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2018 Agency in the Physical World
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Gerardo Adesso
The University of Nottingham


Davide Girolami, University of Nottingham

Project Title

Quantum Informational Framework for Cybernetics

Project Summary

The British weather is very variable. You need a wardrobe with a comparable variety of clothing not to get wet, hot or cold. Countless phenomena in social, biological, physical, economical sciences face analogous dilemmas to reach their expected outcomes under adverse conditions; e.g. our immune system must develop specific antibodies to contrast each toxin. Cybernetics studies these phenomena resting on general principles like the law of requisite variety: a regulator (clothing) needs enough variety to restrain the variety induced by a disturbance (weather), so the process fulfils its goal (stay well-dressed) with high chance. Variety is a concept with deep informational roots, as it can be measured by entropy. Imagine now you have a quantum dress in a superposition of T-shirt, sweater, and burberry: clever! It turns out living organisms exploit these tricks. Sea bacteria use quantum coherence to optimize their energy transport for photosynthesis, and birds improve their navigational skills with quantum entanglement. Here, working across discipline boundaries, I will develop a universal framework to quantify variety and its balance in natural and abstract models based on quantum laws of information, showcasing how quantum strategies can, and typically should, be developed by regulatory processes to reach a better fitness.

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