Page 139 - MODES of EXPLANATION

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is only released as energy under mass energy conversion, which requires a very highly energetic
reaction like atomic fission or fusion. Bridges, locomotives, or airplanes can be built without
worrying about that term. Then there are terms in ascending powers of the speed of the system
divided by the speed of light, v/c. If the speed of the system, v, is small relative to the speed of
light, c, then the terms in higher powers, (v/c)
2
, (v/c)
3
, and so on, are all negligible. If you are
building bridges or locomotives or airplanes, you simply throw away the rest mass term and ignore
the higher-order term that happens as you move closer to the speed of light, and Newtonian kinetic
energy works just fine. This is a sketch of a really fundamental transformation at the bottom-most
level, but it works, because it preserves all of the existing Newtonian applications and the
Newtonian way of calculating kinetic energy. In that way, classical Newtonian mechanics is going
to have to be preserved in some way in any future scientific revolution because it is itself robust.
The changes are all in new areas that had not been explored before: at very high energies and at
very high velocities.
What role would those basic principles play in functional architectures? The argument is
that any transformation replacing those basic principles, whatever other things it may be able to
do, had better be able to preserve the functional architectures. That works for deep modifications
in genetic programs too: you can get away with a deep modification in a genetic program as long
as you preserve the most important functions of what you are replacing. That is how the personal
computer was able to replace the IBM Selectric typewriter. The Apple II could not do that: even
though you could do spreadsheets with it and that was effectively the killer app that made the
personal computer, the Apple II had a 40-character line. Not until the IBM PC with an 80-character
line and a daisywheel printer that could produce letters on stationery and thus penetrate much more
deeply was there a true replacement for the office typewriter. After that, the PC could be expanded
to give you email access and internet access and all of a sudden it could take on a bunch of other
functions, which meant that the computer became much more deeply entrenched than the
typewriter, with many downstream consequences. The IBM PC was thus able to substitute for
something that was absolutely central to the business community by meeting the sort of functional
constraints that are involved.
Entrenchment can also have a social dimension. We had a director of information
technologies at Chicago when Apple was at a low point and he wanted to switch everybody over
to Windows machines. That was all well and good in the business schools and some other
departments, but it turned out that in both the social sciences and humanities divisions there were
many secretaries who had learned on the much more user-friendly Macs and they threatened to
resign en masse if the director stopped supporting Apple. He had to back down. The Mac was
robust because it was much easier to learn than MS-DOS, and so it was entrenched. This is
important: we really need to know in complex systems which changes we can get away with
making and which we cannot. It is not always possible to get away with making deep changes
because there may not be an accessible alternative.
3