Re: Sharing the Vision LO3632

Rachel Silber (
Sat, 4 Nov 1995 08:15:33 -0500 (EST)

Replying to LO3566 --

John wrote:

"The whole is simpler than the sum of the parts". -- J. Willard Gibbs

If this puzzles you, remember that Gibbs largely invented physical
chemistry and thermodynamics (Boltzmann in Europe was a soul brother), and
recognized that every day in every way we deal with systems (in the Gibbs
sense) and think we understand them completely, when all we are really
doing is dealing with a very modest number of macro dimensions, deemed
adequate for purposes of everyday life.


Brad Cox has a web page in which he makes an argument that this principle
is true in almost all of our ordinary life. For example, buying a pencil
-- we can just purchase a pencil without being aware of all of the
complexity of cutting down trees, processing graphite, assembly, boxing,
shipping, etc. All that complexity is encapsulated in a dimension that we
call "the price of the pencil".

It's an interesting argument, and his argument that the so-called
"software crisis" comes from not having analogous ways to encapsulate the
production values of software products is certainly thought-provoking.

URL is if anyone wants to look at it further.

Rachel Silber