The internal limits riddle

Posted to FRIAM 1/27/07

So I didn’t get takers on the question of what internal limits to growth apply when there are no external limits. It’s sort of a trick question. My approach to the answer has to do with the difference between physical and theoretical systems.

Mostly we think about physical systems as if they behaved like theoretical ones but theories are infinitely malleable and have no inherent limits, internal or external. They’re just projections of rules and natural limits are discoveries of changes in the rules, not extensions.

One categorical divide for the types of inherent internal limits to growth for physical systems uses the two categories, stabilization and failure. Stabilization results, broadly, from diverting the positive feedbacks before they become disruptive, and failure from not doing so. Some physical systems have some choice in the matter, and for others it’s pretty automatic.

If you don’t see the possibility you don’t have the choice, of course, and we’re trained to substitute models for physical systems in our explanations for things, and therefore tend not to see the possibility. I think learning to be aware of what’s inherently different about physical and theoretical systems takes patient attention to the discrepancies, using theory to guide you to an fresh exploration of the world rather than as a substitute that hides the real world… Certainly living in theories can be both fun and productive, but it’s also missing some essential things.

I hope it’s not too painful to watch me struggling with the words for this. Often enough I just get frustrated, but I think this bit may have it fairly straight. Ring any bells for you?

Phil Henshaw ¸¸¸¸.·´ ¯ `·.¸¸¸¸

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