The Implicit Psychological Entropy of Social Media

Context: Britons less trusting of social media than other major nations

For all of this (perhaps entirely justifiable) distrust referenced in the article above, these shared communications platforms remain spectacularly popular. Is a core psychological requirement of continuous socialisation and cognitive novelty the (social media) trump card over distrust and ethical abhorrence? Even where the participant observation in social media systems generates frustration and discomfort it still provides that reflexive distance and difference by which an aspirational individuation and narcissistic self-validation occurs. Disagreement and distrust provide apertures of opportunity for psychological, subjective self-definition in ways at least as (if not more) certain as do agreement and trust; in fact – most ideological assertions (online or elsewhere) possess a non-trivial investment in antagonistic self-definition, of defining one’s self in opposition to an Other.

It is quite probable that one aspect in the statistical success and far-reaching consequences of the ongoing efflorescence of irrationality, falsehood and inflammatory rhetoric so virulent online is that ideological or ethical negation provides more ways in which a message might self-replicate whereas unproblematic (and verifiable) truths or unsurprising (ideologically neutral) assertions provide fewer methods for memetic self-propagation, message self-replication. That information which is inflammatory possesses more potential and (virtual) kinetic vectors of effect. In sum – the methods and channels of self-definition as against, or in dissonant opposition to, an assertion or notional fact exceed in possibility-space those of agreement and positive resonance. Negativity (and conflict) proliferates because there are more channels of possibility and probable instantiation than there are for peace or agreement; social media provides an avenue of expression for this. It is not in any sense a new psychological symmetry but it most certainly is a cognitively-extended technologically-mediated expression of this pre-existing phenomenon.

There are far more possible (i.e. probable) disordered states than ordered ones – individual and distributed intelligence merely capitalises on this with the characteristic heuristic efficiency of existential opportunism and human intelligence. Ideological turbulence, media distrust, fake news and the hyper-inflating bias towards successfully self-propagating inflammatory rhetoric in (or as) social media is one instance of a broader principle through which life and intelligence negotiate and harness or exploit entropy in information and energy processing systems.

Cosmological Algorithms

From an Algorithmic Information Theory and general systems perspective, matter can be conceived of as an optimally concise algorithmic (i.e. procedurally descriptive) compression of energy. The “programs” or functions by which this energy is decompressible (and thus variously reproducible) are the ascendant laws of physics aggregated around the magnificent concision of E=MC^2, among many other associated (and often considerably less concise, yet at least overtly self-consistent, integrated) theoretical entities.

The structured compression of energy in (or as) matter provides for an offset or delay of the entropic energy dissipation that is incurred by the inevitability of thermodynamic decay. In this sense, the Cosmos provides structural or architectural “failsafes” against accelerated (dissipatory) self-annihilation. [Note also: the observed tendency towards lowest-energy ordered or patterned states in material systems exhibiting “emergent complexity” and that this simultaneously provides an aperture of opportunity for systemic self-propagation and for entropy offset through the production of dissipation channels that possess functional, partially-recyclable systemic utility through the directed reprocessing of information and energy.]

From this perspective, and in the context of “dark matter” (and perhaps also “dark energy” or other such distributed opaque mysteries) a question which arises is that of where (and what) exactly are the associated compression libraries?


Emergent Complexity as Logical and Material Inevitability

Emergent complexity, such as the billowing patterns of a swallow murmuration or spontaneously arising hexagonal cells which can occur in boiling water, represent the lowest (i.e. most efficient) energy state of a dynamical system. Information processing systems such as brains (or civilisations) tend towards forming autonomous, self-propagating patterns and these structural relationships seek out the lowest energy and most efficient form (i.e. morphology, phenotype). System state exploration is of a volatile (i.e. stochastic) information and (free) energy space through non-volitional, non-agency experiment, exploration or testing and evolution; incorporating human agency or social and cultural contexts, we might recognise this exploratory process as innovation or directed (i.e. useful) creativity. Low-energy dynamical system states are also the most efficient information storage systems in that the minimally complex description of an emergent patterned or structured dynamical system is of significantly less descriptive magnitude than is the sum description of all component parts and their properties.

The existence of non-organic patterns (as codes, genetic structure, grammars, logic) demonstrates that, while life and sentience may be deeply saturated with the self-propagating potentials written into physics and biological complexity, the structures and patterns are themselves and to some extent independent entities. Assertions regarding the primacy of mathematics (and by extension – physics) as the symbolic language of choice for the explanation of the emergence of complexity are powerful but do not sufficiently explain the arrival or emergence of symbolic languages and similarly structured logical or linguistic systems which reflect the structural depth of the world. Why should the world exhibit mathematical (or logical) regularity and possess such deep structural and systemic complexity at all ?

The emergence of structured and patterned complexity may just be an inevitable consequence of a Cosmos in which the self-replicating, iterating logical process of self-replication itself represents the simplest, low-energy (and minimal algorithmic information complexity) state of any dynamical process. The often misconstrued degeneration or disassembly of order into entropy is that process or aperture of opportunity by which the logic of self-replication (and the self-replication of a dynamical logic) autonomously or algorithmically seeks to find instantiation and continuity through sustainable low-energy patterns and regularities of dynamical systems or network configuration.

Climate Change: Time is Running Out

This is how it starts: the heatwaves, the droughts, the fires, the extreme weather. I realise we have have for reasons of conscience to drag the morons and the luddites along with us (kicking and screaming, as they are) into a post-industrial world but it is perhaps coming to a point where the luxury of holding absurdist pretensions concerning Climate Change and all cascading Anthropocene consequences are no longer pardonable fantasies. I assert: the changes are already upon us and will only continue to accelerate and our world, our very human world, of value and meaning is little more than a fragile crystalline structure, brittle and prone to fracture and spontaneously-catastrophic structural disassembly.

I don’t consider this a lost cause; questions as to humanity’s collective capacity and aptitude for directed, purposeful metamorphosis at a global and holistic organisational-systems level seriously need to be articulated immediately as matters of the gravest existential significance. It is a serious issue of quite probably civilisation-extinguishing proportions.

As Rome burns, Nero fiddles


Heuristics: Organisational Entropy 001

Organisational systems are as subject to the exigencies of thermodynamics as are any other material systems. What often misdirects us in successfully understanding or defining the ontological properties (existence) of organisational systems is the mischievous dual-nature of organisations as logical and symbolic (mental) concepts and in some sense also as materially-extended constellations of entities (persons), objects (physical components) and relationships (actions, processes). In this sense of organisational entities possessing potentially irreducible dualism, we find Idealism and Materialism percolating back up from (relatively) nebulous consequences in philosophical argument back into the concrete real-world problems of how we might best engage with effectively defining, designing and optimising organisational systems.