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I encountered the poem below, which ends with force the lid. I recognize this phrase, but I'm not sure if it means forcing the lid closed, or forcing yourself inside. Or can it be both?

A system is a big black box
Of which we can’t unlock the locks,
And all we can find out about
Is what goes in and what comes out.
Perceiving input-output pairs,
Related by parameters,
Permits us, sometimes, to relate
An input, output and a state.
If this relation’s good and stable
Then to predict we may be able,
But if this fails us—heaven forbid!
We’ll be compelled to force the lid!
—Kenneth Boulding

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  • "Force", as a verb in the general context of physical objects, means to apply pressure to such that movement is achieved. One might force a box open or force it closed. But it seems to me that the above poem clearly means "force open".
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 11, 2016 at 12:14
  • AHDEL v trans sense 4.b clearly lists this sense: To break down or open by force: force a lock. Sep 11, 2016 at 12:44

1 Answer 1

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A system is a big black box
Of which we can’t unlock the locks,

The problem is "how to unlock the box", not "how to keep it closed".

But if this fails us—heaven forbid!
We’ll be compelled to force the lid!

So if all those methods fail, the only option left is opening the lid by force.

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