Do you want development that is ‘sustainable’? This topic leads you to identify issues and assess possible actions to implement sustainable community economic development. It also provides an introduction to the Triple Bottom Line dimensions of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Wildman, P. (2003). Economics for a Wriggling Universe: Economics and the Science For Ethical Ends. Human Science Technology - Harnessing Negentropy for Human Survival, Uki, NSW, Prosperity Press. 30pgs
Wildman, P., Socio-Economic Guidance from an Infinite Universe, in Human Science Technology. 2004: Prosperity Press, Brisbane. p. 35.
Economics for a Wriggling Universe:
Economics and the Science For Ethical Ends
Paper prepared for the Science for Ethical Ends conference 18-8-03 Science-Art Research Centre (SARC) Uki Northern NSW
Paul Wildman email@example.com
Acknowledgements: This paper draws from many authors much more learned than myself. In particular esp. Kafka (1994) – entropy and social systems, Jantsch (1975) Cultural Design, Corning (1996) – cybernetics, Krehm (1999) – entropy and economics and Pope and other researchers at the Science Art Research Centre (art, democracy and the second law). In some sections I paraphrase these works as they best illustrate my point. I have endeavoured to list all authors including where such paraphrasing has occurred however if I have missed any, I apologise and the responsibility remains mine.
This paper seeks to explore the link between economics, as it is commonly understood to do with financial markets and globalisation of production, and the second law of thermodynamics. Various aspects of the linkage such as the Singularity, cultural evolution, fractal logic, self-organisation and so forth will be addressed. The article then proposes a fourth law a neg-entropic law of thermodynamics. Various aspects of this evolutionary law are identified and an economic system that derives there from is outlined.
Economics and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
In this section we explore key aspects of the link between economics and the entropy law.
The problem with the present economic system
NB: In the next few sections the underlined sentences with Roman numerals at the end of the particular point represent the specific areas where our existing economic system is directly contributing to increasing entropy.
Critically the present economic process is systematically destroying a crucial survival ‘quality’ actually identified as neg-entropy embedded in complexity and diversity among the cultures and eco systems on earth, and converting it to a monoculture of entropic waste that is clogging our planets evolveablity and ultimately survivability. Even worse economics through its principal tenets of growth is good (i), needs are unlimited (ii) human satisfaction comes from consumption (iii); and its aspects of corporate capitalism and economic globalization (iv), obsession with financial rather than real transactions (vi) to the point where financial wealth is now 50 to 100 times what the actual production of goods and services are, US hegemony, and its agents such as the IMF and World Bank, is clogging our cultural and entropy sinks (vii) ie. the capability of the social and environmental systems to absorb products waste from our profligate productive systems and packaging processes.
Any approach to apply neg-entropy in economics needs to recognise the importance of the following:
· Recognising the difference between what Aristotle called Oikonomia and Chrematistics
· Chrematistics the ‘love of money’ or science of wealth; the science, or a branch of political economy that aims at controlling others for ones own wealth and finances – the entropy economy. (vi) – see above also
· Oikonomia the informal yet prudential household management hopefully based on love of others – the empathy or neg - entropy economy.
Oikonomia builds up from the household economy to the community rather than building down from the corporation to the Government to the region. Oikonomic initiatives include Community Economic Development (CED)– see Wildman and Schwencke (2003), removing entropy clogging in our environmental sinks. This will mean declaring war on our real terrorist – waste, and declaring peace with bottom up formal and informal economic development systems such as the natural step, the triple bottom line, and CED that grow from the household/home.
Waste. Experts such as Hawkins et al (1999) and, Womac and Jones (1996) estimate that over 2/3rds of what we produce and consume is designed in waste. And as western nations we consume 3/4rs of the entire worlds energy while comprising less than 1/4th of the world’s population. In the US for instance with 1/20th of the words population uses over 50% of the worlds energy. This means that with the current economic system less than 1/4 of the world’s population produces over 3/4ers of the world’s entropy viz. energyÞwaste. (viii)
Lean Enterprise then an evolution of TQM and QA represents one of our best hopes here. Lean Enterprise (see above references) seeks to eliminate all forms of muda (Japanese for waste) from the productive process using Kaizen (incremental improvement) and Kaikaku (radical or systemic or structural or paradimic or chunky improvement).
Types of Muda or entropic waste to be eliminated:
3. Goods and Services Movement - Transport
4. Over processing
6. Employee movements
7. Defective parts
8. Defective design
11. Excessive infrastructure
12. Lack of appropriate technology
13. Not getting the right advice about muda
14. Not hearing the small voice of the ultimate customer – first and last
15. Inappropriate demand eg. demand for weapons of mass destruction
I estimate that simply doing this would eliminate the majority of waste in our planet. If this can be added to a sustainability technology such as the triple bottom line or natural step we are well on the way to largely solving our waste and entropy sink clogging problem. Already there are companies successfully doing muda elimination such as Toyaota.
Eco forms the base root for both ecology and economics. Both have concern for our natural systems the first in that we live within them and the second in that we use them for the production and distribution of goods and services for every day life. So combining these two aspects of oikonomia (Waste Elimination and Community Economic Development) can lead us to the realisation that we have the basis for practical sustainability concepts such as bionomics, community economics, triple bottom line, permaculture and so forth.
Pope’s painting Biosphere Energy Flow shows a neg-entropic process with unclogged entropy sinks, whereas his Datum Markers shows the reverse – our present situation.
Economics and Entropy Sinks
Clearly, the non-viability of our present economy has to do with the entropy production in the wasting of energy, the squandering of resources and the choking of the ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ entropy sinks (vii), (viii). All dissipative structures such as humans live on entropy production. Whether a given entropy use rate is viable or not, cannot be concluded from the second law of thermodynamics. In addition dissipative structures such as bureaucracies, which control the economic and social systems in which we live and have our business, live on and contribute to entropy production (ix).
The Invisible Hand: Self-Organised Chance and Complex Attractors
If we try to visualise the history of the world in the space of possibilities as a single line, we loose practically all intuition. Yet we cannot think of all dimensions at the same time. We can rather imagine infinitely many sub-spaces attached to the line in each moment, and view the complex dissipative structures as bundles of nearly closed loops in such sub-spaces. Then our ‘world-line’ consists of hierarchies of intricately interwoven narrow spirals in nested systems.
Nearly everything in this model is recursive in that it repeats itself again and again in nearly closed ‘orbits’, i.e. loops, which contribute viability in the long process of trial and error. Yet fortunately and unfortunately for us there are ‘accidental encounters’ which occasionally cause radical changes (called kaikau in Japanese the big sister to kaizen), and with extreme resolution we should be able to follow the history of such accidents back to tiny wriggling motions, which represent spontaneous formation fluctuations of what can become our tomorrow. At the ‘present’ momentary end of all those spirals, the random events give the whole bundle a chance to gain essentially new structural features, but this evolutionary progress through smaller and larger revolutions, the ‘Darwinian upward-drift’, is very slow compared to the quantum of changes required today.
We must understand, according to Kafka (1994) that the evolution of viable and thus valuable structures implies an increasing organisation of random fluctuations! Any viable ‘gestalt’, a type of dissipative structure of matter and energy in space and time, can be looked at as ‘attractor’ in the space of possibilities for syncretic or neg-entropic potential.
Causation can be in effect traced back but cannot necessarily be traced forward.
An attractor, which has proven its viability ie. value is likely to be used as a building block in the evolution of still higher structures, which derive their own viability from the fact that they organise the fluctuations of their constituents even better, protecting them from all stronger interactions, and thus stabilising their ‘attractivity’. Higher attractors organise relatively weak interactions of their constituents. Successful ‘enslavement’ of sub-ordinate structures in more complex higher ones does, therefore, usually not mean a loss of all their individuality, i.e. their proven viability. Molecules don’t try to change atomic nuclei, life doesn’t try to change the genetic code, mind didn’t – until recently – try and change the biology of the immune system or the climate of the earth.
The obvious hierarchy of attractors is not a hierarchy of ‘power’. Evolution is co-evolution. ‘Fitness’ of a part is a property of the whole. Kafka (1994) argues that the Darwinian drift towards ‘higher’ attractors is not at all based on some mysterious ‘drive’ of the attractors to ‘push aside’ and replace others. It is a logical consequence of a large number of independent trials of possible attractors, with slightly different realisations at many places and times.
The invisible hand however has been taken to mean exclusively the clearing capability of markets subject to the law of supply and demand. While this clearing function is important markets have been appropriated by larger economic entities such as Transnational Corporations. The concept of ‘perfect competition’ used by writers such as Adam Smith is increasingly coming to mean ‘monopoly power’, and the invisible hand of self-organisation is being replaced with the velvet gloved iron fist of bureaucracy (x).
In summary then the invisible hand of self-organisation in complex systems using fractal synergistic logic may well be the necessarily accidental, co-incidental, synchronomous and serendipitous organisation of accidents. Thus as it were the spontaneous organisation of chance by chance – in which more viable systems may arise eventually becoming a knowable entity in their collectivity viz. aggregate attractors. Possibly Adam Smith was speaking of this when he coined the term the ‘invisible hand’ in 1776 in his famous book ‘The Wealth of Nations’. Provided of course that they are possible in the accessible neighbourhood in the space of a range of possibilities. Soul and Mind are such high-level strange attractors.
Wriggling Wreality – Wriggling Economics
Synergistic self-organisation then can be generated not by universal centralised hierarchial systems of monopoly power rather by disbursed even ‘Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) based’ pilots, trials, simulations, microworlds, scenario development and others forms of ‘wriggling’. Such wriggling implies some basic conditions of success. For instance in a trailable potentially viable Self-Organisation requires:
(1) Sufficient diversity
(2) Sufficient autonomy
(3) Sufficient time
(4) Sufficiently host positive environment - a sufficiently facilitative or generative context to allow for, yet then be able to eliminate, errors before they have destroyed the viability of the very basis of their emergence
(5) A generative learning loop. Otherwise, it is not likely to find more complex attractors in the space of possibilities, and the wriggling at the front of evolution becomes unstable.
Reality as it is organised by my own attractors in the space of possibilities. The process of finding them is the self-organisation of my freedom along my individual ‘gestalt’ which I experience as my soul and mind, embedded in the ideas of our culture. ‘Praying’ is an old word for my wriggling in this process. God and the angels help by being around, and attractive.
Considering how fast man is changing life and even climate, we recognise that the recent front of Gaia’s evolution in the space of possibilities lies in the wriggling of our minds.
Pope’s painting Datum Markers shows just one such wriggling globe, though the wriggling is more because of the clogging of the entropy sinks.
We just have to admit: It works! In spite of infinitely many deviations, in immensely many sub-spaces as local attractors corresponding to local reality, the projections of the phase-space path run through similar cycles again and again following chreodes and without leaving the old basins of attraction. Evidently, these attractors of local reality are viable, and their viability means repetition, reproduction, improvement – in atoms, cells, people and cultures. The ancient Greek ethos, using a Hecatina rather than Apollonian logic, means custom i.e. what has proven its value in generations, i.e. in the repetition of cycles i.e. basins of attraction with chreodic tributaries – flow not stasis – empathy not entropy.
The necessary self-organisation of our future and human freedom depends on recognising and even developing viable generative and largely neg-entropic technology attractors is certainly possible, and it will become likely as soon as more people start talking about the phenomenology and the logical roots of the global acceleration crisis towards the coming singularity.
Viable complexity is valuable because while it can be anticipated it cannot be understood or planned. At the present front of evolution, new value is something that may grow in and through ourselves under proper boundary conditions. Those conditions, however, can be easily understood. They must guarantee diversity and a more leisurely pace so that system adjustments may occur. This will mean the end of history for all sorts of power which organise the global acceleration, and for many activities which are called economic but are, in fact, destructively wasteful (xi). And in the new realm of possibility, we must succeed in this self-organisation of our freedom, our culture, our economy. This means changing the course history away from these acceleration tendencies of economics and technology and we will just be beginning.
Our children’s children deserve nothing less
Entropy in Economics
The notion of entropy - the exhaustion of ‘neg-entropy’ (potential difference) has become a symbol of our day. It is being recognised in most areas of scientific thinking with the principal exception of economics. There the equations of neo-classical economics are supposedly timeless and self-balancing towards equilibrium (xii).
There really is nothing left to run out but our credulity.
Marx's doctrine, for example, was entropic. The increasing portion of ‘constant' capital (non-labour investment) due to technological change which, led to a falling rate of profit; for in this system surplus value is seen as arising only from the ‘variable capital' invested in labour-power. To counter this, the capitalists were driven to expand their operations. Inevitably they ran out of vital space and energy to pirate. It is not just energy that capitalism requires but also synergy. Using energy leads to chaos i.e. entropy however synergy as in increasing organisation, diversity and ultimately evolution.
Economic development has failed to create and maintain social welfare - natural and cultural resources are depleted, the living environment is dying and unemployment is increasing (xiii). Dangerously unstable physical and social entropic situations are emerging. This unsustainability is manifest in unemployment, corruption, criminal activities and wars are spreading like viruses. The present situation is best expressed in lyrics:
I’ve seen the future, brother: it is murder
Thing’s are going to slide, slide in all directions
Won’t be nothing
Nothing you can measure any more
The blizzard of the world
Has crossed the threshold
And it has overturned
The order of the soul (Cohen 1992)
Globalisation as energy colonisation and synergy piracy
Mark Balfour (1990) in his excellent book The Sign of the Serpent speaks of such synergistic universal energy coming from the serpent. In aboriginal terms the serpent is a critical matriarchal generative force associated with showing the tribes their walkabout paths and the balance (esotericÛexoteric) so important in day-to-day life. These special places have Kurunba energy. What is Kurunba? It is a word used by Central Australian Aboriginals to describe a sacred generative place. Further Balfour links the Rainbow Serpent lore with that of India’s and in particular the spectacled Cobra (pg54).
The present globalisation push that would remove all obstacles to the free flow of goods, services, and capital, though posing as an essay in equalisation, can be seen as the reverse. That is a huge push to:
(1) Use available energy for instance cheap labour thus directly generating entropy
(2) Take over negentropies and available synergies, for instance in local cultures.
Both of these enable transnational firms for instance to profit by the gap in living standards and in environmental protection between the developed and the ‘underdeveloped countries’ and by converting diversity in the so called ‘undeveloped countries’ to homogeneity in the so called ‘developed’ west (xiv). See also Khrem (1999)
From Physical Energy to Economic Synergy
Are we, then, devoid of a satisfactory 'why' theory for complex systems? Is the evolution of complexity an unsolved and perhaps unsolvable mystery? As it happens, there already exists a general theory of complex living systems (inclusive of human-made systems) that was proposed some years ago. It is called the 'Synergism Hypothesis’ first posited by Peter A. Corning 1998. The theory however, like much in social innovation, has taken nearly a generation to be come more widely explored, and was addressed primarily to evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and has generally not engaged social scientists.
The hypothesis, in brief, is that synergy, a vaguely familiar term to many of us, is actually one of the major organising principles of the natural world. It has been a wellspring of creativity in evolution, and it has played a central role in the evolution of complexity in nature. The Synergism Hypothesis asserts that synergy is more than simply a category of interesting and ubiquitous effects; it has also been a major causal agency in evolution. Synergistic functional effects of various kinds have been a necessary, if not sufficient, requisite for the evolution of cooperation, complexity and diversity (cp. competition, heterogeneity) singularity at all levels of biological organisation. It is in fact a unifying theory of complex living systems (though not all systems). It is also compatible with ‘inclusive fitness theory’, ‘multilevel selection theory’, ‘symbiogenesis’, and other formulations that are concerned with cooperative relationships in nature as in an important sense an alternative to the conventional Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’.
Synergy, even more so than competition, (including the subcategory of symbiosis) has played a significant creative role in evolution; it has been a prodigious source of evolutionary novelty. Elsewhere it has been proposed that the functional (selective) advantages associated with various forms of synergistic phenomena have been an important cause of the evolution of complex systems over time including social agglomerations such as cultures, tribes and to a lessening degree nations. Underlying the many specific steps in the complexification process, a common functional principle has been operative. Furthermore, a major co-determinant of this process has been the parallel evolution of cybernetic processes and systems in the biological, natural, social environments.
As the counterpart to entropic production process (xv) money flows may well represent the best chance for harnessing neg-entropy viz. moneyÛfinanceÛsynergyÛneg-entropyÛgreater cybernetic organisationÛdiversity and complexityÛcreative evolvability. Finance could well prove the doing as it proving to be the undoing of society under the existing form of globalization.
Cybernetics – emergent synergy
In processes, occurring without assistance or control, the tendency in complex systems is toward a state of disorganisation, or chaos. Thus, according to the principles of cybernetics*, order (lowering of entropy) is least probable and chaos (increased entropy) is most probable. Purposive behavior in humans, social and eco systems, economies or machines all require control mechanisms that manage information in order to maintain an ‘energy balance’ between ‘synergy and energy’ by counteracting the tendency toward disorganisation i.e. increased entropy. Cybernetics incorporating creative technologies coupled with a feedback loop and learning ability can contribute to such organisation and entropy reduction. Economics then needs to encourage such ‘purposive’ synergic behaviour.
* Cybernetics nowadays is not so much used to describe a separate field of study rather as part of artificial neural networks and artificial intelligence. The term, is derived from the Greek word cybernetics ("steersman" or "governor"), was first applied in 1948 to the theory of control mechanisms by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener. Coring (1996)
Is there a fourth law of thermodynamics?
Identifying some characteristics of, and Criteria for, identifying social neg-entropy. The problem with the first three Laws of thermodynamics is that they esp. the second do not allow for increasing complexity and diversity ie. evolution, self-organisation and living systems. [see Appendix A for an outline of these three laws] Such a process is a neg-entropic one and is the basis of this document. In particular its social variant is considered crucial to our survival.
Entropic processes may in an esoteric sense be seen to be explosive yang positive energy systems. Neg-Entropic processes may be seen as implosive vacuum like, yin, and negative energy systems. In a more down to earth sense an illustration may assist – consider a stick placed in the middle of a fast flowing stream, with the stream flow representing the entropic dissipative structures of our current culture from low entropy to high entropy, then for a few centimeters behind the stick water flows in reverse yes water flows up hill. This then represents the neg-entropic eddy in the overall dissipative structure.
What we need is more sticks – social sticks.
So this fourth law advocates the potential for increased complexity and diversity that is evolution and self-organisation in living systems.
Characteristics of, and criteria for identifying, Socio-Cultural Neg-Entropy
Taking into account the above fourth law, neg-entropy in the physical and technological worlds is no longer only a madman’s fantasy or visionary’s delusional paintings like I have illustrated in this article with Pope’s work, it is now an emergent reality. The real challenge however is to get neg-entropy working in our socio-cultural settings as well. This is because it is through these latter settings that new directions in science, technology and economics can be set.
Some characteristics of social neg-entropy are:
· Giving (in that giving from the heart without necessary expectation of return generates good will – an esoteric form of neg-entropy)
· Empathy (care and concern for others health and well being as well as yourself)
· Net energy creation (as contrasted to an energy sink)
· Organologic (such as diversity encouraging, fractal geometry, spectral-reserve, self-organisation, recursiveness)
· Diversity harmonising cp. Conformity centralisation
· Informal/outside the box (in that all the formal economic structures are now seriously entropic and generally shrink wrap any within house initiative); not one best way; the whole is more than the sum of the parts, neg-waste (another word for entropy)
· Trans rational from either or to either and ie. towards the theory of the included middle where something can be both a and b rather than only a or b – with no middle overlap
· Replacing black with green letter law – this means being rewarded for what we will do right tomorrow and not punished for what we did wrong today. Wildman (2003).
Now having established this provisional list we can apply them in an effort to design a neg-entropic economic system - one that speaks clearly of a different form of Globalisation. Cavanagh (2000), Singer (2002), Stiglitz (2002), Wildman and Schwencke (2003)
Finding the true believers - Social Neg-Entropy Entrepreneurs
Now that we have identified neg-entropy and sought to outline its potential use in socio-cultural settings we need to be more targeted and ask ourselves - where are the most likely pro neg-entropy candidates and projects likely to be located?
Table 1: Locating a social space for Neg-Entropy to manifest
1 2 3 4 5 6
Praxis orientation Walk the Talk Walk the Walk Talk the Talk Talk the Think Talk the Walk
Vocational category Manager* OperationalWorkforce Politician Academic Entrepreneur; Scientist, Artists
% of the workforce å= 100% 5 91 2 1 1
Level of Entropy in the predominant world view Predominantly Entropic Completely Entropic ComprehensivelyEntropic MainlyEntropic PotentiallyNeg-Entropic
Source: P Wildman 2003
* Relates to status quo system maintenance at decision-making level eg. senior levels, and thus includes: bureaucrats (state, private and community) – the state includes the jurisprudential system, most of the governance system, local government.
· Sources of neg-entropy here in a systems context in this society, neg-entropy can only emerge from only the scientist, entrepreneur and not the academic or manager in the classic sense. The only generation of neg-entropy is in col 6 Talk the Walk.
· Consultants and futurists are generally neg-entropy free riders who create neg-entropy for themselves and entropy for the system they are consulting to
· Therefore and most disturbingly only 1% of the overall workforce can generate neg-entropy – entrepreneurs and scientists. While artists can illustrate neg-entropy they cannot produce it as such.
Key aspects of Neg-Entropy
The inevitability of the global crisis that the authors referenced in this article all identify, does not mean that it cannot be overcome. The word crisis means decision – decisions about how to create a culturological pro evolutionary environment for cultural evolution. This then is an evolution based on the physics of neg-entropic logic. Jantsch (1975)
So then, they will understand that we must not try and improve the world in the language of nuclear forces or the genetic code, but rather in our own language of social innovation.
In the economy and society more generally we can pass rules to make or ‘push’ reality inc. the economy and its players/people to fit the model eg. market and other forms of regulation whereas in science for instance galaxies cannot be told to behave differently. Such pushing does not necessarily increase the viability or value of social systems in general. In fact at present it is demonstrably achieving the reverse.
Value then is viable and thus valuable neg-entropic complexity and evolution may be seen as the increasing of diversity within this viable complexity through self-organisation and fractal logic. This will then lead to the emergence of something valuable and potentially viable which can be found by such self-organising fluctuations among the neighbouring possibilities.
In this section we explore several of the key aspects and impacts of the potential for Social Neg-Entropy.
Our clogged sources and sinks
Nearly everybody today seems to agree that present human activities endanger the survival of humanity and other higher life-forms on earth. The following have for millennia provided entropy sinks and sources of evolutionary variation now threatened by the very success of the ‘human’ project as it is now constituted. For instance the:
· Extinction of species (about one every hour!)
· Extinction of cultures (about 2 every week!)
· Spread of chemical compounds which never before existed on earth or in the universe (perhaps a new one every hour?)
· Population growth (by more than 10 people while I count to 10 as fast as I can!)
· Number of people dying from starvation (now one child every two seconds!)
· Steadily rising carbon dioxide content of the earth’s atmosphere (predominantly from the so called developed countries, where the average citizen contributes every day an amount of CO2 equaling nearly his own body-weight!)
· Thinning of the stratospheric ozone-layer (which has been developed by life and allowed the evolution of higher life-forms for a billion years)
· Perishing of forests, coral-reefs and more and more other ecosystems (witness the fires in Europe at this moment – in France the ground is so hot - towards 40degC - that it is shorting underground electrical cabling)
· Emergence of pernicious terrorism* (both reactive terrorism as in 9-11, structural or intra-active terrorism as in our planet laid waste by our western entropic systems, and proactive terrorism as in the singularity)
· Collapse in our social systems seen in indicators such as imprisonment and homelessness rates, long-term unemployment, explosion of poverty in the north and south and deterioration in fair living standards.
Pope’s painting Biosphere Energy Flow shows a neg-entropic process with unclogged entropy sinks, whereas his Datum Markers shows the reverse – our present situation.
* Terrorism The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
Most of us feel that these are symptoms of decline or even, fall. In short our and our chidren’s futures have been betrayed..
Neg-Entropy and The Singularity
Our recent experience – that within a human life-time the terrestrial biosphere as a whole, including man, might be seriously threatened – seems to present a sharp contradiction to the previous ascent of life, mind and culture. Contrast this with the hurtling towards the technological singularity for our children where they will experience by around 2030 as much change in a week as we will experience in our lifetime. Bell (2003) and Modis (2003). This then is the much-touted singularity long expected by technophiles.
At this point, now think of it, all goes silent, silent because our ability to identify when change happens and thus change itself has disappeared. Contrast this to 2 millennia ago when a Roman foot soldiers wage stayed the same for 3 centuries yes 300 years at 30 denari per year - but then the soldier got a lot older.
Another view of the singularity is where the computing capacity of Artificial Intelligence equals and ultimately exceeds that of Human Intelligence. At present trends without including nano, bio, molecular or quantum computing this is likely to happen by around 2025 when a $2000 aud laptop will have the same computing power as a human mind and then most alarmingly by mid this century a $2000 laptop will have the computing power of all 12b humans on earth Kurzweil (1999:130-133). Now a couple of critical riders:
(1) This is technological change, which is the second singularity behind the first singularity of economic globalisation in the financial and manufacturing sectors that occurred progressively over a thirty-year period to the early 1990’s.
(2) Such change and related projections refer to the current techno-epicenter of the globe which is essentially Western and quintessentially American with some input from Europe
(3) The singularity we are dissussing in this paper involves convergence in what has become known as GNR technologies– Genetics, Nano Technology and Robotics.
Yet as Kafka and Georgescu-Roegen point out our social worlds are ever more further apart. Today globally we have many social downsides of the first globalisation appearing as poverty, unemployment, terrorism, poloarisation of wealth and so forth.
Our collective response as a species however, is to take refuge in ‘black letter or entropic law’. This in effect ensures great trials and tribulations for us. Black letter law refers to the passing of yet more expost law represented by black letters - on white paper of our statutes, Government Acts and regulations. This Black Letter Law is our form of social innovation – which usually takes 20-30 years to achieve substantial change but generally does this by ‘pinching us for what we did wrong yesterday and not rewarding us for what we will do right tomorrow’.
Such laws suit a stable society where change is not rapid and where the past is a good guide for the future. Today we face a world turned upside down where technological change occurs in three months not 30 years yet our socio-democratic systems are all atrophying and showing critical signs of fracturing. As the children’s nursery rhyme goes ‘and all the kings horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put entropic humpty together again’.
In such a turbulent environment as we are now experiencing, where our children will experience in a week what we and our parents experienced in our entire lives, backward forms of social regulation such as rules and black letter law are proving to be about as effective as driving a car backwards into our future in reverse with only the rear vision mirror to guide you.
Tocqueville 1825 identified a form of oppression as ‘mild despotism’, which he saw as erosion of liberty far more serious than violent form of despotism characteristic of feudal societies:
‘it covers societies surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules though which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd: it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it really forces one to act, and constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannise, it hinders, compromises enervates (deprives, weakens), extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each person to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals (robots?) of which the government is the shepherd.’ Young, T. (2001). How to Loose Friends and Alienate People. London: Abacus. Pg 38
So from a social innovators point of view with technology we are moving forward yet socially we are becoming more entropic. For instance we can foresee a time after the singularity when our technology becomes sentient (conscious) and neg-entropic. For instance both the Matrix and Terminator series are post singularity and technology there is both sentient and neg-entropic. As humans however we seem unable to achieve this within our own socio-economic systems. For instance Tocqueville above, terrorism as we experience and perpetuate it, education is still organised as it was in the 19th century, the number of psychiatric disorders recognised in the west continues to increase.
Some of my futurist colleagues see humanity as a failed species and call for our replacement with sentient technology. I must with sadness in large part support this call. Must we only bequeath neg-entropy to T4 or the Animatrix? For each Terminator there has to be a Generator and for each Matrix there has to be a Patrix – for me it is to these types of areas we need to direct our attention to look for the emergence of neg-entropy in social systems.