How Hidden are Hidden Processes?
A Primer on Crypticity and Entropy Convergence

John R. Mahoney, Christopher J. Ellison, Ryan G. James, and James P. Crutchfield

Complexity Sciences Center and Physics Department
University of California at Davis
Davis, CA 95616

ABSTRACT: We investigate a stationary process's crypticity—a measure of the difference between its hidden state information and its observed information—using the causal states of computational mechanics. Here, we motivate crypticity and cryptic order as physically meaningful quantities that monitor how hidden a hidden process is. This is done by recasting previous results on the convergence of block entropy and block-state entropy in a geometric setting, one that is more intuitive and that leads to a number of new results. For example, we connect crypticity to how an observer synchronizes to a process. We show that the block-causal-state entropy is a convex function of block length. We give a complete analysis of spin chains. We present a classification scheme that surveys stationary processes in terms of their possible cryptic and Markov orders. We illustrate related entropy convergence behaviors using a new form of foliated information diagram. Finally, along the way, we provide a variety of interpretations of crypticity and cryptic order to establish their naturalness and pervasiveness. Hopefully, these will inspire new applications in spatially extended and network dynamical systems.

J. R. Mahoney, C. J. Ellison, R. G. James, and J. P. Crutchfield, "How Hidden are Hidden Processes? A Primer on Crypticity and Entropy Convergence", CHAOS 21:3 (2011) 037112.
[pdf] 550 kB
Santa Fe Institute Working Paper 11-08-029.
arXiv:1108.1510 [cond-mat.stat-mech].