but the simplest results can get much longer—making it in practice often difficult to tell whether a given result can actually even be proved at all.

And this is in a sense just another example of the same basic phenomenon that we already saw early in this section in multiway systems, and that often seems to occur in real mathematics: that even if a theorem is short to state, its proof can be arbitrarily long.

And this I believe is ultimately a reflection of the Principle of Computational Equivalence. For the principle suggests that most axiom systems whose consequences are not obviously simple will tend to be universal. And this means that they will exhibit computational irreducibility and undecidability—and will allow no general upper limit to be placed on how long a proof could be needed for any given result.

As I discussed earlier, most of the common axiom systems in traditional mathematics are known to be universal—basic logic being one of the few exceptions. But one might have assumed that to achieve their universality these axiom systems would have to be specially set up with all sorts of specific sophisticated features.

Yet from the results of this book—as embodied in the Principle of Computational Equivalence—we now know that this is not the case, and that in fact universality should already be rather common even among very simple axiom systems, like those on page 805.

And indeed, while operator systems and multiway systems have many superficial differences, I suspect that when it comes to universality they work very much the same. So in either idealization, one should not have to go far to get axiom systems that exhibit universality—just like most of the ones in traditional mathematics.

But once one has reached an axiom system that is universal, why should one in a sense ever have to go further? After all, what it means for an axiom system to be universal is that by setting up a suitable encoding it must in principle be possible to make that axiom system reproduce any other possible axiom system.

But the point is that the kinds of encodings that are normally used in mathematics are in practice rather limited. For while it is common, say, to take a problem in geometry and reformulate it as a problem in algebra, this is almost always done just by setting up a direct

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From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]