If you look at one of the Murphy’s Law compilations on the Web there is a good chance it will include entries called Ginsberg’s Theorem and Freeman’s Commentary on Ginsberg’s Theorem.

Ginsberg Theorem states that the three laws of thermodynamics can be restated as:

1. You can’t win. (conservation of mass/energy)
2. You can’t break even. (entropy increases)
3. You can’t get out of the game. (impossibility of reaching absolute zero)

Freeman’s Commentary on Ginsberg’s Theorem states that “Every major philosophy that attempts to make life seem meaningful is based on the negation of one part of Ginsberg’s Theorem.”

1. Capitalism is based on the assumption that you can win.
2. Socialism is based on the assumption that you can break even.
3. Mysticism is based on the assumption that you can quit the game.

(If you do a web search on +freeman+theorem I suggest including -penguin unless you are really interested in what people think of Morgan Freeman’s voice-over narrative on March of the Penguins.)

Though I’m unsure of who wrote Ginsberg’s Theorem, I happen to know quite a bit about how Freeman’s Commentary came to be. In the mid 1970’s I was working at the Nasa Ames Research Center in Mountain View CA as what today would be called a Systems Administrator for the ILLIAC-IV project, one of the first few sites on the ARPAnet. Somewhere on the net I found a collection of “laws,” which included Murphy’s Law, Ginsberg’s Theorem, and many others.

Arthur Bloch, who I knew from UC Santa Cruz, included some of these laws, as well as many new ones, in his 1974 book, Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Things Go Wrong (The original material from his book is present in many of the compilations on the Web.) Freeman’s Commentary first appeared in this book. As far as I can recall, it was something I said in a conversation with Arthur. Thirty years later, it seems like a good name for my blog.

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