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First let me state that I am not, nor ever have I been, a physics student. I am working on an idea for a book I'm writing.

This is a thought experiment that posits the existence of a computer system that, to cut right to the point, has within its memory banks the thoughts, memories, and experiences of every human being who has ever died on Earth, and this data is continuously updated in real time. Also, this computer system has a constant stream of data fed to it from a network of planetary sensors that record every physical event that occurs on the planet, from the shifting of tectonic plates beneath the Earth's crust to the ol' hackneyed flapping of a butterfly's wings. This computer system is able to process this data through a realizable causal filter that allows it to create an unimaginably detailed model of, well, everything.

This computer system should therefore be asymptotically omniscient, in regard to past and ever-present events that occurred and are occurring. Its data would not be 100% reliable, as there is a distinct difference between observed past (which is subject to interpretation), and actual past (which is indelible), and keep in mind that the physical data fed to it by the planetary sensors would also be considered as observations. I feel that the sheer amount of raw data available would make it so that, when looked at as a whole, multitudinous patterns of causation would emerge.

My question is this: In the example that I described, is there anything that would physically prevent the computer system from anticipating (within specific parameters) future events to a given degree of probability, the accuracy of which would be proportional to the magnitude of the event, and inversely proportional to the time interval between the predicted event and the present?

Furthermore, would it be conceivable that the computer system, when analysing a given prediction, could indicate (within a degree of probability) specific critical points in time and space that, if interfered with by the computer system's operator, could drastically raise or lower the odds of the original predicted event actually occurring?

Further still, the computer system should also be able to simultaneously calculate the potential effects of such an interference, and suggest a course of action that is least likely to create unwelcome consequences further down the road.

Assumptions: The computer system possesses near-infinite processing power and internal storage.

The computer system is programmed to constantly scan for future catastrophic events within a specific magnitude, and when such an event is detected, the computer system is programmed to analyse the various patterns of causation leading up to the event, and suggest optimal points of interference, with the goal of averting the catastrophe.

The computer system operates within a stochastic universe, thus 100% accurate predictions are asymptotically impossible.

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closed as not constructive by Waffle's Crazy Peanut, John Rennie, Qmechanic May 28 '13 at 9:48

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Hi and welcome to Physics.SE. Your question is too localized, too hypothetical, and con constructive. Check out the faq. Can you cut down your question to just the conceptual components and re-ask them individually? – Brandon Enright May 28 '13 at 3:44
You should check out the Science Fiction and Fantasy StackExchange although I'm not sure your question is on-topic there either. – Brandon Enright May 28 '13 at 3:46
IMHO, this question should be welcome on Physics SE. – user7757 May 28 '13 at 5:24
Actually part of this fantasy exists in metaphysical systems, it is called the akashic record . As in some metaphysics time is just another coordinate the future could be explored . If you add the many worlds interpretation to the soup you could calculate the probabilities of outcomes . it is science fiction though. – anna v May 28 '13 at 7:35

1 Answer 1

You would need infinite precision for all your measurements. Anything less than that will suffer from chaos problems, in the same way that weather forecasting does. Unless you have absolute precision, your predictions may work for a short period but will become less and less reliable as you extend them further out into the future. Currently, weather forecasts are reasonably accurate for a couple of does, acceptable over 5 to 7 days, and anything beyond that is not much better than guesswork. The reason for the errors are twofold: the coarseness of the measuring grid, and the limited accuracy of the measurements

Your next problem is that absolute precision is forbidden by the uncertainty principle. Even if you have unlimited accuracy in your equipment, particles do not let themselves be measured that accurately. In addition, you also have to worry about the simplified "reason" giving for the uncertainty principle: the act of measuring affects the particle. Just shining a light on a particle will affect its path and speed.

Having said all that, I can see it as a good basis for a novel. It's close enough to reality to make a story.

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