All livings beings take birth, age, and die. This is well understood as a Truth in philosophy through inductive argumentation. That begs a follow up question: is there any formulation of a Law based on this type of argument involving observation about the world which states that all machines which have been created will cease to be?

  • A law based on observation sounds a lot of laws of science/physics...does, cosmologists often applying statistical mechanics to the entire universe to predict a heat death in the far far future, where no machines nor human exist, only far-apart particles, count?
    – J Kusin
    Oct 24 at 14:00
  • Yes, based on observations, every machine soon or later breaks. Oct 24 at 14:31
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA But is there a law stating that all machines have an age, no matter how smartly it has been created? Oct 24 at 14:41
  • 2
    2nd Law of Thermodynamics seems relevant here
    – Dave
    Oct 24 at 15:29
  • I wouldn't call it a law, but it's generally agreed that all things that exist in time have a beginning and an end, whether it's a life form, a machine, or a galaxy. Some people may make an exception for fundamental particles. Oct 24 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


In a very general sense the answer is yes, as follows.

It is a fundamental fact of physics that isolated systems evolve all by themselves into states of ever-increasing entropy. This means that it is overwhelmingly more likely for things to fall apart than for them to self-assemble, without an external source of energy.

So, for machines with moving parts, those parts will tend to tear each other up into a broken state rather than spontaneously repair each other into a pristine state. The tearing-up process can be delayed through clever design, but not prevented forever. This means that no machine has an infinite lifetime, not because we aren't clever enough, but simply because there are a billion ways for a machine to fail over time but only one for it to survive.

  • +1 Entropy! Indeed it's an open question whether the universe itself will succumb to heat death.
    – J D
    Oct 24 at 17:49
  • The inevitable increase of entropy implies that all machines will eventually stop running, but it does not suggest that all machines will necessarily fall apart or break. The OP asks if all machines must "cease to be", this instead shows that all machines must "cease to function". I suppose one could argue that an intact but inert machine is not really a "machine" anymore, however. Oct 24 at 19:28
  • @NuclearHoagie, no man-made object is immortal- anything made of "engineering material" will fall apart, given enough time. This might be thousands of years for something made of gold or platinum, but it will happen. And this will occur after the machine with those parts stops being a machine. Oct 24 at 21:44

Interestingly, outside of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I'm not aware of any canonical "Law" that beings must be mortal in the West. In fact, given the influence of Plato on Western philosophy, it is often presumed that there is some form of existence that is pure and eternal that applies to physical things which often have souls and abstract things like numbers which have eternal essences. Plato's Theory of Forms or something like it is adopted by mathematicians (math ideas are eternal and objective) as well as Christian theologicans (God is eternal, and the righteous souls have a place by his side in the Kingdom after death). Up until the discovery of the Big Bang, for instance, physicists were perfectly comfortable presuming the universe had neither beginning nor end. Heraclitus was one notable exception with his doctrine of panta rhei in which he observed everything was constantly changing.

The opposite is true in Eastern philosophies. One of my most radical acquisitions of thought was the Zen adage: all permanence is an illusion. It is in the East where such notions of impermanence are prevalent. For instance, anicca/anitya serves as a central property of existence in Buddhism. Thus, yes, there is a Law of Impermanence that sits outside of Western philosophy. This may be why Fritjof Capra wrote The Tao of Physics. The entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics are much more at home in the Eastern paradigm of existence than the Western one.

Interestingly (and pursuant to my proposed edits to the question), there are two ways for a machine to be impermanent. Consider a beloved car who slowly begins to fail. You could indeed replace parts of the car to maintain its permanence, but at what point as you replace failing parts do you still have the same car? Thus, it would seem that besides impermanence of a machine in a mereological sense, there is also a potential impermanence in terms of identity as raised by the problem Ship of Theseus.

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