“…it is only through the existence of… pools of information which are not expressible solely in terms of relationships of actual particles that the notion of an objective whole can be given meaning.”
David Bohm and Basil Hiley (1993)
What is the quantum? What is information? What will be next-generation theories of physical reality? Could physics discover ‘a new kind of causality’? What do concepts like emergence, the quantum, and information have in common? Is an ‘emergent quantum mechanics’ possible?
Does ‘wholeness’ have objective existence as is implied by the quote above? How best to describe a concept of information that could account for the meaning of an objective whole? In classical physics there is no particular significance to the whole, as the latter is usually regarded as just a convenient way of thinking about what is considered to be in reality a set of parts only. Quantum mechanics, however, implies a new kind of understanding, i.e. one where the whole is a systemic necessity. This necessity is reflected also in the exploration of alternative approaches to quantum theory that, for example, view quanta as emergent states in connection with new concepts of active information. The need for new insight is especially apparent in the phenomena known as quantum entanglement and nonlocality.
To make progress at this frontier, the present focus of the physics program of the Fetzer Franklin Fund is the exploration of foundational questions in emergence, the quantum, and information. Specifically, the question how the joint exploration of these three domains could advance a new understanding of physical reality is a core interest. For example, could a novel synthesis originate a 21st century ‘super-classical’ physics? Might the boundary between classical and quantum descriptions appear in a new light? In fashioning novel approaches to reality at its smallest dimensions, a new concept of information appears to be critical to understanding the relationship between quantum and emergent states. The shift in emphasis from passive to active informational concepts is potentially revolutionary because it considers information as an element having causal powers: whereas before information was thought to be representational only, new approaches consider information to be a constitutive element of reality.
The proposal of novel relations between causality, reality, and information, raises puzzling metaphysical questions, and nobody has any good answers yet. Additionally, in the quest to understand the nature of emergent, self-organizing phenomena, the exact relationship between information and causation remains a wide open question also. The research program in physics includes work addressing questions such as those stated above, and considers both experimental and theoretical research opportunities.