New FQXi Essay Contest: It from Bit or Bit from It?

FQXi has announced this year’s theme for their annual essay contest: “It from Bit or Bit from It?” Details for the competition can be found here. I am tempted to write up an essay, arguing, of course, that ‘bit from it’, rather than ‘it from bit’, to counterbalance what I expect to be a sweeping majority of authors infatuated with information. That Platonist silliness needs to stop!



Filed under Calls for Abstracts/Papers/Contributions, Prizes, wuthrich

6 responses to “New FQXi Essay Contest: It from Bit or Bit from It?

  1. Peter Bokulich

    Ten grand, eh? That’ll come in handy!

  2. “That Platonist silliness needs to stop!”

    Aren’t you contradicting yourself, when you said:

    “While approaches to quantum gravity are legion and the field as a whole is very much in flux, one important suggestion is shared by almost all approaches: that space and time are not fundamental ingredients of the world, but somehow “emerge” from deeper, non-spatiotemporal physics. The idea that space or time are not “real” at the basic level would shatter our current conception of the universe, and hence of our place within it.”

    • Lev, good question! I guess that you are assuming that when we assert the existence of a thing, and that thing does not, ultimately, live in space and time (because space and time do not exist, fundamentally), then we must be accepting some kind of Platonism. To that I would reply: yet another point that quantum gravity makes clear then is that we need a broader definition of anti-Platonism!

  3. Why not to broaden the idea of Platonism? ;–)

  4. By the way, I am preparing an essay for this competition: “Will we recognize Physics after the ‘it from bit’ transition?” Here is a preliminary abstract:
    The fathers of the Scientific Revolution intentionally excluded the idea of ‘mind’ from the scientific agenda because they wanted to, and did, build science based on a much more familiar spatial considerations, while the divine mind, they agreed, is of non-spatial nature. It seems that behind the popularity and attraction of Wheeler’s “it from bit” lies a long suppressed in science, deep seated, and probably scientifically fruitful human desire to see something ‘mental’ emerge as the principal element in the structure of the Universe. But it would be extremely naïve to hope that the integration of the ‘mental’ into our scientific view can be accomplished in the familiar incremental manner, by simply bringing “bits” into the focus. To achieve the same ends, we have introduced a fundamentally new concept of ‘informational’, or temporal, structure called “struct”. This non-numeric structure is of non-spatial origin and might be considered as a far-reaching structural generalization of the idea of causal sets (in quantum gravity). The struct promises not only to serve as the blueprint for all “its”, including space, but is supposed to elucidate the nature of the discovered in the last century ubiquitous discreteness. However, the strategic question is this: Since it is the spatial considerations that for several millennia fully guided the development of mathematics and physics, are we ready to pay the necessary but unprecedented price for the rebuilding of physics from the ground up on top of such ‘informational’ structure (as opposed to the present popular flirtations with the hollow bits)?

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