Operational locality in global theories

Lea Krämer, Lídia Del Rio*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
258 Downloads (Pure)


Within a global physical theory, a notion of locality allows us to find and justify information-processing primitives, like non-signalling between distant agents. Here, we propose exploring the opposite direction: to take agents as the basic building blocks through which we test a physical theory, and recover operational notions of locality from signalling conditions. First, we introduce an operational model for the effective state spaces of individual agents, as well as the range of their actions. We then formulate natural secrecy conditions between agents and identify the aspects of locality relevant for signalling. We discuss the possibility of taking commutation of transformations as a primitive of physical theories, as well as applications to quantum theory and generalized probability frameworks. This 'it from bit' approach establishes an operational connection between local actions and local observations, and gives a global interpretation to concepts like discarding a subsystem or composing local functions. This article is part of a discussion meeting issue 'Foundations of quantum mechanics and their impact on contemporary society'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170321
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2123
Early online date28 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2018


  • Causality
  • Locality
  • Non-signalling


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