We address an argument by Floridi (Synthese 168(1):151–178, 2009; 2011a), to the effect that digital and analogue are not features of reality, only of modes of presentation of reality. One can therefore have an informational ontology, like Floridi’s Informational Structural Realism, without commitment to a supposedly digital or analogue world. After introducing the topic in Sect. 1, in Sect. 2 we explain what the proposition expressed by the title of our paper means. In Sect. 3, we describe Floridi’s argument. In (...) the following three sections, we raise three difficulties for it, (i) an objection from intuitions: Floridi’s view is not supported by the intuitions embedded in the scientific views he exploits (Sect. 4); (ii) an objection from mereology: the view is incompatible with the world’s having parts (Sect. 5); (iii) an objection from counting: the view entails that the question of how many things there are doesn’t make sense (Sect. 6). In Sect. 7, we outline two possible ways out for Floridi’s position. Such ways out involve tampering with the logical properties of identity, and this may be bothersome enough. Thus, Floridi’s modus ponens will be our (and most ontologists’) modus tollens. (shrink)
Cellular automata (henceforth: CA) are discrete, abstract computational systems that have proved useful both as general models of complexity and as more specific representations of non-linear dynamics in a variety of scientific fields. Firstly, CA are (typically) spatially and temporally discrete: they are composed of a finite or denumerable set of homogeneous, simple units, the atoms or cells. At each time unit, the cells instantiate one of a finite set of states. They evolve in parallel at discrete time steps, following (...) state update functions or dynamical transition rules: the update of a cell state obtains by taking into account the states of cells in its local neighborhood (there are, therefore, no actions at a distance). Secondly, CA are abstract, as they can be specified in purely mathematical terms and implemented in physical structures. Thirdly, CA are computational systems: they can compute functions and solve algorithmic problems. Despite functioning in a different way from traditional, Turing machine-like devices, CA with suitable rules can emulate a universal Turing machine, and therefore compute, given Turing's Thesis, anything computable.... (shrink)
Online controlled experiments, also known as A/B tests, have become ubiquitous. While many practical challenges in running experiments at scale have been thoroughly discussed, the ethical dimension of A/B testing has been neglected. This article fills this gap in the literature by introducing a new, soft ethics and governance framework that explicitly recognizes how the rise of an experimentation culture in industry settings brings not only unprecedented opportunities to businesses but also significant responsibilities. More precisely, the article (a) introduces a (...) set of principles to encourage ethical and responsible experimentation to protect users, customers, and society; (b) argues that ensuring compliance with the proposed principles is a complex challenge unlikely to be addressed by resorting to a one-solution response; (c) discusses the relevance and effectiveness of several mechanisms and policies in educating, governing, and incentivizing companies conducting online controlled experiments; and (d) offers a list of prompting questions specifically designed to help and empower practitioners by stimulating specific ethical deliberations and facilitating coordination among different groups of stakeholders. (shrink)
“There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom”, said the title of Richard Feynman’s 1959 seminal conference at the California Institute of Technology. Fifty years on, nanotechnologies have led computer scientists to pay close attention to the links between physical reality and information processing. Not all the physical requirements of optimal computation are captured by traditional models—one still largely missing is reversibility. The dynamic laws of physics are reversible at microphysical level, distinct initial states of a system leading to distinct final (...) states. On the other hand, as von Neumann already conjectured, irreversible information processing is expensive: to erase a single bit of information costs ~3 × 10−21 joules at room temperature. Information entropy is a thermodynamic cost, to be paid in non-computational energy dissipation. This paper addresses the problem drawing on Edward Fredkin’s Finite Nature hypothesis: the ultimate nature of the universe is discrete and finite, satisfying the axioms of classical, atomistic mereology. The chosen model is a cellular automaton with reversible dynamics, capable of retaining memory of the information present at the beginning of the universe. Such a CA can implement the Boolean logical operations and the other building bricks of computation: it can develop and host all-purpose computers. The model is a candidate for the realization of computational systems, capable of exploiting the resources of the physical world in an efficient way, for they can host logical circuits with negligible internal energy dissipation. (shrink)
The paper set up a small “philosophical lab” for thought experiments using Digital Universes as its main tool. Digital Universes allow us to examine how mereology affects the debate on New Realism of Ferraris and shed new light on the whole notion of Realism. The semi-formal framework provides a convenient way to model the varieties of realism that are important for the program of New Realism: we then draw the natural consequences of this approach into the ontology of our world, (...) arguing that the same considerations that apply to Digital Universe would hold for chess, institutions and social objects as well. Once a particular version of mereology is chosen, there are unavoidable consequences that the very underlying structure of social ontology. We then propose a new New Realism to tackle social objects: social objects turn out to be nothing more than mereological sums, picked up by some description. (shrink)
La venerabile metafora del buon macellaio ha resistito allo scorrere del tempo molto meglio di altre fantasiose immagini della metafisica platonica: buona parte dell’ontologia contemporanea riposa tuttora sulla distinzione tra venature dell’Essere – quei confini nello spazio, nel tempo, nei mondi che effettivamente demarcherebbero entità ontologicamente autonome – e semplici linee-guida, sovraimposte dagli esseri umani per “ritagliare” nella realtà oggetti socialmente utili o cognitivamente s...
Bermúdez identifies the “Interface Problem” as the central problem in the philosophy of psychology: how commonsensical psychological explanations can be integrated with lower-level explanations? In particular, since folk psychology is meant to provide causal explanations on a par with, say, neurobiological explanations, the question of how to understand the relation between the two layers arises naturally. Donald Davidson claimed that the interface problem is actually ill-posed and put forward his version of the “Autonomy Picture”, the view known as anomalous monism. (...) This work reviews Davidson’s proposal in the light of digital universes: we model the key claims of the theory using cellular automata and show that Davidson’s original version of the Autonomy Picture is immune to two arguments against autonomy. (shrink)