Incompleteness Theorem

Heisenberg theorized that any experimental observation of the fundamental particles of matter must always remain incomplete. In order to observe an electron, the electron must be lit. The minimum amount of light that can make contact with an electron is one photon. If you bounce a photon off an electron, both things must change velocity: the photon will maintain c speed but will alter in direction: the electron will have both its speed and its direction altered. The light shows where the electron was, but one can’t now know where it is. Observing the position relocates it.

first installed at K. 2003 06 05

The argument boils down to this: if you know the particle’s position, you can’t know its velocity; if you know the particle’s velocity, you can’t know its position. Our knowledge of matter’s time line must remain incomplete.

pk’s life and work has its own incompleteness. I began my first novel when I was ten. My mother served as my secretary, typing from my dictation. I even sat her on my knee at one point.

An hour or so and a few pages into the story, my composition ground to a halt. I was written out: didn’t know what the next line was … Mom had gone off to make dinner. And there my novel remains: funny, clever (for a kid) … and utterly, as so many school grades would thereafter record, incomplete.

When I won the round robin fencing tournament in college gym class (1957), I paraded myself before Coach Irv deKoff, expecting him to beg me to join the team. “You’re great at creating openings,” he said, “But you can’t finish.” Dismissed!

links will be recreated as I can

In 1966 great GBS scholar Dan Laurence tried to hire me to be his grad school reader. In twenty years of teaching graduate school, he had never had a student like me: the vocabulary, the interest, the passion … Oh, no, NYU said, He has “Incompletes.”

By the following year I had pretty well blocked out my doctoral thesis. By 1971 I still hadn’t gotten anything reflected back to me by the English Department that I recognized as signaling understanding. Certainly they knew that my subject was “Shakespeare’s Sonnets”: but they showed no inkling that I was saying anything significant: not only about the Sonnets but anything significant to Western thought! Boy though, were they expert though at interrupting, at misreading, at misrepresenting … (And that’s another thing wrong with you, Knatz: you don’t write in our jargon! You read like you were writing for the public, not for English experts!) Translate: You’re not arcane enough to be unintelligible: like us!

(Translate further: You are failing to pick up the code by which we, representing (kleptocratic) English, destroy language and the possibility of communication.) (Indeed, it was Dan Laurence himself who said that to me most clearly.)

By 1970 I was corresponding with Ivan Illich and founding the world’s first attempt to offer networking to the public: bypass the experts, connect people directly. (See my InfoAll blog.) Oh, no, no. No kleptocrat could tolerate a networked public. If the public had free access to its own information, then how could they be controlled? But this time it wasn’t just the schools and universities that didn’t cooperate in their own upgrading: the public didn’t cooperate in their own best interests either!

Now, 2003, I try harder than ever to communicate some of the things the experts made sure the public never saw published from me. I start a module … and four hours later have to go shopping. Before I return to it, another module must be started, then another.

Sure it’s me: I don’t finish. But I also know that the closer I got to any finish the more experts would be tying my ankles, dipping me in cement, stealing my water bottle, my rations … It takes two to tango: a society to folk dance.

Who suffers more: Jesus, hanging on the cross? or the kleptocrats who put him there: punishment for trying to save us: the kleptocrats, who, by their interference, are therefore not saved?

Well, in Jesus’ case, obviously, his suffering is terrible. But it’s over in a day. Mine is nothing that bad: and over in a life time. But the suffering of the public in tolerating the crucifixion of saviors is unending. It’s multiplied by billions … over millennia!

If we had crucified Jesus before he was a dozen lines into his Sermon on the Mount, many left alive could still intuit what got interrupted: at least the gist: get it … oh … five percent right.

If we read what’s extant of Lysander Spooner, can’t we likewise guess what he might also have said had we not stood with our thumb in our ass while the government bankrupted him? Couldn’t a half dozen other people have picked up the baton and tried to run with it? Tucker did. Moses Harmon … But was it a half-dozen?

Ivan Illich’s books were taken out of print, new ones not published, while they were best sellers! The bulk of my writing has never been published. Not one scholar has ever approached me with a clear model of what my thesis was! Not even ten percent of it. Only thirty years after FLEX had the phones disconnected have … perhaps three people … shown me that they get the gist of FLEX. That number is no greater with regard to Macroinformation five years after starting to turn myself inside out over it.

Life is like an artist’s studio, full of half-finished sketches.


Do my incomplete modules annoy you? Finish them. Jesus is on the cross? You talk peace: and forgiveness: and cooperation … You’ll be crucified too? So what? It will shorten your suffering: give you a joy you’ve never known.

I start to recapitulate Bateson’s rap on the limits of logic … I don’t finish repeating what Bateson said? It’s in his book. You fill in the rest. Email me your draft. I’ll put it up: or tell you why not.

The thousand-odd text files here represent only a fraction of the notes I have for modules. Show up. Bring money. Bring a secretary. Ask me what my gibberish meant before I croak. A large part of it is already lost to me too, but I can recreate my original insight in some. And it doesn’t matter because trying will stimulate a dozen new insights for every one lost!

The shaman bids the warriors torment the guy who says that they’re wasting their time cutting themselves and bleeding all over the ground, trying to make it rain. The shaman has tenure. So do the elder warriors. The would-be reformer has nothing but lumps.

Peter dies of starvation, holding his finger in the dyke. The dyke gives way. The sea reclaims its own. Whoever doesn’t drown loses his farm. It’s Peter’s fault, right? All the people who didn’t help, didn’t bring him a sandwich, can blame Peter for their faulty engineering.

Who suffers? Everybody.

OK, so what about the theorem?

That part was just a joke.

This part isn’t a joke: see Incompleteness: More Than One.

An entry from my journal tells funny stories about pk’s ancient reputation for being a non-finisher.

2006 02 24 Years have a way of slipping by before I complete so much as my incompleteness statement(s). I really must get back to them. The idea of incompleteness relates importantly but differently to each of my domains:

This module and the immediately preceeding link aren’t a bad start for Kdot.gif
… but incompleteness also relates importantly to Deschooling and to Macroinformation.

Again, I emphasize: pk’s three non-business domains are essentially about information, in three kinds: personal, public, theoretical. pk stars at K. Ivan Illich convivial networking, that is, public information mapping, stars at InfoAll. And information itself, particularly complex emergent information, stars at Macroinformation. Incompleteness relates to the three differently

K. is incomplete because I haven’t finished it. I haven’t finished individual modules. I haven’t finished critiquing the most elemental ideas. I haven’t finished relating the most important facts. I haven’t fished the overall layout.

Deschooling is named to suggest all information; but that’s complex, even self-contradictory. Not all information is public business. What’s in our minds, like what’s in our underwear, is private: until we, not some kleptocrat, some SS agent, choose to pronounce it publicly. I dispute a society’s right to know too much about families, I dispute families right to know to much about its individual members. … Ah, but if the individual, family or individual individual, wishes to announce something, then by God, there should be a way to do it: cheaply and without any possibility of censorship. No one has to read your announcement, no one has to believe it. But you have the right to announce it. TV, newspapers, and the Pentagon/CERN’s internet fail: by being expensive. The public cannot become legitimate until it sponsors, automatically and voluntarily, no coercion, a cheap way to publish. Owning and operating a PC with DSL is not cheap, not cheap enough. Only FLEX could have been.

Macroinformation talks about quantifying the macroinformation content of artifacts. But such quantifications, were anyone but pk interested in them, would necessarily remain incomplete. (Even Ted Williams didn’t quite touch the right wall of possibility in hitting excellence, to repeat Stephen Jay Gould’s example.)

This years history books prove that last years history books were not complete. Next years will prove that this years are still not complete.

I argue that four centuries of Shakespeare criticism have still not completely plumbed the complexities even of the two word oxymoron “salad days.” I take it closer to the right wall. But pk doesn’t touch the right wall either. I don’t believe anyone ever will. (And if we had Shakespeare’s own testimony, I can’t imagine him bothering to take it even as far as I have!)

I’ll repeat and expand the latter two statements at those domains:

links will be updated

Incompleteness: Not Quite “All” Information

Incompleteness in Macroinformation

2008 06 09 I just added the following note to one of many many imperfect modules. I wish I could magically add it to all it applies to. I wish I could magically perfect all those modules so they wouldn’t need it. But I don’t really mean that: life isn’t like that, evolution isn’t like that. Our theology has corrupted our sense. Man is not perfectible, neither is god, and neither are my modules: though they are, truly, possibly, improvable: while I live: and that is finite.

I have something to say here. It’s not easy. If I thought my point was already generally understood I wouldn’t be bothering. I am not at all happy with my draft so far. But, as is my habit, I’ve already added it to Taking it down for polishing would be more work than the polishing. Glance at it. If you think you know what I mean, you probably don’t. If you do, help out, damn it. Either way, check back. I may have found a way to say it so it works.

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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