Posts Tagged ‘Physical Entropy’

The Psychology of America’s Decline # 6

March 1, 2012

The Psychology of America’s Decline # 6

Social Entropy

I once read that John Lock stated that “Eeverything in nature is waste until humans transform it”. While one might fashion a counter-argument against this decidedly homocentric view, I believe it is clearly true of human beings themselves. The human infant is perceptually precocious, but its psychomotor and cognitive skills are so poorly developed that they will need intensive care and teaching by other humans (transformation) for many years following their birth.  If the infant is abandoned it will simply die. For reasons of my profound and undeniable personal bias on this matter, I would call this failed transformation by humans, a very sad waste.

The skillful and loving care and teaching of a developing child will normally produce very useful forms of good behavioral contagion, and that is a marvelous thing. The neglectful, abusive, or unskilled care and teaching of children will normally lead damaging forms to bad behavioral contagion and that is a very sad and wasteful outcome. If transformational rates of bad behavioral contagion increase dramatically within any human population, they can lay waste to precious current and future human energy reservoirs available to build and sustain their resident culture.

Rifkin and others have discussed ways in which the entropy law might be applied to some social activities such as economics, urbanization, the military and education. I will now suggest that there may be powerful utility in extending an adaptation of the entropy law to the examination of changes in the quality and potential of populations to do  work to sustain their sociocultures. The useful human energy available in a population comprising a society and its culture is a resource that can be created and it can be destroyed and used-up, by a great many events; most of which are mediated by other human beings.

I have called my adaptation of the entropy concept biopsychosocial entropy. The meaning of the unwieldy designation ,biopsychosocial, has been defined in earlier parts of this book. We will now use a shorted designation, social entropy as when we referred to behavioral contagion rather that biopsychosocial contagion. However, it is important to remember that both behavioral contagion and social entropy increase or decrease in one, or in combinations of biological, psychological, or social domains.

Social entropy is defined as: The proportion of human behavioral energy, within a population, that is not available to build and maintain the socioculture–but functions as a drain upon it.

It is important to note that with physical entropy, according to theory, entropy can only increase in the universe. Theoretically physical entropy is not reducible. From this perspective, there is no such a thing as negative entropy.

However, with the special adaptation of this concept to the analysis of populations within sociocultures, this changes dramatically. A socioculture is not a “closed system”. Its territory many expand or contract, birth rates and immigrations rates may increase or decrease, rates of good and bad behavioral contagion may increase or decrease, and with all of this the proportions a culture sustaining population will fluctuate. Given the definition of social entropy to be used for our cultural analyses, or even within the population of the world, its proportions can increase or decrease.

In spite of the fact that the concept of social entropy does not conform to the first, second and therefore the third law of thermodynamics, I will hope to make its utility for cultural analysis applications clear.

If we return to the Cultural Decompensation Model introduced in Chapter 1 (and as reviewed briefly at the start of the present chapter), you will understand the product of a great many of the biopsychosocial events that impact a population for better or worse is geometrically summarized in the last (adults) segment on the right hand side of this figure. To see this figure, please go to Vision 5 in my blog of 9/14/09.

What is portrayed here is the total of the adult population in America. No matter how this population may grow or diminish in absolute numbers what is contained within this section is 100 percent of the total population of adults.

The trapezoid appearing roughly in the center of this section displays the “proportion of human behavioral energy within a population” that are physically and emotionally healthy enough to do work to create and maintain the socioculture. I call them the culture sustaining population. The trapezoid at the top contains the proportion of the population that is aged, 65 years and older. These individuals have withdrawn (or are beginning to withdraw) their personal energy from building and sustaining the socioculture. The trapezoid at the bottom contains the proportion of our population that are children, youth, or adults who are not in the workforce. It also includes members of this population that are physically or mentally impaired for any reason, as well as those who are at risk for biopsychosocial dysfunction. Added together, those in the top and bottom two trapezoids represent current and probable future drains on the resources of any socioculture under study.

To gain a rough clinical picture of the biopsychosocial health, vitality and viability of America (or any socioculture), it is imperative to keep an eye on the center trapezoid. This is the visual geometric and mathematical representation of social entropy: The proportion of human behavioral energy, within a population, that is not available to build and maintain the socioculture–but functions as a drain upon it.

An oversimplified, though potentially useful, formula for approximating  social entropy indices for a socioculture is as follows:

CS = Culture Sustaining Population

T = Total Population

SE = Social Entropy

I.e., CS / T x 100 =  CS %

For example, if our population was 450 million individuals and our culture sustaining population was 220 million, the culture sustaining population would be 48.9 %.

The proportion of human behavioral energy, within a population, that is not available to build and maintain the socioculture–but functions as a drain upon it is social entropy.

I.e., T% (100) – CS% = SE

If, at any point in time, America’s CS index is 48.8%, its reciprocal social entropy index would be 51.1 %, and visa-versa.

At this time, I cannot tell you what the social entropy score is that would indicate, probable, certain, or catastrophic social decompensation for any particular socioculture. For the sake of discussion, I suspect that SE percents increasing into the lower 40’s should be reason for concern. I imagine that SE percents in the high 40’s should be reason for grave concern. It is likely, however, that critical SE scores would differ somewhat depending upon structural, infrastructural, superstructural, as well as other variables particular to a specific  socioculture.

However, I am certain that for any socioculture these profoundly important (but, as of yet undetected) social entropy scores exist. I have faith that they can be determined by scientific methods. Furthermore, I believe that science can provide useful guidelines to sociocultures for maintaining low social entropy measures and better maintaining the health and viability of sociaocultures.

To do this will require a new paradigm.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.

Readers  have my permission to share this information for noncommercial purposes only.

The Psychology of America’s Decline #5

February 27, 2012

The Psychology of America’s Decline #5

In science, it is important to measure the phenomena under study. As you have learned, it is not difficult to measure the rates per 100,000 of population to assess important social indicators. Also, it is no longer difficult to understand the mechanisms involved in changing the behaviors of individuals, and envision the multiplication of various behavior patterns within our population through the known mechanisms and avenues of behavioral contagion.

But to develop measures of the impact of all of previously discussed factors upon the health and viability of America (or any socioculture) will require the development of yet another conception. This concept is one that I call Social Entropy. But first it is important to lay some important groundwork for its construction.

Physical Entropy

The concept of entropy is not new. Jeremy Rifkin (1980) Other Authors wrote the book, Entropy. He noted that Albert Einstein held that entropy was “the premier law of all science”.  He also noted that Einstein judged that entropy, the second law of thermodynamics was the physical law most unlikely to be ever invalidated. He further noted that the scientist Sir Arthur Edington asserted that the Entropy Law was “the supreme metaphysical law of the entire universe”.

The principle of entropy was originally described by a French army officer named Sadi Carnot while he was investigating the workings of the the steam engine. The German physicist, Rudolf  Clausius was the first to use the term, entropy, in 1868. It was the field of thermodynamics that yielded this extraordinarily important scientific concept.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy or matter cannot be created or destroyed and that the total amount of energy in the universe is finite and constant.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that matter and energy can only be transformed or changed and that the direction of change is always from energy which is available for use, to energy which is not available for use.

The Third Law of Thermodynamics states that “processes which do not conform to the First and Second Law cannot occur“.

The concept of entropy is based upon the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Rifkin (1980) defined entropy as “a measure of the amount of energy no longer capable of conversion into work”. Another common definition of entropy centers on the “tendency of organized matter to move in the direction of disorganization, deterioration, and chaos”.

While both of these definitions can be adapted to have relevance to our sociocultural analysis purposes, the concept of the amount of energy not available to maintain a system or process, is most germane.  Although the energy-not-available concept will normally be used within the following discussions, the tendency-toward-disorganization will also be a very useful and compatible subordinate concept.

A simple example of entropy in the physical world is the burning of a log. I fondly recall my dear father explaining this concept to me when I was a child. A piece of wood represents free and easily used energy in a highly organized state. When the wood is burned, nothing physical is actually lost in the universe. The wood is simply converted into various gases and ash residue. The energy has been converted from free to bound energy.  It was once easily used through the process of combustion, but now it is much less available for convenient or easy use. Another, more troublesome, example of entropy is the dramatically escalating use of our planet’s fossil fuels. These natural resources represent a finite supply of “free or unbound” energy. Once this fuel is combusted, or converted, the byproducts will represent bound energy which are no longer so easily available to do work.

It is clear that physical scientists are convinced that the entropy law manifests a great deal of reliability, validity and generality across all of their disciplines. The conception of entropy in the physical sciences is not only the result of diligent research, but this concept has functioned as an immensely valuable catalyst for further scientific advancements.

I believe the concept of entropy can be adapted to understand a large part the puzzle of the worlds sociocultures that inevitably fall into decline and often have totally collapsed.

Please Stay Tuned!

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D., 2/27/12

You are welcome to share my writing on this topic. But, reproducing for commercial use is prohibited

Altering “For The Better Designedly”: Francis Bacon

December 26, 2011

Altering “For The Better Designedly”: Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon,  is quoted as saying:

“Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.”

For more about Bacon see here:

It would appear that Francis Bacon anticipated the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

I have used this more modern conception to illustrate what happens in a socioculture (an “open system” in America) when it is in decline. An increasingly dysfunctional cultural design transforms useful unbound  human energy (available to do work to build and sustain the socioculture), into useless bound, (even damaging) human energy that functions as a destructive drain upon it.

As with physical entropy (wood is burned and transformed into relatively useless ash and gases), when human energy potential is destroyed by bad cultural designs it can become useless and even damaging to the socioculture (addiction, crime, abuse of children, etc.). I call this process Social Entropy.

While the concept of increasing Social Entropy can be a frightening one, it also offers hope. In an “open society” (proper immigration) and with a therapeutic redesign (“altered for the better desinedly”), Social Entropy can be decreased and the socioculture can again flourish.

The therapeutic cultural alterations needed are suggested by several fields of science (anthropology, psychology, sociology, and economics, to name several).

What is not yet clear, is how to cautiously make and assess such alterations while preserving the liberties granted under America’s Constitutional framework. 

I am thinking about that and it is an intimidating and  humbling area of cogitation.

V. Thomas Mawhinney, Ph.D.       12/26/11

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