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associated configuration space is lower; in removing the person from the system, we’ve also removed a very large number of particles. That’s far from the most interesting change, though—in removing the human, we’ve also significantly reduced the number of interesting ways of carving up the configuration space. The patterns identified by (for instance) psychology, biology, and organic chemistry are no longer useful in predicting what’s going to happen as the system evolves forward in time. In order to make useful predictions about the behavior of the system, we’re now forced to deal with it in the vocabulary of statistical mechanics, inorganic chemistry, thermodynamics, or (of course) fundamental physics. This is a very significant change for a number of reasons. Perhaps paramount among them, it changes the kind of information we need to have about the state of the system in order to make interesting predictions about its behavior.

Consider, for instance, the difference between the following characterizations of the system’s state: (1) “The water is hot enough to cause severe burns to human tissue” and (2) “The water is 100 degrees C.” In both cases, we’ve been given some information about the system: in the case of (1), the information has been presented in biological terms, while in the case of (2), the information has been presented in thermodynamic terms[1]. Both of these characterizations will let us make predictions about the time-evolution of the system, but the gulf between them is clear: (2) is a far more precise[2] description of the state of the system, and requires far more detailed information to individuate than does (1). That is, there are far more points in the system’s configuration space that are compatible with (1) than with (2), so individuating cases of


  1. That is, the information has been presented in a way that assumes that we’re using a particular state-space to represent the system.
  2. That is, there are far fewer possible states of the system compatible with (2) than there are states compatible with (1).

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