The Shadows of Entropy

It is a truth almost universally known but rarely, if ever, acknowledged that the strengths and the values of our world are simultaneously its weakness and qualitative (as much as quantitative) poverty. Contemporary communications systems have, for instance, been truly wonderous – they have brought us all closer together through near-instaneous text, voice and video technologies, they have enabled global paroxysms and phase transitions of identity, culture and economic growth. However – simultaneously, these technologies have driven us all further apart, they have provided the means for the self-assembling and self-propagating eddies and patterns of fear and partisan division, they have created a vaster sense of isolation and emotional emptiness than they ever could have resolved, and they have gifted us all a deep and entirely valid sense of digital (cyber) insecurity.

What is perhaps most disturbing about all of this hyper-inflating technological acceleration is that in every single addition and force-multiplication of componentry, hardware, software and logical extension of these sophisticated technological complexities within which we swim – every addition is another entity or artefact contributing towards an inevitable probabilistic drift towards entropy and disorder. The more entities and artefacts that exist, the more potentially disordered states, configurations and constellations of those things that also exist. This is a corrolary of entropy in physics: the numbers of disordered states of matter (and energy or information-processing) systems far outnumbers – by many orders of magnitude – the possible ordered states of those systems, artefacts and entities.

Consequently, disorder and unrecoverable energy proliferate. Climate change is one consequence of this – the unrecoverable thermodynamic entropy produced by the literal mechanisms of Global civilisation has become a swollen tide of unmanageable waste heat that is currently in the process of overwhelming us. There is a certain wisdom (both in and) required to understand the inevitability and functional dynamics of entropy and disorder in complex systems. What truly concerns me is that we – as individuals, societies, cultures and as a Global civilisation – have become so entrained, attuned and desensitised to the conspicuous consumption of whatever in the hell we can get our greedy hands on, that the normative and natural mode of linear, deconstructive and destructive analysis and thought is one which predestines us all towards Global catastrophe.

It is certainly simpler to be negative or critical about the state of the world, an analytical viewpoint perhaps itself a consequence of endemic disorder and the inevitability of a probabilistic drift into entropy. However, a crucial failure lies in being unable to extract ourselves from a paradigm of thought in which we are intransigently unwilling (or unable) to comprehensively acknowledge that it is precisely the ordered systems and structures of our world that are simultaneously the source and inevitable harbingers of structural, digital and – yes – thermodynamic doom. The level of sophistication, perspicacity and intelligence required to comprehend this binding existential enigma is hardly very likely to percolate up through our diverse hierarchies and political systems before they destructively disassemble themselves. A little like the optic nerve that facillitates information transfer from the eye to the brain, we appear to be caught in a blind-spot in which the critical absence (in this case – of ideological, political, social and psychological unity) is itself the one thing that we can never understand but if we ever hope to evolve our minds and technological matrices beyond certain collapse, we have no choice but to seek a deep and accelerated understanding of complex Global systems dynamics.

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