonder if it's not actually possible to estimate that, since you'd need to know the available state space at every time step in the assembly, and if that state space changes at every step, then it could be very difficult to calculate in practice. For proteins, you'd have to know how the protein folds to do this, which is a whole other problem in itself. What are your thoughts on this?

Also, I'd be really curious to know what your thoughts are on my essay, since I focus on how state spaces change over time, and how an observer could switch to one state space to another to solve a particular problem. I think there's a lot of potential overlap between these ideas and Assembly Theory!

Cheers!

Alyssa

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Author Leroy Cronin replied on May. 10, 2020 @ 13:00 GMT
Dear Alyssa,

Thanks for your comments. Assembly theory will work for proteins and protein folding - indeed the evolved infrastructure of biology that takes advantage of the current trajectories in 'folding space' can be traced using assembly theory. I'm working on the framework that this will fit into with my team from genes and protein sequences, then 3D structures.

Assembly theory explains how you can get access to new structures based on the history of previous structures - there is no free lunch - the future is constrained by the past. Assembly theory already takes this into account.

I enjoyed your essay BTW and I'm interested how you make the decision, as an observer, to switch space. When you switch a physical space you need to ensure you have the history of that space correctly accounted for since you will be exploring one structure with another and the contexts / origins will be wrong. We can of course observe common paterns in complex systems but I think this is because the assembly spaces are similar and similar dynamics are expressed, but that is the extent of the overlap.

I hope this helps! Great to hear from you!

Lee

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Yutaka Shikano wrote on May. 4, 2020 @ 22:03 GMT
Dear Lee,

I learned a lot things of the entropies in your essay. Thank you so much. In my past essay to be published from the book, I pointed out when the entropy is used. This condition is "macroscopic". I would like to ask you when the "macroscopic" context is adapted. The biology is always in "macroscopic", itn't it??

In this time, I wrote the essay on the unpredictability on computation.

Best wishes,

Yutaka

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Vladimir Nikolaevich Fedorov wrote on May. 18, 2020 @ 12:35 GMT
Dear Leroy,

I greatly appreciated your work and discussion. I am very glad that you are not thinking in abstract patterns.

"Living systems are not only able to exhibit more unpredictable behaviors, but these are intrinsically more novel than the unpredictable behaviors associated with the abiotic universe. In this essay I discuss how a new theory I have been developing, assembly theory, can be used to identify if a given object has been constructed or not by exploring the constraints required for the object to form from undirected or random processes".

While the discussion lasted, I wrote an article: “Practical guidance on calculating resonant frequencies at four levels of diagnosis and inactivation of COVID-19 coronavirus”, due to the high relevance of this topic. The work is based on the practical solution of problems in quantum mechanics, presented in the essay FQXi 2019-2020 “Universal quantum laws of the universe to solve the problems of unsolvability, computability and unpredictability”.

I hope that my modest results of work will provide you with information for thought.

Warm Regards, `

Vladimir

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