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Entropy 2017, 19(9), 461; doi:10.3390/e19090461

Physical Universality, State-Dependent Dynamical Laws and Open-Ended Novelty

1
Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
2
Department of Physics, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
3
Algorithmic Nature Group, Laboratoire de Recherche Scientifique (LABORES) for the Natural and Digital Sciences, 75006 Paris, France
4
School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
5
ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
6
Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, Seattle, WA 98154, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 27 July 2017 / Revised: 22 August 2017 / Accepted: 23 August 2017 / Published: 1 September 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Entropy, Time and Evolution)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [2491 KB, uploaded 1 September 2017]   |  

Abstract

A major conceptual step forward in understanding the logical architecture of living systems was advanced by von Neumann with his universal constructor, a physical device capable of self-reproduction. A necessary condition for a universal constructor to exist is that the laws of physics permit physical universality, such that any transformation (consistent with the laws of physics and availability of resources) can be caused to occur. While physical universality has been demonstrated in simple cellular automata models, so far these have not displayed a requisite feature of life—namely open-ended evolution—the explanation of which was also a prime motivator in von Neumann’s formulation of a universal constructor. Current examples of physical universality rely on reversible dynamical laws, whereas it is well-known that living processes are dissipative. Here we show that physical universality and open-ended dynamics should both be possible in irreversible dynamical systems if one entertains the possibility of state-dependent laws. We demonstrate with simple toy models how the accessibility of state space can yield open-ended trajectories, defined as trajectories that do not repeat within the expected Poincaré recurrence time and are not reproducible by an isolated system. We discuss implications for physical universality, or an approximation to it, as a foundational framework for developing a physics for life. View Full-Text
Keywords: open-ended evolution; innovation; physical universality; self-reference; top-down causation; cellular automata open-ended evolution; innovation; physical universality; self-reference; top-down causation; cellular automata
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Adams, A.M.; Berner, A.; Davies, P.C.W.; Walker, S.I. Physical Universality, State-Dependent Dynamical Laws and Open-Ended Novelty. Entropy 2017, 19, 461.

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