Uncertainty principle

uncertaintyThere are some things upon which we can rely with a fair degree of certainty… The sun rising in the East and setting in the West; your printer running out of ink only when you have to rush off an important document; trains only running on time when you are not – simple, logical rules that create the natural order of things.

In the main, that’s exactly how life works and, for the most part, we can predict with a fair degree of accuracy how we can expect events to unfold. Indeed, there are only really three general exceptions to the rule:

  • Really big stuff: Like universes. Far too big to explain simply or to fit into any pigeonholes (can you imagine a universe-sized pigeon? Scary!) Easily ignored by the majority of us for all practical purposes.
  • Really tiny stuff: Like quantum physics. Just weird in every way. Easily ignored by the majority of us for all practical purposes.
  • Really complex stuff: The more complicated something is, the more likely it is to misbehave and make up its own rules. Sadly, very difficult to ignore for any practical purpose.

Unfortunately, we are pretty much stuck with complexity and it will, inevitably affect us all at sometime or other. Coming to think of it, many of the inviolate ‘rules’ that we take for granted – such as the trains running on time one, quoted above – arise out of a direct link to complexity and the fact that when things get complicated the normal rules of nature, mathematics, physics and chemistry shrug their shoulders, give up in disgust and head off to the nearest real ale pub for a perspective sandwich and a pint of foaming normality.

Let’s consider an example of such perversity from SL – in this instance, a scripted object. In simple terms, a script is a logical set of instructions which, when followed, will always have the same outcome. This is the very basis of computer programming that, when followed to its logical conclusion will lead us on a trail that eventually takes us back to a simple statement of logical states – something is either ‘off’ or ‘on’ – represented by either ‘0’ or ‘1’, (unless you’re name happens to be Shröedinger, or you play around in quantum physics for fun, in which case, none of the above is true). Based on these simple facts, provided we don’t make a mistake in creating, compiling and running our script, it should work the same every single time, reliably, consistently, logically. It’s the same principle as a recipe (like my yummy recipe for mega-simple banana breakfast pancakes*) – but we all know that things are never quite that simple – although if you can bugger up my banana pancakes, there’s really no hope for you!

The problems occur when you introduce your simple, logical, reliable recipe into a complex environment, over which – in real terms – you may think you exercise at least a degree of control, but in reality you may as well be trying to hold the ocean in a colander. It’s the butterfly effect, and even in SL, we can never be entirely sure what pressures any environmental and external influences are going to exert over our carefully executed plans.

rail1_001Meandering through my parcels at Nowhere Land, Sakura and Marmalade Skies you’ll find Seren’s Wonderful Railway – the SWR. This is a project that I’ve worked long and hard on to construct and refine, and along the way I’ve had to deal with a few quirks and problems, but, eventually, I finally managed to get everything working as it should. At least, I thought I had.

In theory, my trains should follow a fixed, but varying route, stop at stations and generally behave in a train-like fashion without any intervention on my part. That’s how they’re scripted and logic says that they’ll follow their scripts in a predictable and logical way… But that’s without taking into account the enormous complexity and unpredictability of the environment in which they operate – SL. Despite my best efforts, I’m finding myself far too frequently having to deal with ‘incidents’. On three occasions in the last couple of weeks I’ve had bits of train turn up in my Lost & Found folder – the victims of unplanned excursions into neighbouring parcels; quite literally, they’ve gone off the rails! I’ll login sometimes to find trains on the wrong track, heading in completely the wrong direction – something that can’t possibly be achieved in the normal course of events. On other occasions, I’ve arrived to find stray carriages making their own way along the tracks, bereft of their companions or any form of motive power… it’s all quite bizarre, and at times, rather frustrating.

However, that’s the price we pay for complexity. If we lived in a virtual world where everything was grey, made of boxes and stuck hard and fast to rigid and inflexible rules, everything would work perfectly, but that’s not how SL works. So, even when something as theoretically predictable and reliable as a scripted object is let loose in the weird and wonderful messiness that is typical of most of SL, it’s quite likely that everything will go a bit weird.

But, isn’t that why it’s such fun?

[*Seren’s mega-simple banana breakfast pancakes:

You need: A fork, a bowl, a frying pan with a dash of oil, a banana, an egg.

Brutally mash the banana with the fork, in the bowl. Break the egg into it and mix thoroughly. Heat the pan with the oil. When hot, pour the mixture in. Cook on one side, then the other. Eat]

s. x

I don’t know what’s going on here
I don’t know how it’s supposed to be
The Byrds – What’s Happening?!?!

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