Rebooting the Cosmos: Is the Universe the Ultimate Computer?

As computers become progressively faster and more powerful, they’ve gained the impressive capacity to simulate increasingly realistic environments. Which raises a question familiar to aficionados of The Matrix—might life and the world as we know it be a simulation on a super advanced computer? “Digital physicists” have developed this idea well beyond the sci-fi possibilities, suggesting a new scientific paradigm in which computation is not just a tool for approximating reality, but is also the basis of reality itself. In place of elementary particles, think bits; in place of fundamental laws of physics, think computer algorithms. But is this a viable approach? Is the universe the ultimate computer running some grand cosmic code? A discussion among the brightest minds in digital physics to explore math, computer science, theories of consciousness, the origin of life, and free will—and delve into a world of information that may underlie everything.

The World Science Festival gathers great minds in science and the arts to produce live and digital content that allows a broad general audience to engage with scientific discoveries. Our mission is to cultivate a general public informed by science, inspired by its wonder, convinced of its value, and prepared to engage with its implications for the future.

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Original Program Date: June 4, 2011
MODERATOR: John Hockenberry
PARTICIPANTS: Edward Fredkin, Fotini Markopoulou-Kalamara, Jürgen Schmidhuber, Seth Lloyd

John Hockenberry’s Introduction 00:00

Is the Universe Digital? 06:13

Participant Introductions. 09:39

Did digital physics rise because we need to define the universe as something? 11:35

Is Quantum Mechanics considered digital? 13:49

What events in the universe give us incites on being computational? 18:28

Exchanging information is more important than space time.26:51

What is the history of the results leading to a computational universe? 32:05

Who’s the programmer and wheres the computer? 37:29

Is it possible for black holes to be coded instructions to the universe? 46:49

Computers are irreversible can you build something that is reversible?54:50

Does a reversible computer simulate the conservation of information idea? 01:00:00

How do we prove we are in a simulated Universe? 01:04:54

What is the NSA’s primary goal with quantum computers? 01:13:30

How does knowing the code that has programmed the universe what does that get us? 01:18:48

Does Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle make it about the particle or the information? 01:24:26
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