# Is the Universe computing something?

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by arfa brane, Jan 26, 2016.

1. ### originIn a democracy you deserve the leaders you elect.Valued Senior Member

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What does this have to do with the OP?
That is incorrect

That is not the order in which math operations are done.

If there are parenthesis then the operations are done from the inner most to outer most parenthesis. If there are no parenthesis then mulitplication and division are done first then addition and subtraction are done.

By the way :1+(2*(3-(4/5)))=5.4 not 5.2

3. ### arfa branecall me arfValued Senior Member

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--http://www.cs.northwestern.edu/~ian/What is computation.pdf
--http://denninginstitute.com/pjd/PUBS/CACMcols/computation.pdf

The thing is, if computation isn't about numbers but abstract symbols, why can't the symbols be anything at all, including a ("pre-Big Bang") universe?
If there is a halting problem (with the universal algorithm), can it be solved by assuming the universe halts "all the time", or some thing equally abstract? That is, any classical output with its apparent continuity is the result of a quantum computation which has halted?

Why can't the notion of computation be a moving target and evolve as human technology evolves? The first link above says that's exactly what's been happening and is still happening.

Last edited: Feb 11, 2016

5. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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Ok,
I started with the thread Title, which asks "Is the Universe computing something"?

I set aside the obvious problems with trying to answer this question with any notion of a *hardwired* human engineered computer. But we are still confronted with the fact that any computation requires *inputs* of informational data, which are then *processed* and yield a "result" of this process.

While the universe is not hardwired it does process data which caries "information" (values) and yields a result from this "data processing", iow, the universe is able (by some mechanism(s) to perform computations (calculations) and if the inputs and environment are identical, the universe will reliably produce the same result.
1 H atom + 2 O atoms = 1 H2O molecule, which in reality is expressed as water when a sufficient *number* of H2O molecules exist in a permittive environment.

To me this is very much like the function of our new 3D computers, which can "create" 3D objects, if provided with sufficient mathematical data and molecular stuff.

Thus; whereas the universe is not "hardwired" to process data, it can be confirmed that it can yield 3D objects in reality, if given access to sufficient data and molecular stuff. There is no fundamental difference in the "results" produced by a human 3D computer and the "results* produced by a universal 3D computational function.

Your argument is similar to saying *that kid is not *bicycling*, it is *tricycling", which, strictly speaking may be true, but the fact remains, the kids is *cycling*, regardless what type of cycling mechanism it uses, even if the cycle has no wheels at all, as in home exercise machines. The only difference is in the movement of the machine, not the action performed by the cyclist.

Thus, in view that each method allows the same result (of cycling), I see no difference in expressed result, regardless of the method used. Thus, yes, it is obvious that spacetime and its inherent functional potential of receiving inputs and processes that data is able to arrive at a result. A function which we can imitate with Computer Science.

One of my favorites phrases is "Natura Artis Magistra" (nature is the teacher of the arts and sciences), which seems to be applicable here.
Which was answered in one of the links I provided, claiming that BB itself provided all the energy (values) for computing reality as we experience it.
I have done no such thing. I merely pointed out the similarities in the "processing of universal informational data", expressed as intrinsic values and potentials inherent in those values, and an input string of data (symbolized values) in a human computer.
I disagree. By Dave's earlier example of a program with an intentional variable, we can arrive at different outputs from the same input, including a *halting*, if we wanted to do that. However if we tried to compute Pi, the computer would run forever.

But the universe has no such intentional *choices*, all natural environmentally variable values (such as pressure, temparature), are already part of the universal *program*.
It takes longer to boil an egg at high altitudes than at sea-level. In human computer science this would require an array of measuring devices, but on earth, the universal computer just recognizes these environmental conditions and automatically performs the calculation, even as it has no intention to eat that egg.

Moreover, it seems to me that when a human computer has arrived at a result, it halts any further calculation, because no further computation is *required*, which I believe is related to the theory of "necessity and sufficiency".

IMO, halting universal mathematical functions and processes is not an option, as long as the universe has any dynamic properties (energy)

Last edited: Feb 12, 2016

7. ### PhysBangValued Senior Member

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Yes, a result of symbols. Because that is what computation is about. Not engineered physical computers, but the mathematical science of computation.

You are just peddling your idea that mathematics exists as a some sort of abstract thing and that the universe is perfectly mathematical under the guise of talking, badly, about computation.

What about H2O2? The universe is not quite so nice and tidy.

Except that the universe produces whatever it does and human computation always produces an approximation of this that is better or worse, but never exact.

Your argument seems to be, "I know that the question is whether or not that kid is tricycling, but the kid got from one location to another and that happens when you ride a tricycle, so let's just say that the kid is tricycling."

This is ignoring the definition of computation and its relationship to the specific questions asked. Computing is about how we get from specific strings to specific strings. Without that, there can be no halting problem.
No. Whether or not a computer halts depends on how it represents real numbers. It is definitely possible to have an output of pi, if one chooses the encoding properly. So the question comes down to what encoding is the universe-computer using?
Thank you for pointing out that you are using these terms in a pathological fashion.

So, instead of merely acting, you are claiming that the universe first runs through a program and then acts accordingly. An interesting metaphysical addition, but not one I can accept.
Why don't you take some time to find out?

8. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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OK, I have tried to explain my viewpoint. Now it is your turn.

If the universal functionis are producing *results* but are NOT computing in some fashion, then what IS it doing that results in our ability to invent an entire logical computing vocabulary about the phenomenon.

How does the universe function? Do you have a better answer? If so, I would be happy to stand corrected and learn.

I am looking forward to your thoughts on the matter of how the reality of this universe chronologically manifests itself with exquisite chronological mathematical precision (with an occasional energetic chaos) from the very subtle to gross reality.

p.s. An concise explanation:

9. ### PhysBangValued Senior Member

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I do not know how the universe functions as itself. I know that it seems to have a number of very strong regularities. I know that, too very good approximations, it behaves fairly nicely. This allows us to abstract from our experiences and then apply the results of thinking about our abstractions in fruitful ways.

Knowing things about our specific abstractions is much easier than knowing how well they apply to the world and far, far easier than knowing something about the world itself. It may not be possible to know the world as it functions in itself.

I watched the first five seconds of that. It will not tell anyone anything of computing theory.

You may be interested to read James Brown's A laboratory of the mind, which seems to articulate some of your beliefs about mathematics and its relationship to the world. It's very wrong, but you might enjoy it nonetheless as it investigates some of the ideas that you seem to hold in a rigorous and thoughtful way.

10. ### Waiter_2001Registered Senior Member

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Symbols are not neccessary either:

3=0+3=1+2=2+1=3+0=-1+4=4-1

etc. The computation just IS!

11. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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This is synonymous with 'I have no logic to support this.'

Write4U likes this.
12. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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Actually I agree, but it does not explain *how* or *why* it computes as it does.
Perhaps Waiter should see the link to "necessity and sufficiency" which is an unpacking of the philosophy of Logic.

13. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Because there is nothing to explain.

Well, except what it means to compute something. Computing is about input of data, resulting in output of data.

'Pre-existing conditions' are not 'input data', and outcome of natural processes is not 'output data', any more than a pebble washed down a hill is not a computation.

14. ### PhysBangValued Senior Member

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It is insanely insulting to philosophers who actually study the philosophy of logic to claim that that video is an unpacking of the philosophy of logic. You posted a link to an introductory topic in logic, not the philosophy of it.

15. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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I agree, but if abstractions are a result of experience, then there must be set of natural experiential processes which can be abstracted. And if we can apply these abstractions in fruitful ways, such as *computing*, then the constancy of the experienced examples themselves (such as universal constants and functions) would suggest that these constants and functions occur naturally everywhere and in such a way that we can emulate them with computational devices.

A simple thermometer is a type of non-digital computer, which allows us to observe the prevailing temparature, without the need for any human programming of the natural computational function (contraction/expansion) within the thermometer itself.
I am a little more optimistic about that.
I am sorry you dismissed that exercise in fundamental logic.
IMO, it may not address the *how*, but it may address the *why* the impetus for the constant dynamical processes.

In a previous clip of of a lecture by Robert Hazen on the origins and mathematical properties of bio-molecules and their interactions, one of the scientists concluded that the initial conditions of the universe placed an *imperative* or created the *necessity* for the universal evolutionary processes.[/quote]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlAQLgTwJ_A (to save valuable time start @ 25:00)

It explains our ability to formulate predictive computations from the observation of chemical processes, which I also consider to be forms of *natural computations*.

Another relevant philosophy may be found in Platonic *forms*
IOW, mathematical constants.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Forms
Thanks for the reference, I shall read it.

16. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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However the mathematical laws of gravity *necessitates* that the pebble washes down the hill, not up. I call this a result or an output of natural mathematics.

Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
17. ### arfa branecall me arfValued Senior Member

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The first question is about whether a computer can be built that uses the least amount of energy per operation (however that is defined, but an operation seems necessarily machine-dependent). There is a really good article by Charles Bennet in a 1985 issue of SciAm about this, where he and his colleagues built a machine that runs on Brownian motion, and which performed a random walk through some serial computation, as a read-write head moving left or right randomly along a tape. Here's a link to a text-only version: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-fundamental-physical-limits-of-computation/

Turing machines are a formal description of a whole family of computable functions. What are these functions? They're Turing machines. It seems recursivity isn't just a feature of computation but a necessity--strings are defined recursively in formal language theory. But Turing machines aren't the beginning and end of computation or computability, no siree.

Landauer's principle is about erasure of information and why this costs energy (which is "lost" to the environment).

And all the above is classical. In quantum computation things are just different. We need to update things, and if the idea that the universe computes is just wrong, then the holographic principle and our understanding of the relation between black holes and information is wrong.

And if that's the case, how do we find out?

Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
18. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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Well, then I shall have to corrcct that insanely insulting word *philosophy* in that context and apologize to real philosophers, as well to the student of the philosophy of Logic who made that introductory presentation on the topic of the applied Logic.
This exercise itself sounds somewhat insane to me, but far be it for me to insanely insult someone with more formal knowledge than I have.

Allow me to apologize to you as well for exposing you to such *insanely insulting* of real philosophers. Please do not let it raise your blood pressure. It's just an amiable discussion of a topic which is still wide open, namely "is the universe computing something"? At least I am attempting to present evidence for my *thoughtful* (but apparently insane) posits.

To my recollecting, I have not yet seen a viable alternate model from anyone else which proves the universe is NOT computing.

Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
19. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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By observing a slime mold (a brainless single celled organism) which can negotiate a maze and find the shortest distance throught the maze.

Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
20. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Debunked. Twice now.

21. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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You mean the slime mold is not capable of doing what we have observed it is capable of doing?

22. ### DaveC426913Valued Senior Member

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Depends on what you claim has been observed. Has it changed from the earlier one where it apparently 'solved a maze through computation'?

23. ### Write4UValued Senior Member

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What would you call it, if not a form of computation. Chance, Probability, Cheating?

Perhaps you never got to the part that shows a slime mold has a sense of time as well.