Our Work Can Never be Done!

When a person decides to work in the information systems industry, one of the most important characteristics for that person to have is a desire for order. This ability helps one to achieve the objective of analysis and design of a system: to turn what was previously less-ordered (read chaotic) into something more-ordered (read less-chaotic).

Unfortunately, we're really defeating ourselves.

In his book, "A Brief History of Time", Stephen Hawking provides some understanding of time and our universe. Within his writing are numerous, fascinating thoughts and proofs, such as why black holes "ain't so black"; what the three arrows of time are; and the concepts of the cones of "absolute past" and "absolute present".

One of the more depressing areas the book discusses is entropy (simply, the tendency of the universe to break down). One might think that entropy can be fought, that adding to the order of the universe would help the universe last a bit longer. However, Hawking notes that the process of introducing some order to the universe actually causes more disorder than "the increase in the order... itself."

Hawking uses as an example the process of reading his book, which would increase the order in a brain by two million units. But, in "order" to read the book, one must cause disorder in the universe by converting food into energy that is ultimately dissipated as heat. The result is staggering, as the amount of disorder caused is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 (ten quintillion) times the amount of order introduced.

Similarly, using a computer to store information (or merely utilizing an abacus) causes more breakdown in the universe than buildup. That our very actions of understanding, organizing, and distributing information actually creates (a lot) more work for us means we are forcing ourselves into an ultimate losing battle. (The only consolation is knowing that, because of entropy, Murphy's Law is more accurate than we give it credit for: "Everything MUST go wrong.")

So the next time you are gloating about having solved a particularly difficult bug, or are sharing in the joys and warm feelings of a successfully implemented system, consider the dark side of the equation: your very act of introducing more order will ultimately cause the universe to end for someone somewhere sometime some sooner....

Vernon R.J. Schmid


Your comments, suggestions, questions, or concerns would be very much appreciated. Please direct them to: vschmid@telus.net.

Copyright ©1989, 1997 Vernon R.J. Schmid. All rights reserved.
Web Page Created: 1997-10-03. Last Updated: 2005-01-28.