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Zenith Grant Awardee

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.

Technical Abstract

The main goal of this project is to lay the informational foundation for a quantum theory of cybernetics. This will be achieved by investigating and generalizing the law of requisite variety, a founding principle for the science of regulatory processes, adopting the general formalism of quantum information theory. The meta-theory that will emerge will be able to collectively explain the behavior of physical as well as social and biological phenomena where quantum strategies can be recognized as playing a fundamental functional role. The project is topical because it focuses on foundations of information theory. Quantum cybernetics is unconventional: it aims for the identification and exploitation of quantumness as an emergent behavior of natural and artificial complex phenomena beyond the traditional domain of investigation of quantum mechanics, entailing an investigative process across conventional discipline boundaries. This programme is foundational as it questions the extent to which living organisms, physical phenomena and abstract processes share the same language and obey the same rules. Ultimately, this project can shed light on the notion of complexity itself, which could be related to the density of information that can be stored in a regulatory system, and might play a nontrivial role for its adaptation.

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