Digital philosophy

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Digital philosophy (also digital ontology) is a direction in philosophy and cosmology advocated by certain mathematicians, computer scientists and theoretical physicists, including: Edward Fredkin, Konrad Zuse, Stephen Wolfram, Rudy Rucker, Gregory Chaitin, Seth Lloyd, and Paola Zizzi.


Digital philosophy is a modern re-interpretation of Gottfried Leibniz's monist metaphysics, one that replaces Leibniz's monads with aspects of the theory of cellular automata. Since, following Leibniz, the mind can be given a computational treatment, digital philosophy attempts to consider some main issues in the philosophy of mind. The digital approach attempts to deal with the non-deterministic quantum theory, where it assumes that all information must have finite and discrete means of its representation, and that the evolution of a physical state is governed by local and deterministic rules.[1]

In digital physics, existence and thought would consist of only computation. (However, not all computation would necessarily be thought.) Thus computation is the single substance of a monist metaphysics, while subjectivity arises from computational universality. There are many variants of digital philosophy; however, most of them are Digital data theories that view all of physical realities and cognitive science and so on, in framework of information theory.[1]

Digital philosophers[edit]

In his paper "Finite Nature" (1992),[2] computer pioneer Edward Fredkin stated two fundamental laws of physical information. As unsolved problems in physics these two fundamental laws have two fundamental consequences.

  1. All information must have a digital means of its representation.
  2. An informational process transforms the digital representation of the state of the system into its future state.

If Fredkin's first fundamental law of information is correct then Einstein's theory of general relativity theory is not entirely correct, because the theory does not rely upon digital information. If Fredkin's second fundamental law is correct then the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is not entirely correct, because quantum randomness lacks a digitally deterministic explanation.

In Chapter 9 of A New Kind of Science,[3] Stephen Wolfram presents an outline of a multiverse automaton. Below the Planck scale, there is an informational substrate that allows the build-up of time, space, and energy by means of an updating parameter. The updating parameter for the multiverse is analogous to time via a mathematical isomorphism, but the updating parameter involves a decomposition across alternate universes. The informational substrate consists of network nodes that can simulate random network models and Feynman path integrals. In physical reality, both energy and spacetime are secondary features. The most fundamental feature of reality is signal propagation caused by an updating parameter acting upon network nodes. The multiverse automaton has a model consisting of informational substrate, an updating parameter, a few simple rules, and a method for deriving all of quantum field theory and general relativity theory,

The totally finite nature of the model implies the existence of weird, alternate-universe forces that might, or might not, be too small for empirical detection.

In his book Mind Tools (1987),[4] mathematician/philosopher Rudy Rucker articulated this concept with the following conclusions about the relationship between Math and the universe. Rucker's second conclusion uses the jargon term 'fact-space'; this is Rucker's model of reality based on the notion that all that exists is the perceptions of various observers. An entity of any kind is a glob in fact-space. The world – the collection of all thoughts and objects – is a pattern spread out through fact-space. The following conclusions describe the digital philosophy that relates the world to fact-space.

  1. The world can be resolved into digital bits, with each bit made of smaller bits.
  2. These bits form a fractal pattern in fact-space.
  3. The pattern behaves like a cellular automaton.
  4. The pattern is inconceivably large in size and dimensions.
  5. Although the world started simply, its computation is irreducibly complex.

Fredkin's ideas on physics[edit]

Fredkin takes a radical approach to explaining the EPR paradox and the double-slit experiment in quantum mechanics. While admitting that quantum mechanics yields accurate predictions, Fredkin sides with Albert Einstein in the Bohr-Einstein debates. In The Meaning of Relativity, Einstein writes, "One can give good reasons why reality cannot at all be represented by a continuous field. From the quantum phenomena it appears to follow with certainty that a finite system of finite energy can be completely described by a finite set of numbers (quantum numbers). This does not seem to be in accordance with a continuum theory, and must lead to attempts to find a purely algebraic theory for the description of reality. However, nobody knows how to find the basis for such a description."

Einstein's hope is a purely algebraic theory; however, Fredkin attempts to find a purely informational theory for the description of reality. At the same time, physicists find some vagueness, problems with Bell theorem compatibility, and lack of empirical falsifiability in Fredkin's expression of his ideas. In "Digital Philosophy (DP)", Chapter 11,[5] Fredkin raises the question, "Could physics have a strong law of conservation of information?" Fredkin answers his own question, "If so, we have to rethink particle disintegrations, inelastic collisions and Quantum Mechanics to better understand what is happening to the information. The appearance of a single truly random event is absolutely incompatible with a strong law of conservation of information. A great deal of information is obviously associated with the trajectory of every particle and that information must be conserved. This is a very large issue in DP, yet such issues are seldom considered in conventional physics."

Fredkin's "five big questions with pretty simple answers"[edit]

According to Fredkin,[6] "Digital mechanics predicts that for every continuous symmetry of physics there will be some microscopic process that violates that symmetry." Therefore, according to Fredkin, at the Planck scale, ordinary matter could have spin angular momentum that violates the equivalence principle. There might be weird Fredkin forces that cause a torsion in spacetime.

The Einstein–Cartan theory extends general relativity theory to deal with spin-orbit coupling when matter with spin is present. According to conventional wisdom in physics, torsion is nonpropagating, which means that torsion will appear within a massive body and nowhere else. According to Fredkin, torsion could appear outside and around massive bodies, because alternate universes have anomalous inertial effects.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fredkin, Edward (2003). "An Introduction to Digital Philosophy". International Journal of Theoretical Physics. 42 (2): 189–247. doi:10.1023/A:1024443232206.
  2. ^ Fredkin, E. (1992). Finite Nature (PDF). Proceedings of the XXVIIth Rencotre de Moriond. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-08-29.
  3. ^ *Wolfram, Stephen, A New Kind of Science. Wolfram Media, Inc., May 14, 2002. ISBN 1-57955-008-8
  4. ^ Rucker, Rudy, Mind Tools – the five levels of mathematical reality – Houghton Mifflin (1987)
  5. ^ Fredkin, Edward. "Digital Philosophy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-28.
  6. ^ Fredkin, E. (January 2004). "Five big questions with pretty simple answers". IBM Journal of Research and Development. 48 (1). doi:10.1147/rd.481.0031.

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