Minds and Machines 26 (4):341-357 (2016)

Franz Berto
University of St. Andrews
“There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, said the title of Richard Feynman’s 1959 seminal conference at the California Institute of Technology. Fifty years on, nanotechnologies have led computer scientists to pay close attention to the links between physical reality and information processing. Not all the physical requirements of optimal computation are captured by traditional models—one still largely missing is reversibility. The dynamic laws of physics are reversible at microphysical level, distinct initial states of a system leading to distinct final states. On the other hand, as von Neumann already conjectured, irreversible information processing is expensive: to erase a single bit of information costs ~3 × 10−21 joules at room temperature. Information entropy is a thermodynamic cost, to be paid in non-computational energy dissipation. This paper addresses the problem drawing on Edward Fredkin’s Finite Nature hypothesis: the ultimate nature of the universe is discrete and finite, satisfying the axioms of classical, atomistic mereology. The chosen model is a cellular automaton with reversible dynamics, capable of retaining memory of the information present at the beginning of the universe. Such a CA can implement the Boolean logical operations and the other building bricks of computation: it can develop and host all-purpose computers. The model is a candidate for the realization of computational systems, capable of exploiting the resources of the physical world in an efficient way, for they can host logical circuits with negligible internal energy dissipation.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1007/s11023-016-9401-6
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

References found in this work BETA

Philosophical Papers, Volume II.David Lewis - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Against Digital Ontology.Luciano Floridi - 2009 - Synthese 168 (1):151 - 178.
The Connection Between Logical and Thermodynamic Irreversibility.James Ladyman, Stuart Presnell, Anthony J. Short & Berry Groisman - 2007 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 38 (1):58-79.

View all 10 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Notes on Landauer's Principle, Reversible Computation, and Maxwell's Demon.Charles H. Bennett - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 34 (3):501-510.
Maxwell's Demon and the Entropy Cost of Information.Paul N. Fahn - 1996 - Foundations of Physics 26 (1):71-93.
An Order Model for Infinite Classical States.Joe Mashburn - 2008 - Foundations of Physics 38 (1):47-75.
Brownian Computation Is Thermodynamically Irreversible.John D. Norton - 2013 - Foundations of Physics 43 (11):1-27.
Notationality and the Information Processing Mind.Vinod Goel - 1991 - Minds and Machines 1 (2):129-166.


Added to PP index

Total views
160 ( #67,394 of 2,456,080 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
16 ( #42,619 of 2,456,080 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes