Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos” as Want to Read:
Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  1,348 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Is the universe actually a giant quantum computer? According to Seth Lloyd, the answer is yes.

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. What is the entire universe computing, ultimately? “Its own dynamical evolution,” he says. “As the computation
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 13th 2007 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Programming the Universe, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Programming the Universe

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 06, 2012 Geo rated it really liked it
So first of all, thanks to Geoff for lending this to me. And no, I don't care that the Mayan 2012 hokey drug book I traded you for it is at the bottom of a ravine in the mountains.

First, a caveat. I am *decidedly* an amateur when it comes to physics, quantum mechanics and similar topics. I am not, however, an amateur when it comes to programming and computer science. It frames the rest of the review, since this book delves pretty darn deep into both fields.

Alright, since I'm on the topic, I supp
I really like Seth Lloyd. There are many extremely smart people today, but only few of them are able to explain and present certain theories so they are comprehensible to other people (especially in QM). So, in a way, Lloyd is like a modern Richard Feynman, also because he is witty, funny and easy to follow. Even though he deals with subjects that are way beyond our everyday experience, and even in that category, are very hard to conceptualize and understand, cause at a time they can be very cou ...more
Nathan Nifong
Programming the Universe was very hard for me to finish. despite how interesting I find information theory, quantum mechanics, and computer science, I just could not tolerate Seth Lloyd's writing. Extracting the underlying concepts from his disorderly descriptions is as tedious a process as getting pure metal from raw ore.
Zak J
I have mixed feelings about this book. While the content was often interesting, it was also severely lacking in some places. He would make claims that were pivotal to the book's progression and then leave them unexplained. For instance, he would reach an important conclusion that the entropy of this was lower than that and therefore wasn't a violation of the 2nd Law, but would offer no explanation as to how he arrived at this conclusion. He elaborated the importance, but not the path to the solu ...more
Ami Iida
This book covers the basics of quantum understanding science.
But explanation of quantum computer is difficult dramatically.
You should be aware of it.

It has described the quantum mechanics from the primary step. it is easy for the beginners to read it.
my recommendation.

chapter 2 ; It is written about a logical game of Wittgenstein. the author is an extensive knowledge.

chapter 2 ; it is written about The principle of the computer. for example Logical gate,etc..........
chapter 3 ; the story o
May 02, 2011 Antonio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
The idea of the universe as a computer is not new, of course. Lloyd declares that from the very beginning and continues to explain in some detail several theories that have seen the universe as such a machine. Then, he asserts that in fact the universe is a quantum computer and from there, plenty of new stuff spread over the book. Lloyd describes briefly, but concisely quantum theory and its relevant aspects to create a quantum computer. The final chapter about measuring complexity was particula ...more
Charles Daney
This short book (about 220 pages) covers a large number of topics: information theory, thermodynamics, complexity, computing, quantum computers, quantum mechanics, the quantum measurement problem, interpretations of quantum mechanics, cosmology, and quantum gravity. Unfortunately, that's too many for such a short book. If one hasn't read separately about each of those topics, the treatment here will provide only a superficial picture. The book was first published in 2006, and there don't seem to ...more
Javier Cano
El libro está muy bueno, es una introducción, mas de divulgación, a la computación cuántica, para esto el autor primero presenta una discución muy interesante sobre qué es la información, pues como teórico de la información considera que una computadora sólo sabe manipular información (bits), argumentando que el universo está formado de información, las partículas son bits y hablar en el lenguaje de los átomos es hablar el lenguaje del úniverso y cómo esto podría servir para hacer cómputo, concl ...more
May 11, 2008 DJ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-physics
I read this book in the midst of a wave of readings on viewing the world as information (cybernetics, thermodynamics, information theory). I can't say it introduced many new concepts to this conversation, but more importantly, Seth Lloyd is a wizard with strange analogies that cast old ideas in new frameworks. Many scientists are so obsessed with the importance of their ideas (read: Stephen Wolfram) that they'd be horrified to toss them around and play with them like a child learning new words. ...more
Jul 26, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like the Book. Lloyd presents a very strong case for Universal Quantum Computation as being the main synthesizing method behind reality and Universal evolution. Not only were his ideas clear and concise but they were also well backed up by creditable references and experimental data. Though in the end he falls short of nailing down the last pesky pieces of a holistic model of a true "Theory of Everything," that includes a working model of gravity or an explanation of the initial cause o ...more
Jan 19, 2008 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: computer scientists, people interesting in physics, information
I’ve been reading this book for a while. Non-fiction books except history books) always take me longer, as I like to check the facts, absorb the ideas…yeah, I know, it reminds some of you of schoolwork.

Dr. Lloyd’s book is full of ideas worth absorbing, the main one being that the universe is a continually running quantum computer. His book is an excellent mix of computer science, quantum mechanics and information theory, three subjects that can get quite difficult to explain separately, let alon
Jan 18, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good book. I thought it was going to be a little thicker to read through, given the subject matter it deals with, you know, "Quantum Computing", way beyond rocket science if you ask me, but in the end it resulted in a very well written and well paced book. It did feature some thick paragraphs here and there, but nothing that a double-read wouldn't solve.

I highly recommend it as it adds a whole new perspective to one's universal view. We might be living inside the ultimate quantum computer
Mar 30, 2009 Hollis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
Interesting and fascinating ideas about quantum computers - truly 'universal' ideas that are mind-bending. I was intrigued and found it interesting, despite realizing I just didn't 'get' much of it in a deep way and finally decided I'd had enough
Oct 25, 2012 Atti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great book, a must read for anyone passionate about natural science.
Mr Lloyd does a great job at explaining the informational theory of the universe. Its a bit to short for me, I would have loved to read more about this theory and about quantum computing.
Jeff Cliff
I got this at Plato's Cave in Winnipeg, as part of a grab bag of books that looked interesting. While it was an interesting read, It was beyond the suspension of disbelief. I was convinced that Seth Lloyd was a crank until I found a video of him later, and did some research.
Turns out everything in the book was almost certainly true and now I'm going to have to go out and re-buy another copy because it'd probably be good.
William Schram
This book was pretty good. Seth Lloyd talks about Quantum Theory and Information Theory and how it combines to make the universe a Quantum Computer. It took longer than I thought to complete it, but it was still quite enjoyable. At first I didn't really know where he was going with his story, but eventually, he dives into it.
Nov 20, 2012 Allan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came away with an impression that the first half of the book was written under a certain duress, as if Lloyd is the type of person who is fairly eloquent in speech but feels a tightness inside when forced to commit himself to paper. This is not uncommon. In some subtle way, he seems to warm to the task of composition in the second half.

Peculiarly at the outset, he tells a story about an apple (with a bite out of it, no less) and never hence alludes to the blush of knowledge, cyanide or turtle
Jun 05, 2012 Simone rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book, but not a perfect one. I'm very interested in the core subject, that is, a computational theory of the universe. Long story short, a computational theory of the universe is a theory which states that, ultimately, if you had a computer huge enough to simulate perfectly the universe, well, that WOULD BE the universe; thus, the universe actually IS some sort of huge computer. I bought it hoping to gain more insight in this fascinating theory while avoiding the technicalities of an actu ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Noud rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A small masterpiece about complexity and computation. Seth Lloyd, a brilliant physicist at MIT, explains complexity, computation, quantum mechanics and quantum computers in a clear and throughout way and shows that the universe is one big (quantum) computer itself. Reading this book should come with a small warning, it is not an easy book. He tries to explain things as easy as possible or as he says in this book "Keep It Simple, Stupid", but some knowledge about information theory, quantum mecha ...more
Aug 07, 2011 Alex added it
I originally picked up the book to gain insights into the information-theoretic explanations for Entropy. Along the way, I picked up a good general sense of the information-theoretic explanation of physics, the universe, and the potential GUT. As far as understanding entropy goes, though, I am not much closer than I was when I started.

Read this book to get a generic idea on how quantum computers work, and for a general outline on how the ideas behind them affect our understanding of physics, and
Aug 07, 2011 Alex added it
I originally picked up the book to gain insights into the information-theoretic explanations for Entropy. Along the way, I picked up a good general sense of the information-theoretic explanation of physics, the universe, and the potential GUT. As far as understanding entropy goes, though, I am not much closer than I was when I started.

Read this book to get a generic idea on how quantum computers work, and for a general outline on how the ideas behind them affect our understanding of physics, and
Oct 18, 2007 Deana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was extremely interesting. Seth Lloyd explains in fairly easy-to-understand terms (provided you have a small amount of background with computer science and physics) the concepts behind building a quantum computer (using atoms to compute and store data), the fact that the entire universe is computing, descriptions on how to get electrons to compute things, and the secret to living indefinitely (and many, many more cool topics). It was a relatively quick read, very informative and intere ...more
Matt Belcroft
Feb 19, 2016 Matt Belcroft rated it it was ok
Shelves: cosmology
I enjoyed the first few pages of the book because I was joyfully anticipating learning something totally exotic and cool. Unfortunately I began to lose understanding as the book went on and since everything that went later, built on previous explanations, I felt more and more lost. Lloyd does throw in some interesting stories throughout the book and these did help keep the interest level up somewhat. If you have a basic grounding in atomic physics you should be able to get through the book a lot ...more
Peter Aronson
Jul 12, 2016 Peter Aronson rated it really liked it
A short, to the point, and readable book on the view that the Universe can be considered a quantum computer, and the consequences of that. It avoids diving into the math, which makes it readable, but also leaves the reader to either trust the author or not as they see fit, as the actual evidence for this position is omitted as a result. An enjoyable and mentally stimulating read, particularly for the discussion of the different methods of measuring complexity.
Sean Smith
Dec 03, 2012 Sean Smith rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Thought provoking and computationally complex. Seth Lloyd's way of viewing the universe is worth your thought processing time. I feel like as with all science, thinking of the universe as being a quantum computer is useful, and perhaps true, but it is simply only one mode of describing incredible complexity. I got a lot of mileage out of this book and I will be thinking about it now as one of my modes of description in years to come.
Mar 18, 2008 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The target audience is fairly niche (people with a logical scientific or computing background, but unschooled in the field of information theory), and his conclusions are somewhat radical to an outsider, but his ideas are well presented and absolutely fascinating.

For the pop-science crowd, this is a worthy and thought provoking read, although I'm not sure how well it would translate to someone without any background in science or computing.
Matt Hooper
Jun 03, 2007 Matt Hooper rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: computer science and physics buffs
Quantum physics, not to mention quantum computing, is a pretty heady topic. This book did an excellent job of explaining basics of how quantum mechanical laws can be leveraged to perform computations and the potential power of quantum computers for parallelism. My only complaint is that there were a couple of sections on the author's personal life which dulled the book some given that I was looking purely of a good introduction to the topic, not his personal life.

Shees Hassan
Sep 14, 2016 Shees Hassan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best books I read on the topic of Quantum computation. It is a nice non mathematical review of the motivation, development, working and future prospects of Quantum computing. The last couple of sections are very interesting indeed where Mr. Lloyd maps the theory of quantum computing on to the whole universe.
After reading this book, another book written on the same topic but through a different viewing approach, "The fabric of reality" by David Deutsch is highly recommended.
Jan 29, 2008 Stuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
I recommend reading this book before Charles Seife's "Decoding the Universe" which covers similar material. While both are great, Programming the Universe I think better explains Information Theory and Quantum Computers. I read Decoding The Universe first and still wasn't sure how information and matter were supposed to be the same thing. With this book I had the Ah-ha moment.
Jan 14, 2015 Gregorio rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is mainly a work of self-promotion by its author. How expert he is about everything, from ancient Greek philosophy onward. How smart and funny he think he is. How many important people he has met.
The remaining 10% discussing quantum computing is confused and confusing, especially for a reader who is already a bit into computer science and physics.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Einstein's Telescope: The Hunt for Dark Matter and Dark Energy in the Universe
  • Dark Cosmos: In Search of Our Universe's Missing Mass and Energy
  • The Life of the Cosmos
  • The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics Was Reborn
  • Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information
  • The Accelerating Universe: Infinite Expansion, the Cosmological Constant, and the Beauty of the Cosmos
  • Decoding the Universe: How the New Science of Information Is Explaining Everything in the Cosmos, from Our Brains to Black Holes
  • Faster Than the Speed of Light: The Story of a Scientific Speculation
  • Wrinkles in Time
  • Quintessence: The Mystery of Missing Mass in the Universe
  • The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins
  • An Introduction to Black Holes, Information and the String Theory Revolution: The Holographic Universe
  • At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity
  • The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family
  • Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang
  • The Constants of Nature: The Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe
  • Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
  • Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »
Seth Lloyd is a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He refers to himself as a "quantum mechanic".
His research area is the interplay of information with complex systems, especially quantum systems. He has performed seminal work in the fields of quantum computation and quantum communication, including proposing the first technologically feasible design f
More about Seth Lloyd...

Share This Book

“Programmed by quanta, physics gave rise first to chemistry and then to life; programmed by mutations and recombination, life gave rise to Shakespeare; programmed by experience and imagination, Shakespeare gave rise to Hamlet.” 5 likes
“Meaning is like pornography, you know it when you see it.” 3 likes
More quotes…