Large Grants
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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

Gerard Milburn
The University of Queensland


Sally Shrapnel, The University of Queensland

Project Title

Are Quantum agents possible?

Project Summary

Agents are special physical systems that act upon, and are acted upon by, the world external to them. All agents are subject to the laws of physics. Humans and other animals appear to be the only examples of agents but technology is delivering artificial agents. We propose specific designs for simple quantum agents that exploit the laws of quantum physics to out-perform current artificial agents. Agents are described in two complementary ways: (i) an inside view, which tracks the memory records and agent actions conditioned upon these records and, (ii) the outside view in which memory records are averaged over. Agents must have memories to enable learning, creativity and contingent action. The possibility of an internal view makes a physical system an agent and enables agents to identify each other as such. By explicitly modelling simple quantum agents we will reconcile the time asymmetry of agents and the time symmetry of the laws of physics; determinism poses no challenge to agency and free will. We show that agency, quantum or other wise, is only possible in a world subject to the laws of thermodynamics.

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