Saturday, August 10, 2013
Ascend and Triumph
None of our readers should be surprised by now to find that tosoc.org has eclectic interests. One idea of interest is "the heat death of the universe" introduced by Lord Kelvin in 1852. The idea is that the free energy of the universe is being used up, bit by bit, according to the laws of thermodynamics. The end result is thought to be a totally dead universe in which there is no energy left to do anything. How depressing.
We see a parallel to this in the many "decline and fall" stories that abound today. Starting with Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, followed by Malthus and then Spengler's Decline of the West, dystopic predictions and visions of the future are prominent in the media up to and beyond recent stories such as Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games.
One might believe from these that there will be a "heat death of society and culture." There will be a gray future with diminishing prospects, opportunity, and wealth for everyone. Expect it, get used to the idea, and accept it when it comes. We are at the peak and the only way forward is down. The future will be about basic survival, not about progress and achievement. We are a declining people in a declining universe. Doubly depressing.
Let us take another look at the heat death of the universe, however, to see how well it stands up today. To explain the speed of galactic rotation, the strength of galactic gravitational lensing, and the acceleration of receding galaxies, physicists have been forced to create two new concepts: Dark Matter and Dark Energy. These are still fairly nebulous concepts at this point, but the idea of Dark Energy is particularly interesting for this topic. It seems that space is not empty of mass-energy as we once thought, but in fact exerts a negative pressure. This pressure exerts the force that accelerates distant galaxies away from one another.
In other words, the universe is not cooling down, it is firing up. It seems that energy is being injected into the universe. Of course, those with the dark spot of the doomsayer in their souls see this in a negative light. They no longer talk about the heat death of the universe, but about the "Big Rip." If the Dark Energy of empty space forces matter apart, then the fate of the universe will not be to slow down and stop, but to speed up and fly apart in total chaos. Everything will come to pieces.
Perhaps. But for our purposes here, the future in this vision is not a long fall into darkness but a long ascent into the light.
Now let us take another look at the "using up" of energy, or entropy. Shannon and Weaver showed in 1949 that the amount of information possible in a signal is calculated the same way that the amount of entropy is calculated. That is, if we pack the maximum amount of information into a signal, that signal will also have the highest possible entropy.
Keeping in mind that a signal is just data that might or might not contain information and that the information might or might not be meaningful, Shannon and Weaver's findings allow for a universe of ever-increasing complexity and data. Combining this with our earlier comments, this will be fueled by the empty-space energy pump of Dark Energy.
Extending these ideas further, we conclude that Shannon and Weaver's work plus Dark Energy also allow for a universe of ever-increasing information and meaning. If we can indulge briefly in speculation that might inspire science fiction writers, these ideas might mean that the universe is not yet dying, but is just now coming alive.
Bringing these ideas back into the realm of society and economics, we are really just casting doubt on the idea that simplifications and oneness are desirable social and economic goals. (See our post Economic Tolerance and Diversity.) Even among "capitalists" there are many who want one market and one currency to serve it. They are against the additional complexities and costs of multiple markets and currencies. Why, they might have to employ more people and purchase more capital equipment to handle the load! Heaven forbid!
Viewed from The Other Side of Capitalism, they seem to want to impose the heat death of the economy on the rest of us for no good reason. They never seem to consider that the costs of greater complexity might be worth paying. They pay lip service to the idea of Creative Destruction when it enriches them while at the same time exerting every effort to freeze the economy in a form that keeps their own wealth safe. No matter what the cost to other participants in the economy, of course.
In fact, the history of the success of capitalism is not one of limiting options, but of ever-increasing complexity in jobs, numbers of workers, information, and products. The increase of this kind of "entropy" has not resulted in a decline as some have feared, but massive growth and profits.
Therefore we think that the "capitalists" are actually the greatest enemies of capitalism. Whether politically liberal or conservative, whether Democrat or Republican, they are really all quite conservative in the sense that it is in their short-term interests to maintain our economic system frozen in place. No matter how progressive they sound in their speeches, they work to keep things as they are. That is, the wealthy keep gaining wealth and the losers keep losing.
We propose multiple new markets and currencies in part because these will break the choke hold that the wealthy increasingly apply to our opportunities. They represent new frontiers freed of the chains of our single currency because they will exclude the rich from direct, unregulated interference. These new frontiers will also free the government to operate in the interests of the people rather than those of the rich.
What we have said here is that the capitalists are the ones ultimately responsible for the austerity mentality because it benefits them. It is an excuse for their managers to tell us that, due to the economy, we have to work ever-longer hours for ever-less money. Instead of accepting that at face value, we should rather break their hold on us by dissociating our wealth from theirs using separate markets and currencies. Rather than preparing ourselves for an inevitable decline and fall, we should be thinking how we can ascend and triumph. Not just for the few, but for the many.
The way capitalism should be.
Socialism for the socialists and capitalism for the capitalists.
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