Saturday, December 8, 2012

Why The Universe Is Not a Computer After All | MIT Technology Review

By Donald Sensing

Why The Universe Is Not a Computer After All | MIT Technology Review:

One of the driving forces in modern science is the idea that the Universe “computes” the future, taking some initial state as an input and generating future states as an output. This is a powerful approach that has produced much insight. Some scientists go as far as to say that the Universe is a giant computer.
Is this a reasonable assumption? Today, Ken Wharton at San Jose State University in California, makes an important argument that it is not. His fear is that the idea of the universe as a computer is worryingly anthropocentric. “It’s basically the assumption that the way we humans solve physics problems must be the way the universe actually operates,” he says.
One conclusion, which the physicist does not address, is that therefore pantheism - the concept that God equals the entirety of all creation and nothing else; the universe is the one and the same as the divine.

Physicist Wharton,
... argues that a close look at the notion of the cosmos as a computer reveals important problems. Wharton examines several. For example, a computation involves three steps. First, the physical world has to be mapped onto some mathematical state. Next, this state mathematically evolves into a new state. And finally, the new state is mapped back onto the physical world.   
In quantum mechanics, this can only happen if this final step is probabilistic. As Wharton puts it: “Not even the universe knows which particular outcome will occur.” 
And yet, when the universe is measured, a specific outcome does occur. The operation of a computer cannot account for this. For Wharton, this is a crucial flaw that most physicists just overlook.
The universe as not-computer and hence not God also leaves a wide open theoretical space for human free will. Hence determinism cannot be supported.

See also my essay, "Clairvoyant science and the Deep Blue God."