Institute for Advanced Study
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 and more. 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 counterintuitively) that very little is lost in such deterministic or weakly random worlds. In the talk, Dr. Wigderson will explain the main ideas and results of this theory.
Avi Wigderson has been a professor in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study since 1999. There, he leads the Institute’s Computer Science and Discrete Math Program and works in the theory of computation, a field which studies the mathematical foundations of computer science. He is interested in algorithms, Boolean and arithmetic circuit complexity, communication and proof complexity, cryptography, randomness, as well as the interactions of the field with other sciences including mathematics, physics, biology and economics.