Monday, December 3, 2012

1211.7081 (Ken Wharton)

The Universe is not a Computer    [PDF]

Ken Wharton
When we want to predict the future, we compute it from what we know about the present. Specifically, we take a mathematical representation of observed reality, plug it into some dynamical equations, and then map the time-evolved result back to real-world predictions. But while this computational process can tell us what we want to know, we have taken this procedure too literally, implicitly assuming that the universe must compute itself in the same manner. Physical theories that do not follow this computational framework are deemed illogical, right from the start. But this anthropocentric assumption has steered our physical models into an impossible corner, primarily because of quantum phenomena. Meanwhile, we have not been exploring other models in which the universe is not so limited. In fact, some of these alternate models already have a well-established importance, but are thought to be mathematical tricks without physical significance. This essay argues that only by dropping our assumption that the universe is a computer can we fully develop such models, explain quantum phenomena, and understand the workings of our universe.
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