Is the universe actually a giant quantum computer? According to Seth Lloyd—Professor of Quantum-Mechanical Engineering at MIT and originator of the first technologically feasible design for a working quantum computer—the answer is yes. This wonderfully accessible book illuminates the professional and personal paths that led him to this remarkable conclusion.

All interactions between particles in the universe, Lloyd explains, convey not only energy but also information—in other words, particles not only collide, they compute. And what is the entire universe computing, ultimately? “Its own dynamical evolution,” he says. “As the computation proceeds, reality unfolds.”

To elucidate his theory, Lloyd examines the history of the cosmos, posing questions that in other hands might seem unfathomably complex: How much information is there in the universe? What information existed at the moment of the Big Bang and what happened to it? How do quantum mechanics and chaos theory interact to create our world? Could we attempt to re-create it on a giant quantum computer?

Programming the Universe presents an original and compelling vision of reality, revealing our world in an entirely new light.


"Reassembling the bits of a shattered Newtonian apple of knowledge into a quantum computer of the Universe, Seth Lloyd has unified the sciences of physics, information, mechanics and complexity in a prodigious book, incandescent with novel ideas and grand syntheses that dare the reader to imagine that we have a new Feynman among us."–George Gilder, author of Microcosm, Telecosm, and The Silicon Eye

"This is a fascinating book. The author’s message is that information is at the core of everything. Weaving in his own intellectual journey towards quantum computation makes it a very exciting read. I was unable to put it down."–Anton Zeilinger, Professor of Physics at the University of Vienna "The modern version of the grand question ‘Mind or Matter?’ is ‘Information or Physics?’ Seth Lloyd has engaged it with enthusiasm and persistence. In his vision, reached after hard study and thought, the question is transcended: the deepest reality is simultaneously information and physics."–Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics, MIT, 2004 Nobel Laureate

"Seth Lloyd is one of the gurus of quantum and information theory, and in this accessible book he presents an insightful new perspective on the cosmos."–Sir Martin Rees, Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, Trinity College, University of Cambridge, Author of Just Six Numbers

"What an astonishing book! Seth Lloyd, a quantum bit wrangler at MIT, proves that not only is the universe really a computer, but the universe is a computer we can program! He is not the first to see the world this way, but he is the first to translate this mathematical intuition into plain English. Lloyd is at the forefront of a revolution in science that says everything that exists (atoms, energy, space) is just bits of information. The beauty of this book, and Lloyd’s heroic achievement, is to transform that utterly outrageous view into a reasonable idea that anyone can begin to understand. A programmable universe is a scientific idea whose time will come in future decades, but you can read it here first."–Kevin Kelly, Editor-at-Large, Wired

"For those readers who love the big questions of existence, they don’t get much bigger than this. Seth Lloyd has re-written the cosmology rule book, bringing penetrating insights from the realm of computation to bear on the problems of complexity, life and the universe. This is an entirely new way of tackling some of the deepest scientific mysteries of our time, engagingly explained by one of the world’s most creative scientists and leading thinkers."–Paul C. Davies, Australian Centre for Astrobiology, Macquarie University, New South Wales, Australia, Author of How to Build a Time Machine

Programming the Universe