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

Authors
Franz Berto
University of St. Andrews
Abstract
“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.
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DOI 10.1007/s11023-016-9401-6
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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.

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