Clarissa Ai Ling Lee’s Paper Proposal

Simulating Nature: the Monte Carlo Method as Speculative Computing and the Cybernetics of Physics

The primary objective of this essay is to establish the connection between the cybernetic- quantum mechanical discussions of both John Von Neumann and Heinz Von Foerster in first and order cybernetic theory, with that of the algorithmically-determined data simulation/generation and heuristical comparative-analytical technique referred to as the Monte Carlo method, specifically in relation to the discovery and empirical confirmation of the high-energy physics of the Higgs Boson Standard Model, the Standard Model being the dominant quantum interpretation. The aim is to to consider the potential of cybernetics for mediating algorithmic thinking in relation to quantum foundational thinking.

The main texts for anchoring the discussion will be Von Foerster’s “The Quantum Mechanical Theory of Memory,” and Von Neumann’s “The Brain and the Computer and Foundations of Quantum Mechanics.” Then, I intend to connect with their relevant works in quantum statistics, computing and informational structure. My reasons are twofold: 1) the familial relations between the developments of the Monte Carlo method, high scale computing for the development of data-intensive physical sciences since WW2, and cybernetic thinking that were emerging from similar theoretical questions within quantum physics and representations of energy in information and thermodynamics 2) the development, and appropriation, of the Monte Carlo method for working through multiple theoretical directions that enable the final confirmation of the Higgs boson that has a crucial role in improving compatibility between quantum theoretical interpretative thinking and pragmatic experimental programs.

These rationale above will be explored through the lens of compatibility between quantum physics and cybernetics, by recuperating, then extending from Foerster and Neumann. I intend to update their discussions by bringing in what experimental developments within quantum theories, as represented by the work on the Higgs boson, have done in closing theory-experiment gap. Moreover, from this discussion, I would then venture an extrapolation of what new order could cybernetics move into when theory and experiment is encapsulated into quantum computing.

I begin by considering the applicability of Neumann and Foerster’s theories of the cybernetic in relation to quantum states, code, and memory to. Then I will venture into a brief explanation of a relevant aspect of the Monte Carlo as a medium of data circulation and transformation. I will discuss the formalism concerning the origination of the Monte Carlo, which represents the start of thinking about quantum processes algorithmically.

Then, I investigate the connection made by Foerster and Neumann between quantum states, cybernetic systems, and memory; I will also bring up Neumann’s interest to code and digital computing to demonstrate their relevance to his cybernetic ideas. Moreover, their interests in the connection between quantum states and cybernetics came of their respective interest in the representation of energy as vehicles of information, which is productive for thinking about data simulation (Von Neumann 1929,1966) (Von Foerster 1949).

In articulating these connections, I will draw on the relevance of Neumann’s preoccupation with the role of probabilistic thinking in quantum theories out of his work on entropy stemming from his dissatisfaction over how the classical realm of thermodynamics had been handled in quantum physics and how that transforms algorithmically. These concerns are generative to his work on operations research; especially his explorations into digital and physical computing that would envisage some of the latter day developments in quantum computing.

While the Monte Carlo has developed and transformed considerably since its earliest incarnation and is not constitutive of any single method of statistical production, I argue that cybernetics thinking is methodologically applicable for delineating Monte Carlo’s current role in reproducing and confirming various quantum theories by way of investigation into the behavior and profiles of elementary particles of the universe in relation to concerns of interpretations in quantum theoretical studies.

Further, cybernetics is a dialectic mediator for reshaping our current relations to the epistemology of theory and experiment while rethinking the status of information that navigates between the macro and microstate. As Foerster develops his concept of ‘eigenbehavior’ in The Beginning of Heaven and Earth has No Name: Seven Days with Second Order Cybernetics, we can also trace the development of macro-level informatics into quantum informatics as ‘imaginary’ quantum states are than actualized. Finally, I hope to show how bringing together the Monte Carlo process and cybernetics can enrich both.

Cybernetic traditions:

  • 1) Computer science; AI; robotics
  • 3) Experimental epistemology; constructivism; philosophy of science

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