The Algebra of Possibilities

There is a notion in symbolic dynamics of a “topological Markov chain” that is analogous to a Markov chain in probability theory. It’s occurred to me that you can extend the analogy to a complete analogy with probability theory. We’re still interested in sets of events, but now we’re no longer interested in the probability of an event, but just whether or not an event is possible.

Start with a σ-algebra of sets, as usual. Instead of associating a probability with each set, associate a member of the set {Not Possible, Possible}. The empty set is assigned the value Not Possible, while the whole space is assigned the value Possible. A countable disjoint union of sets is Possible if and only if at least one of the individual sets is Possible.

A measure takes values in the semigroup of the nonnegative real numbers closed under addition. Here, we’ve replaced that semigroup with the semigroup of {Not Possible, Possible} under the commutative binary operation +, with multiplication table:

+ Not Possible Possible
Not Possible Not Possible Possible
Possible Possible Possible

I’ll explain the relationship with topological Markov chains in a future post.

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