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Turing Machines: Monotone TMs (MTMs), General TMs (GTMs), Enumerable Output Machines (EOMs)

The standard model of theoretical computer science is the Turing Machine (TM) [43]. It allows for emulating any known computer. Most TMs considered in previous work are monotone, that is, once they print out a bit they cannot revise it later. We will point out that such TMs are in a certain sense less expressive than other TMs that may edit their previous outputs -- certain objects without any short nonhalting programs on traditional TMs have very short programs on other TMs. To deal with the differences between monotone computability, enumerability, and computability in the limit, we consider three types of TMs.

Monotone TMs (MTMs). Most current theory of description size and inductive inference is based on MTMs (compare [30, p. 276 ff]) with several tapes, each tape being a finite chain of adjacent squares with a scanning head initially pointing to the leftmost square. There is one output tape and at least two work tapes (sufficient to efficiently compute everything traditionally regarded as computable). The MTM has a finite number of internal states, one of them being the initial state. MTM behavior is specified by a lookup table mapping current state and contents of the squares above work tape scanning heads to a new state and an instruction to be executed next. There are instructions for shifting work tape scanning heads one square left or right (appending new squares when necessary), and for writing 0 or 1 on squares above work tape scanning heads. The only input-related instruction requests an input bit determined by an external process and copies it onto the square above the first work tape scanning head (no extra input tape). There may or may not be a halt instruction to terminate a computation. MTMs are called monotone because they have a one-way write-only output tape -- they cannot edit their previous output, because the only ouput instructions are: append new square at the right end of the output tape and fill it with 0/1.

General TMs (GTMs). GTMs embody the concept of computability in the limit. They are like MTMs but have additional output instructions to edit their previous output. Our motivation for introducing GTMs is that certain bitstrings are very compactly describable on nonhalting GTMs but not on MTMs, as will be seen later. This has consequences for definitions of individual describability and probability distributions on describable things. The additional instructions are: (a) shift output scanning head right/left (but not out of bounds); (b) delete square at the right end of the output tape (if it is not the initial square or above the scanning head); (c) write 1 or 0 on square above output scanning head. Compare Burgin's inductive TMs and super-recursive algorithms [6,8].

Example.[Pseudorandom universe based on halting problem] Why
consider GTMs at all? Because in a certain sense they represent the non-plus-ultra of constructive computability. For instance, consider a programmer of virtual realities. Which are his fundamental limits; which universes could he possibly generate? He could write a finite program that computes a never-ending sequence $x$ of finite bitstrings $x^1,x^2,ldots$ representing the history of some discrete universe, where $x^k$ represents the state at discrete time step $k$, and $x^1$ the ``Big Bang'' [35]. ``Noise'' will have to be simulated by invoking a finite pseudorandom generator subroutine PRG. Suppose its $n$-th output bit $PRG(n)$ is 1 if the $n$-th program of a list of all possible programs halts, and 0 otherwise. There is no halting algorithm computing $PRG(n)$ for all $n$, otherwise the halting problem would be solvable, which it is not [43]. Hence in general there is no computer that outputs $x$ and only $x$ without ever editing some previously computed history. That is, if we want to study the set of all programmable universes [36] then we should not limit ourselves to MTMs but consider GTMs as well.

Note, however, that the output of a GTM might not stabilize in the sense that certain output bits might flip from 0 to 1 and back forever.

Enumerable Output Machines (EOMs). EOMs embody the important concept of computable enumerability. Like GTMs, EOMs can edit their previous output, but not such that it decreases lexicographically. The expressive power of EOMs lies in between those of MTMs and GTMs, with interesting universality properties whose analogues do not hold for GTMs. EOMs are like MTMs, except that the only permitted output instruction sequences are: (a) shift output tape scanning head left/right unless this leads out of bounds; (b) replace bitstring starting above the output scanning head by the string to the right of the scanning head of the second work tape, readjusting output tape size accordingly, but only if this lexicographically increases the contents of the output tape. The necessary test can be hardwired into the finite TM transition table. A significant fraction of this paper concerns EOMs with randomly chosen input bits.

Self-Delimiting Programs. Sequences of input bits requested by halting TMs are traditionally called self-delimiting programs because they convey all information about their own length [29,16,14]. Here we will use this term also for complete finite input sequences requested by nonhalting MTMs, EOMs, and GTMs. Consider three possible cases: (1) the input sequence is a halting self-delimiting program (traditional case), (2) the TM at some point ceases requesting new input bits but does not halt -- then we have a nonhalting self-delimiting program, which may produce either finite or infinite output, (3) the TM never ceases requesting new input bits, which suggests the notion of infinite programs. In any case no program can be prefix of another one.

Example. [Illustration of TM Hierarchy] There are short self-delimiting MTM programs for the infinite dyadic expansion of $pi$, but not for $Omega$, the halting probability of an MTM whose input bits are obtained by tossing an unbiased coin whenever it requests a new bit [14,10,39,9,42]. On the other hand, there are short self-delimiting EOM programs for $Omega$, but not for certain bitstrings that have short self-delimiting GTM programs, to be exhibited by Theorem 3.3.

next up previous
Next: Infinite Computations, Convergence, Formal Up: Preliminaries Previous: Notation
Juergen Schmidhuber 2003-02-13