Software Error as a Limit to Inquiry for Finite Agents: Challenges for the Post-human Scientist

  • John F. Symons
  • Jack K. HornerEmail author
Part of the Philosophical Studies Series book series (PSSP, volume 128)


Finite agents must build rule-governed processes of some kind in order to extend the reach of inquiry beyond their limitations in a non-arbitrary manner. The clearest and most pervasive example of a rule-governed process that can be deployed in inquiry is a piece of scientific software. In general, the error distribution of all but the smallest or most trivial software systems cannot be characterized using conventional statistical inference theory, even if those systems are not subject to the halting problem. In this paper we examine the implications of this fact for the conditions governing inquiry generally. Scientific inquiry involves trade-offs. We show how increasing use of software (or any other rule-governed procedure for that matter) leads to a decreased ability to control for error in inquiry. We regard this as a fundamental constraint for any finite agent.


Software error Limits of science Post-human agent Conventional statistical inference theory Halting problem Path complexity Software correctness Model checking 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Independent ResearcherLawrenceUSA

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