The Disutility of Perfect Maps
Perhaps the best description of a quantum mechanics system would not be a map at all but the system itself. In a way this is what physicists are after, the Holy Grail of physics, the thing-in-itself. But they can only go after it in piecemeal fashion. They smash atoms to find out what they are composed of. Like the child who takes a clock apart to see what makes it tick, they are left with a lot of bits and pieces and are hard-pressed to see how they all fit together. Their analytic approach destroys the very thing they are after.
If only there were some way to apprehend the whole without taking it apart. This is a pipe dream, of course. Even were it possible it would bring us no closer to an understanding of how things work than we already are. Lewis Carroll, in Sylvie and Bruno (1889), humorously broaches the subject when he describes a perfect fictional map with “the scale of a mile to a mile.” A character observes some difficulties with such a map, concluding with ”we now use the country itself as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.”
The irony of this remark should not be lost on us. If there truly were no need for a map of reality we could save ourselves a lot of time and trouble and end our quest right now. But the search for adequate maps and the best logic framework to capture reality in some form close to its pristine wholeness goes on unabated. There must be a good reason this is so.