All systems are in a state of entropy

I’m surprised to find multiple meanings for the word “entropy”. I thought it just meant “breaking down” or something. I was searching online and doing research, and … well, even though I quoted:

Google not synonym for research

Anyway, it occurred to me that all systems are in a state of entropy (we shall use the version of “breaking down” henceforth). A tree is in a state of entropy. A lump of rock is in a state of entropy (the molecules are breaking down, just very very slowly). The rubbish in land fills is breaking down. You are breaking down (the molecular deconstruction part, not the crying part).

Yet all seems fine. The tree is still standing. That lump of rock is still showing the world how durable it is. The rubbish in land fills is still … decomposing (unfortunately not fast enough). And you are still here (thankfully).

The virus behaviour simulation program

The young man was stuck. He needed to write a thesis paper to complete his degree qualifications, but he didn’t know what to write about. The topics available weren’t interesting enough, so he consulted his thesis advisor. And the advisor said, “Why don’t you write something on computer viruses?”.

And that’s what the young man did. And to complement the research, he would write a program to simulate how computer viruses spread and behave, based on his research.

He wrote a preliminary program to do simple “infection” and “disinfection” of nodes (representing computers). The node system became Resident Evil after a few iterations.

Then from his research, he learned about topography. So he applied a few of them. The results were interesting, and one showed promise: the tree structure.

Did more research (and worked on his thesis, solving some integration equations on the way), and thought of the Internet as a fragmented tree structure. And so he created a new topological structure based on uneven connectedness.

That was promising. But the stabilising of computer viral infection was too slow. Something was missing…

And then he came upon the brilliant idea of periodicity. Maybe computers weren’t “on” all the time! He factored that in, and the resulting “epidemic” simulation finally approached what looked like a sample chart from a well known virus protection software provider.

Just keep repairing

I was thinking of the general sentiment “Every program has bugs”. Every program is imperfect, even the Hello World program. Why is that so?

Because even programs obey the entropy rule. The moment you think up the code for the program, it’s already on the way to decay.

In the case of the story above, the simulation program was “buggy”. As new information surfaced from the research, that knowledge was used to improve the simulation logic. But it’s nowhere near done. [In it’s present state, the simulation is probably so far off the mark, that I’m … uh, I mean the young man is ashamed of it.]

You may think it’s done, it’s perfect. There shouldn’t be any bugs, or any changes that will make it better. But it’s not.

Because there are always patches on the most reliable of software. Someone always manages to find a vulnerability to exploit.

Perhaps the program works fine, but its environment is “decaying”. The data it fed on changed slightly, causing its input mechanic to fail. The hardware it’s running on blew a small circuit, causing tiny imperfections on a physical level, which caused it to choke when it ran certain code constructs.

So if all systems are in a state of entropy, even software, what can you do? Keep repairing them. Keep improving them.

If you’re not the negative type, then all systems are in a state of change. But are they changing for the worse, or better?

Here’s a question for you to think about. Is an idea in a state of entropy?

P.S. I just finished reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. If you’re not the philosophical type, I apologise. And then I blame Dan Brown.

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