Is the UNIVERSE just one big quantum computer?

H Hannan

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Is the UNIVERSE just one big quantum computer?
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The late pioneering computer scientist Ed Fredkin once audaciously suggested our entire universe arises from computational rules.

Initially fringe, this “digital physics” proposal is now being re-examined through a quantum lens to overcome inconsistencies with classical physics models.

Fredkin originally proposed cellular automata – simple informational rules giving rise to complex behaviour – as an alternative foundation to traditional physical equations for explaining cosmic evolution. His proposal was computational thinking, not just dynamical laws, may better capture observed reality.

However, a classical universe fails to encapsulate quantum properties like entanglement. Transposing the computational concept into the ‘quantum realm’ could resolve these conflicts.

Seth Lloyd and others have outlined how discrete quantum information bits and quantum computational rules potentially provide a more robust informational basis for known physics, which also include quantum behaviours.

Fredkin’s critical early work on establishing reversible, zero-energy computing has laid out the essential groundwork for conceiving quantum computation. The universe may similarly operate on reversible, lossless quantum information processing.

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Experimental validation remains challenging but could emerge through advances like quantum gravity, revealing connections between cosmic and quantum scales. Intriguingly, leading quantum gravity theories increasingly adopt computational semantic methods, lending feasibility to the quantum digital cosmos.

As an outsider to physics, Fredkin escaped the constraints of conventional thinking, enabling his unconventional proposals. Similarly, the nature of quantum theory may require new perspectives to extend our grasp of cosmic workings.

The idea of a computationally driven universe built on discrete quantum information remains highly speculative and contentious. But it suggests physics itself may have an informational essence, with far-reaching implications. As quantum research continues redefining reality, a cosmic code underpinning the unfolding universe remains an enticing possibility.

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Nature 620, 943-945 (2023)

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