I’ve considered the idea of Physics as Information Processing as central to my work for as long as I can remember [As early as Jan 2002 this post on “Quantum Computing” makes reference to information processing as fundamental.]. The last few years, my “Systems Thinking” – thinking of anything as a system, in terms of functional relations with its internal parts and external environment – has become focussed on the Active Inference / Free Energy Principle work associated with Karl Friston. Having noticed so many other systems thinkers I’ve had time for in these past two decades (eg Solms / Dennett) also converging on this view, and my understanding of other non-systems thinkers (eg McGilchrist) similarly converging, I’ve been digging into the Active Inference Institute resources ever more deeply.
It’s an exciting time. A recent paper in Nature declared important because of empirical support for the FEP at a molecular biology level and even jokey memes noticing that the FEP / Active-Inference / Systems-Thinking “movement” is becoming the explanation for anything (a ToE) in direct competition with all the other big ideas out there.
Free Energy Principle predicts everything. It’s as powerful it gets. The fight at the end of the universe will be Friston’s Free Energy Principle against Wolfram’s Ruliad, Tipler’s Omega Point AGI and Hameroff’s Microtubulistic Pi resonant quantum underground https://t.co/BtMQ1STKTo
— Joscha Bach (@Plinz) August 12, 2023
An extremely important paper, just published on Monday:https://t.co/WTFmqKjQl5
— Mark Solms (@Mark_Solms) August 9, 2023
[Interesting that a new (completely unrelated) ambient-super-conductivity material went from zero to hero to zero in barely two weeks recently. Not all big ideas are created equal – some / one will become the next Kuhnian paradigm.]
Explanation for anything and everything?
Chris Fields has given / is giving a series of lectures to the AII with the title above “Physics as Information Processing” essentially starting with FEPAI as a reformulation of the whole of quantum physics – aspects that were already there – holography and black-hole event horizons (a la Hawking). (Staring here in May 2023 and ending in October. There’s a good summary page too.)
We’re about half-way through as I type.
With anything as comprehensively multi-discipline as this – a ToE – the hubris sensors ring constant alarm bells. I can’t understand all of this and probably neither can Chris, the person giving the lecture. As ever it’s about the right level of abstraction and the place of specialists and generalists. No doubt quantum physics specialists will find fault – even I can detect statements that might not be entirely true as stated – and yet, and yet, it’s very good. Chris has a gentle relaxed delivery, and there’s plenty of space for re-iteration and consideration across multiple sessions. Also notes where decisions within quantum physics were not science but entirely philosophical (as Max Born had warned “theoretical fundamental physics is actual metaphysics”).
As well as the history:
We have the scope – from the most fundamental Qubits to individual cells, whole-brains and electro-mechanical devices and arbitrarily complex systems.
So much more and more names, Bateson again (and for me Verlinde) and more. And great Q&A’s again.
Chris even uses the “shut up and calculate” Copenhagen-jibe as I do, to point out why so much physics has failed to concern itself with reality for so long. Great focus on Topology over Geometry – Geometry IS the queen of sciences, but it’s the topological aspect that really matters – the relative-relations, not the specific dimensions in space and time which are both emergent. It’s why my preferred level of abstraction is architectural.
The quantisation of time as quantum clock ticks, with experienced time emergent in each frame of reference.
Man, isn’t it wonderful when a plan comes together?
(Aside – the Ontolog Forum is in a debate dissing emergence again!)
I should add – the scope of AII has been (is) mind-boggling, and with my deliberate choice to keep my involvement at “the right level of abstraction” – I struggle to find value-adding inward engagement. So much good stuff – detailed stuff – I can barely contribute to. Massive applause to Daniel Friedman for his curation of the whole shebang. Took me a while to warm to Dan’s style, but as well as his light-touch in nudging activities along he also clearly has all of the philosophical and physical dots joined-up in his own mind and asks some of the best questions, makes some great “aha” points for the rest of us.
Did I say “exciting times”?
Genuinely thrilled to see the degree to which active inference and the free energy principle have moved into mainstream artificial intelligence research and discourse this year. Exciting times ahead!
— Maxwell Ramstead (@mjdramstead) August 16, 2023
And … AII really is Daniel’s baby.