Is the universe inherently deterministic or probabilistic? Perhaps
more importantly - can we tell the difference between the two?
Humanity has pondered the meaning and utility of randomness for
millennia. There is a remarkable variety of ways in which we utilize
perfect coin tosses to our advantage: in statistics, cryptography,
game theory, algorithms, gambling... Indeed, randomness seems
indispensable! Which of these applications survive if the universe
had no randomness in it at all? Which of them survive if only
poor quality randomness is available, e.g. that arises from "unpredictable"
phenomena like the weather or the stock market?
A computational theory of randomness, developed in the past three
decades, reveals (perhaps counter-intuitively) that very little
is lost in such deterministic or weakly random worlds. In the
talk I'll explain the main ideas and results of this theory.
The talk is aimed at a general audience, and no particular background
will be assumed.