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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Giovanni Amelino-Camelia
University of Naples Federico II

Philip Hoehn

Project Title

Agency-dependent spacetime and spacetime-dependent agency

Project Summary

Most of the current usages of the notion of agent in Science rely on a convenient idealization: like someone playing a videogame, the agent can influence, with her decisions, the physical world, without being directly influenced by it in return. This is true in general relativity as well as in quantum theory, although in different ways. We intend to investigate a situation in which this idealization becomes problematic: when quantum and gravitational effects are both relevant, and the familiar geometric picture of space and time makes room for a novel entity endowed with quantum properties. Recent progress in quantum information theory allowed researchers to deduce the structure of the flat, classical spacetime of special relativity purely from assumptions on how agents can or cannot communicate by means of quantum systems. This result shows that in quantum theory what one assumes about agents, their knowledge and their communications has implications for the structure of the spacetime those agents live in – and vice-versa. This enables us to ask a fascinating question: what are the implications of a quantum spacetime for agents and, conversely, how do agents’ choices determine how spacetime reveals itself to them?

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