Is the World Fundamentally Information? Anthony Aguirre

Contemporary theories of fundamental physics and cosmology have brought us to a curious place. On the one hand, our incredibly successful theories are internally consistent, quantitative, predictive, and contradicted by essentially no established experimental data. On the other hand, as we look more deeply into the foundations of those theories, and as well look at more complex systems, deep questions abound: What does quantum mechanics really mean? Is our universe just one of many, and what does that mean? How do we account for agency and freedom in a purportedly deterministic universe? Many of these questions sit at the profound rift between our personal subjective, conscious, experience of the world, and the objective, mathematical fundamental physics view of the world. After reviewing some of the elements of our contemporary fundamental physics view, I will argue for several assertions as to how we might bridge some of the gap between that view and our subjective experience. First, I will argue that *information* is as real, and perhaps more real, than the “stuff” information is generally considered to be about. Second, I will argue that from this stand- point, more “fundamental” does not mean more “real” and that macroscopic objects and laws should not be considered “nothing but” regularities that have emerged from a “more real” fundamental theory. Third, I will argue that in a cosmological context, much or all information may be “indexical” information — the type pertaining to our subjective perspective (including location in time, space, branch of the wave function, universe, etc.!) In this way, I argue that our own subjective experience — and place in a community of others — is just as real, and just as central, to the World as is the physical system described by our ultra-successful fundamental theories.

Professor Aguirre researches fundamental questions in early-universe cosmology, cosmological inflation, gravity, black holes, and quantum theory. He is currently organizing a research program run through the Foundational Questions Institute on the “Physics of the Observer”, spanning disciplines including artificial intelligence, biophysics, foundations of quantum mechanics, and cosmology.