19 Nov 2014

The Laws of Thermodynamics Reinterpreted

in Commonwealth, Currencies, Design Principles, Evolution, Flows, Generosity Economy, Paradox, Thermodynamics, Upward Spirals

Let's do a quick review of principles of thermodynamics for those who may be rusty. Remember, there are many different ways of precisely stating the Laws. I'm paraphrasing to convey basic meaning and context.

  1. The First Law is about the conservation of matter and energy. They can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form.
  2. The Second Law is about entropy or energy dispersal. Whenever you use energy to do some work, or whenever energy is converted from one form to another, some of that energy is lost (dissipates as heat) in the process. 

These "laws" are understood to have been universally empirically validated. But mostly they are interpreted in a fairly restrictive sense to mean things like: the laws prove that perpetual motion machines (of the first and second class) are impossible.

Having spent so many years looking at the world through the lens of currencies (current-sees), I have to admit, it's hard not to also see these Laws through that lens. I'm used to seeing, and using currencies to help groups collectively see, system behaviors that emerge from making seemingly small, and simple decisions about flows which over time create huge changes in direction. For example, the seemingly small rule of issuing money as debt which bears interest has massive consequences on the large scale pattern of the economy (forcing economic growth to stave off currency collapse, creating artificial scarcity and competition between people, consistent wealth transfer to those who already have it, etc.)