Wheeler's "It from Bit" in light of quantum information and the operational approach to theories

5 03/2014

Wednesday, 05 Mar. 2014, 14:00 - 14:00

Workgroup Brukner Group

Presenter: Howard Barnum, University of New Mexico
Host: Prof. Caslav Brukner
Where: IQOQI-Seminarraum, 2nd floor Boltzmanngasse 3, 1090 Vienna

John Wheeler speculated that real things, including those with which physics is concerned, and information about those things, may depend on each other for their very existence, and that quantum theory is a key manifestation of this linkage.  The emergence of quantum information theory has highlighted the informational aspects of the mathematical objects --- wavefunction, density matrix, etc...--- used to describe quantum systems.  It has also led to a project of understanding quantum theory through principles characterizing its place in a landscape of "operational" theories describing the probabilities of processes arising from an agent's interaction with a system.  Some in this field hope this will provide an understanding of quantum theory as natural as the principle-based understanding of relativistic spacetime physics provided by Einstein. I will give a very personal and speculative survey of the prospects for an account of the emergence of It from Bit using ideas from quantum information and the operational approach to theories.

The talk expands on my essay "Informational characterizations of quantum theory as clues to Wheelerian emergence" which won a prize in the 2013 Foundational Questions Institute (FQXI) essay contest.