A free energy principle for generic quantum systems

Chris Fields, Karl Friston, James F. Glazebrook, Michael Levin

Research output: Working paper/PreprintPreprint

63 Downloads (Pure)


The Free Energy Principle (FEP) states that under suitable conditions of weak coupling, random dynamical systems with sufficient degrees of freedom will behave so as to minimize an upper bound, formalized as a variational free energy, on surprisal (a.k.a., self-information). This upper bound can be read as a Bayesian prediction error. Equivalently, its negative is a lower bound on Bayesian model evidence (a.k.a., marginal likelihood). In short, certain random dynamical systems evince a kind of self-evidencing. Here, we reformulate the FEP in the formal setting of spacetime-background free, scale-free quantum information theory. We show how generic quantum systems can be regarded as observers, which with the standard freedom of choice assumption become agents capable of assigning semantics to observational outcomes. We show how such agents minimize Bayesian prediction error in environments characterized by uncertainty, insufficient learning, and quantum contextuality. We show that in its quantum-theoretic formulation, the FEP is asymptotically equivalent to the Principle of Unitarity. Based on these results, we suggest that biological systems employ quantum coherence as a computational resource and - implicitly - as a communication resource. We summarize a number of problems for future research, particularly involving the resources required for classical communication and for detecting and responding to quantum context switches.
Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 30 Dec 2021


  • quant-ph
  • q-bio.NC


Dive into the research topics of 'A free energy principle for generic quantum systems'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this