There was once a boy who lived in a small town. He lived in a small sleepy town, a town of only a five thousand families. A town where everyone worked on their own farm or garden. Sure some people owned a small store, and the whole town went to them when they had to; but there were not many of them, just enough to sustain the small sleepy town.
One day the boy asked his father, “When was the town built, daddy?“
“Oh a long time ago, before the time of my grandpappy. As far as I know, the town has always been.”
“What is outside the town, daddy. What happens if we go outside?“
“Hush boy, you ask too much. Ah well. If you must know, the world outside is just like this town. There are many towns just like ours and there many states with many towns and many countries with many states with many towns just like ours. Indeed if you go further out, there are many worlds out there, and many galaxies and many universes with many many galaxies with many worlds. And all of those worlds have many countries with many states each with their many states, with their many towns just like ours. There is no reason to ever go outside this town my boy, for there is nothing outside that is not here as well.”
“Woooww!!! How did this happen daddy?? I have read in the history books of a time before time, daddy. It says that once upon a time there were many different people, many different towns and cities, many different countries.. and each was unique and new in their own way… the world must have been so amazing back then, when there was so much to learn and find and discover.“
“No my child, the world was not better then. Sure it was a time of discovery, but it was a time of ignorance as well. Sure it was a time of great advancements, but it was also a time of great discord and war. The great men of that time, they struggled and fought for our freedom, for our knowledge and now we are free. And now we know everything. And if we know everything, we can make everything right. There is no more war, no disagreement. There is no tragedy because there are no accidents. True that means there are no accidental discoveries, but then, there is nothing left to discover. We know what makes people, so make people who are equal, and they realize that fighting one another is more like fighting themselves, and so they don’t fight at all. Every town is just like every other town so there is no pressure anywhere in the universe for any one to move to another and exchange goods and services.”
“Why dad why? Why make everything equal? Equal is boring“
“Equal is fair my son.”
“But I have read that in the times before time, survival was the prime motivator of mankind. Winning was paramount, honor a distraction. Why doesn’t some town do something to make themselves better than all the others? It would not be fair, but they would win.“
“You brat!! Stop these questions right now, before I smack you in the head…. har… har… stop running.. come back, I wont smack you. I can’t be mad at you for that, you are getting older so sooner or later you will know from some place or the other.
Well… the truth is… we have to be equal… more accurately random… to survive. If we tried to join and structure among ourselves, our whole race, humanity, possibly even life itself, will lose.”
“I can’t tell if you are being philosophical or meta or literal right now.“
“I wish I was just being philosophical, my son. The truth is much stranger than any fiction you ever read. You have read about the old Gods that men used to believe in in times before time. Those Gods were all false. Forces of nature that men did not understand, they simply gave them names to and prayed that they would not be struck down. Thunder, Wind, Fire and Water… we understand all that now. We can control them all now, they cannot hurt us, and so we don’t pray to those old Gods. But there are still some forces that we have not been able to tame. There are rules that we cannot bend, cannot control. There are still forces of nature that are stronger than us.”
“Stronger than us? Why have we never heard of this at school, it seems… important.“
“Son, this is sensitive information. Schools are not allowed to teach this, but you will learn this in college.
“In your school you learnt that work dissipates heat because we don’t have perfect heat engines that can do work without heat loss. But the truth… the truth is that we made perfect heat engines a long time ago. Perfect refrigerators, perfect heaters, perfect engines… they exist. It was more out of necessity than anything else. In the time before time… we were running out of energy… fast. Everything was tried… even solar power harvesters on the moon… but nothing was efficient enough. It was a really violent and dark time in history. Wars broke out over fuel and the world was thrown into chaos. Finally scientists unveiled the first perfect engine, and it was the dawn of our time. The energy crisis was finally solved… since every day of sunlight harvested from the moon could fuel the earth for a whole year. For a while. Humanity prospered, we spread across the galaxy and then the whole universe. Of course this needs more and more energy. And for a while that did not seem to be a problem. With our perfect engines we have traveled far and wide across the universe, and understood the deepest mysteries of the universe.”
“But knowledge, has a price of its own.”
“Entropy is a measure of the randomness of a system, and if you know the system exactly then its not really random but unique. The indefatigable force of nature that we have not been able to defeat is simply the second law of thermodynamics. Every act of measurement, every piece of information extracted, must raise entropy somewhere else consequentially. For example, even if we had a perfect computer which was able to use all the energy efficiently, it will still dissipate enough heat so as to raise the entropy of the system to compensate for the information gained.”
“So here we are, forced into submission by nature once again. Knowledge is on a need to know basis, and 99.9% of the world does not need to know. We have spread our population into the whole known universe so that there is more degeneracy of our existence. The top 0.1%, we are the intelligentsia. We are responsible for progress of the human race. But there has been no progress for a long time… we know too much already. Every further piece of information is exponentially more expensive. We had to isolate the different worlds, because just the act of exchanging information between two worlds dissipates enough heat to destroy at least one of those worlds… or at least dissipate a hundred years worth of energy usage of that world. Even the towns now find it too expensive to talk to each other. Scientific progress is stalled, nor can knowledge be shared. And what does not grow, will die. We are losing our knowledge, slowly… but surely. And there is nothing we can do about it. The only conceivable way we can even move forward is to find a way to defeat or circumvent the second law of thermodynamics. But the amount of research that would take to do that would surely destroy millions if not billions of worlds. But at this point even debates between the various worlds on how to tackle this issue causes so much information dissemination that many worlds are consumed before we even decide if it was worth it. Inertia has settled in. Doing nothing is the safest option.”
“Ironic isn’t it son. We know so much now… that we can never know anything more. And that’s the ultimate frontier, when we have to choose between survival and knowledge.”
Is there any other way? We will never know. Because we will die if we try to find out…