We explore a link between complexity and physics for circuits of given functionality. Taking advantage of the connection between circuit counting problems and the derivation of ensembles in statistical mechanics, we tie the entropy of circuits of a given functionality and fixed number of gates to circuit complexity. We use thermodynamic relations to connect the quantity analogous to the equilibrium temperature to the exponent describing the exponential growth of the number of distinct functionalities as a function of complexity. This connection is intimately related to the finite compressibility of typical circuits. Finally, we use the thermodynamic approach to formulate a framework for the obfuscation of programs of arbitrary length – an important problem in cryptography – as thermalization through recursive mixing of neighboring sections of a circuit, which can viewed as the mixing of two containers with “gases of gates”. This recursive process equilibrates the average complexity and leads to the saturation of the circuit entropy, while preserving functionality of the overall circuit.

The thermodynamic arguments hinge on ergodicity in the space of circuits which we conjecture is limited to disconnected ergodic sectors due to fragmentation. The notion of fragmentation has important implications for the problem of circuit obfuscation as it implies that there are circuits with same size and functionality that cannot be connected via local moves. Furthermore, we argue that fragmentation is unavoidable unless the complexity classes NP and coNP coincide.