The Science of Can and Can’t: A Physicist’s Journey Through the Land of Counterfactuals

Chiara Marletto

I really enjoyed this remarkable book. Marletto does a fantastic job of explaining her ideas in a clear and entertaining way. It’s full of information, optimism, and excitement.

However, I wish there was more context provided through notes, references, and a bibliography, especially regarding the relationship to systems theory. Marletto demonstrates how to categorize phenomena based on their capabilities and shows how flippable, copyable phenomena can create information media, which then can form a computer. This technique is familiar to systems analysts who specify the layered requirements for the design of applications and other technologies. These layered requirements, similar to what Marletto calls “counterfactuals”, are crucial for usability, reliability, and recoverability in our online automated world.

Although the book may seem disconnected from current lines of thinking, it is actually wrong to assume so. Marletto argues that her generalized systematic counterfactual analysis could provide a more solid foundation for science, addressing the issues that arise when classical and quantum physics clash. She suggests that this method could help us create new physical laws related to information systems and knowledge management. By incorporating this way of thinking into the scientific method, we could study and exploit these disciplines alongside other physical systems, creating new possibilities and opportunities.