, the great philosopher of science, once divided the world into two categories: clocks and clouds. Clocks are neat, orderly systems that can be solved through reduction; clouds are an epistemic mess, “highly irregular, disorderly, and more or less unpredictable.” The mistake of modern science is to pretend that everything is a clock, which is why we get seduced again and again by the false promises of brain scanners and gene sequencers. We want to believe we will understand nature if we find the exact right tool to cut its joints. But that approach is doomed to failure. We live in a universe not of clocks but of clouds.
Clouds,.. the weather,… and all of life, are emergent systems. Their exact behavior, unlike clocks, can not be predicted beyond probabilistic guesswork. There are no exact equations for them. Unpredictability and uncertainty are key factors in understanding them.
In recent years, more scientists and big thinkers are realizing this reality and factoring it into their thinking much more. Everybody should.