There are (at least) four ways that an agent can acquire information concerning the state of the universe: via observation, control, prediction, or via retrodiction, i.e., memory. Each of these four ways of acquiring information seems to rely on a different kind of physical device (resp., an observation device, a control device, etc.). However it turns out that certain mathematical structure is common to those four types of device. Any device that possesses a certain subset of that structure is known as an “inference device” (ID).
Here I review some of the properties of IDs, including their relation with Turing machines, and (more loosely) quantum mechanics. I also review the bounds of the joint abilities of any set of IDs to know facts about the physical universe that contains them. These bounds constrain the possible properties of any universe that contains agents who can acquire information concerning that universe.
I then extend this previous work on IDs, by adding to the definition of IDs some of the other mathematical structure that is common to the four ways of acquiring information about the universe but is not captured in the (minimal) definition of IDs. I discuss these extensions of IDs in the context of epistemic logic (especially possible worlds formalisms like Kripke structures and Aumann structures). In particular, I show that these extensions of IDs are not subject to the problem of logical omniscience that plagues many previously studied forms of epistemic logic.
Constraints on physical reality arising from a formalization of knowledge