Many computer science publications from the 1950s and 1960s contain fascinating philosophical speculations on the nature of the mind and the meaning of information in relation to the physical world. Famous examples are the "Turing Test", Zuse's "Calculating Space", Wheeler's "it from bit" etc.

Today such themes are widely covered in popular science books, but seem all but gone from serious research publications. What are some examples of recent TCS publications with philosophical content or implications?

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    $\begingroup$ After reading the question Impagliazzo's Five Worlds paper came to mind... "Algorithmica: ...In short, as soon as a feasible algorithm for an NPC problem is found, the capacity of computers will become that currently depicted in science fiction."; "Pessiland: ...Progress will be like it is in our world: made slowly through a more complete understanding of the real-world situation and compromises by using unsatisfactory heuristics ...". But it is a short survey with no deep analysis of the impact of one of the scenarios on the physical world. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2015 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ ... and also Wolfram's NKS came to mind (now the book is under my PC monitor, contributing to the health of my eyes) ... according to the author (and the title), its philosophical implications are deep. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2015 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ The field of pseudorandomness gives an interesting philosophical perspective on randomness. I can't point to any single paper though. $\endgroup$
    – Thomas
    Nov 12, 2015 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ Probably Approximately Correct, by L. Valiant, does touch on philosophical aspects, IIRC. $\endgroup$
    – Clement C.
    Nov 14, 2015 at 15:35

2 Answers 2


some of what you refer to is covered under a general heading known as "digital physics" or digital philosophy which has a continuing thread of research in physics albeit not always mainstream.

a notable example of a TCS paper/ survey with major philosophical angles/ analysis

another key area/ possibility you mention is AI which has generally broken off from TCS research as practiced in academia and is now regarded as either more applied or more abstract/ speculative, and few researchers cross that gap, but there are many books on the subject by respected researchers verging on the philosophical. eg, recently


The paper, Knowledge, Creativity and P versus NP by Avi Wigderson is an excellent exposition of the P vs NP problem's implications on the philosophical question of automating creativity.


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