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Previous Programs

2019 Intelligence in the Physical World

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
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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
Awardees; RFP download

Markus Mueller
University of Western Ontario

Project Title

Emergent objective reality - from observers to physics via Solomonoff induction

Project Summary

One of our most deeply rooted concepts in science and every-day life is objective reality: the idea that there is one single, objective, external world. However, quantum mechanics has challenged this idea, by telling us that microscopic particles sometimes have no objective properties before they are measured by an observer. The notion of an “observer” is also omnipresent in several other puzzling problems of science, for example in the Philosophy of Mind, when we ask what a person would observe if we simulated her brain on a computer. Here we suggest to pursue a radically unconventional idea: maybe objective reality is only an approximation, and it is instead observers and observations which are truly fundamental? By formulating this idea in terms of a rigorous mathematical theory, we are able to find powerful new insights into the questions raised above. Moreover, it allows us to study where the appearance of objective reality comes from, when it breaks down, and why we see an external world that seems to be governed by simple laws of nature. In this project, we will analyze the potential and limitations of this approach, and use it to address some important conceptual problems in physics and philosophy.

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