Source of "Nonsense Taro#1" is
title:THE RECURSIVE UNIVERSE
BY WILLIAM POUNDSTONE
CONTEMPORARY BOOKS,INC. CHICAGO
3 Maxwell's Demon
A COUNTERFEITING DEMON
Let's consider an economic Maxwell's demon-a situation that
seems to bear no resemblance to the original paradox. The
demon sets out to attain total wealth by acquiring everything
in his home kingdom: all the land, all the houses, all the cars,
all the crops, everything. He doesn't actually want to steal
from anyone, but neither does he want to do any work. He
decides to counterfeit. He fashions duplicates of the kingdom's
currency plates so precise that not even treasury officials will
be able to tell the difference. That way, no one will be cheated,
the demon rationalizes: The people accepting his counterfeit
bills will never know it and will be able to spend them as freely
as real money. The demon estimates the fair market value of
all the goods in his country as one billion of the local dollars.
He prints up a billion dollars and starts out on a spending spree.
The demon's counterfeiting is a financial perpetual-motion
machine. It, too, is doomed to failure. Let's see why.
The demon will get full value for his first bogus bill. He may
be able to spend millions before any problem is evident. It is
the megalomaniacal scale of his counterfeiting that will defeat
him. The demon has printed a dollar for every dollar's worth
of goods in the country. The amount of money he has counter-
feited can be no less than the amount of legitimate money in
circulation. It follows that the effects of the demon's actions on
the economy cannot be ignored.
The demon's counterfeit bills will flood the money supply,
throwing the kingdom into a galloping inflation. The demon
will be forced to pay ever higher prices. The more money he
spends, the more prices will go up. The demon's billion dollars
will run out long before he acquires everything.
Of course the demon can always print up more money.
Eventually, practically all the money in circulation will be the
demon's counterfeit bill. The demon will have to fill wheel-
barrows full of $100,000 bills (the highest denomination) just
to buy a loaf of bread. Still, the printing power of his press is
To print ever greater quantities of money, the demon will
need ever greater quantities of paper and ink. One day the
demon will push a wheelbarrow of $100,000 bills to the paper
and ink store to replenish his supplies. On the way home, he
will find that the wheelbarrow, now containing paper and ink,
is lighter. If the paper and ink weigh less than the money used
to buy it, the demon cannot possibly print enough money to
cover its cost!
This is a problem with any sufficiently massive counterfeit-
ing scheme. Eventually, the counterfeiting does no good. You
actually lose money.
All knowledge is counterfeit. Acquisition of knowledge about one
part of the world requires an equal sacrifice of knowledge
about other parts. Ignorance can at most be shifted around.
Science is not and
cannot be a quest for a complete knowledge of the universe.
Rather, it is a process whereby certain information is selected
as being more relevant to human aims and understanding.