Incompleteness / Philosophy / Science / Thoughts

Notes on Reductionism, Part 2 – Enlarging the Box

In the previous post I have argued that a complete description of a system like WordPress is impossible because the system can be extended by information entering it from the outside, information that cannot be derived (at least not completely) from what was contained in the system before.

We might still try to achieve a complete description. If the system is influenced by an environment feeding data into it, we might get a complete description by including that environment in our description. So let’s just make the box whose content we are describing  a bit larger.

That box now does not only contain the WordPress system itself, it contains all the computers and tablets and phones connected to it that are used by the bloggers adding or commenting articles. And of course, it contains all those bloggers themselves. If they add photographs or other media, it includes the cameras and microphones used and the things recorded by those devices. Following this line of thought, we quickly find that the box whose content we are now describing has to include the complete surface of planet Earth, including all of the biosphere, atmosphere as well as humanity with its culture.

But a box around Earth is still not large enough. There are some astronomical blogs and people post pictures from webcams looking into the sky, from space probes flying to comets or to Pluto and from telescopes showing the most distant galaxies.

No matter how large we have to make the box, there is something around it that may influence its content. Eventually, we have to stuff the complete observable universe into our box. Everything that can be observed on earth or from earth might influence what is happening inside the WordPress site. So a complete theory of WordPress (and – as a consequence of this line of thought – of the internet), would have to include a complete theory of the observable universe, including all the surprising future observations that have not yet been made.

In practice, of course, we cannot make our box so large. Although we might still think that there is nothing but physical processes, actually deriving everything from the laws of physics is practically impossible. There are nothing but physical processes, but the complexity and amount of information is too high to actually achieve an explicit description.

So we’ll have to find another way to describe this mysterious beast, WordPress.

(The picture is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_location_in_the_universe)

3 thoughts on “Notes on Reductionism, Part 2 – Enlarging the Box

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