So in my last post I brought up Hitler, which reminded me of Godwin’s Law.

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1

Now this, which Godwin’s original version, isn’t as bad as most formulations of the law which go something like this

If an internet thread goes on long enough someone will eventually bring up Hitler

I highlighted enough because that makes the typical formulation into a tautology. How long is long enough? Well as long as it takes for someone to bring up Hitler.

So, what you are saying is that if we wait long enough for someone to bring up Hitler then someone will bring up Hitler? Revolutionary insight.

Godwin’s a pretty smart guy so it turns out he was clever enough to avoid the tautology. But, his formulation is only ever so slightly better.

Why?

Well, depending on the constraints you want to place on the evolution of the universe  – and I will admit there are some that are meaningfully binding – the probability of anything happening approaches one as time goes forward.

This is because at any time there is some positive probability of a realization of any set of feasible set of quantum states. We know mentioning Hitler is feasible and so eventually even if just by pure deep random chance it will happen.

Indeed, in some branch of the multiverse it will happen with probability one.

What we want to say is that there exists some duration of time T, such that the probability of observing a mention of Hitler goes to one as the duration of the discussion goes to T.

Now, is there any point to this rant? No, none whatsoever. But I have been pissed about this sort of thing ever since I heard Arthur C. Clarke’s much quoted tautology on technology and magic.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

And, in some branch of the multiverse I was bound to bitch about it with probability one. Consider yourselves lucky or victims of inevitability, as the case may be.

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