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The stochastic thermodynamics of computation

David Wolpert
David Wolpert
Santa Fe Institute Resident Professor Complexity Science Hub Vienna External Professor
Arizona State University
Physics Auditorium (202)
Departmental Colloquium

One of the major resource requirements of computers — ranging from biological cells to human brains to digital computers — are the free energy costs in running them. These thermodynamic properties of computers have been a long-standing focus of research in statistical physics, going back (at least) to the early semi-formal work of Maxwell and of Szilard.

Recent revolutionary breakthroughs in stochastic thermodynamics are allowing us for the first time to analyze the thermodynamics of computers in a fully rigorous manner. Here I illustrate some of these recent results, including the thermodynamic costs of (loop-free) digital circuits, of Turing machines, and of asynchronous distributed computers like the interacting organelles in a cell.

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