Entropy

On the way in to work this morn­ing I real­ized that the phrase “your name is ‘mud’” applies to me in a a quite real sense. My name is mud. I love puns. But that’s not impor­tant right now. Entropy. It has been on my mind late­ly. So many things are on the old nog­gin and lit­tle bits appear in my oth­er ram­blings until I real­ize there is a filet mignon cut up into all the ham sal­ad of my oth­er posts. Or at least a sir­loin.

Now it is a pret­ty wide­ly dis­sem­i­nat­ed the­o­ry that the uni­verse will end in entropy, heat-death, when the last can­dlewick of a star gut­ters and all mol­e­c­u­lar motion ceas­es. What­ev­er. I don’t know much about that. What I do know is that my soci­ety, per­haps even humans in gen­er­al, seem to pro­mote entropy. Per­haps it is inher­ent to every liv­ing being, that it must take in mat­ter and destroy it in order to func­tion. Since we are men­tal­ly evolved to be effi­cient not effec­tive despite being bod­i­ly evolved to be effec­tive not effi­cient [that idea sort of comes from here] the path of con­sump­tion seems inevitable.

This sort of leads into and feeds what I see as the two main types of human­ly per­pet­u­at­ed entropy: stag­na­tion and homog­e­niza­tion. Stag­na­tion is pret­ty obvi­ous, refus­ing change and oppos­ing every­thing that would change the sta­tus quo. There is one per­son I work with who epit­o­mizes this to me. If things went this person’s way we would still do all of our edit­ing with pen­cil and paper, or at best, on the old VAX sys­tem. Stag­nant and obso­lete.

The oth­er type of human entropy that I’ve thought about is also con­cerned with the sta­tus quo, but in this instance the con­cern stems from uni­fi­ca­tion through homog­e­niza­tion instead of unchange. I guess a good exam­ple of this would be con­sumer and cor­po­rate Amer­i­can cul­ture; the Melt­ing Pot idea instead of the Mul­li­gan Stew. So you can go across the coun­try and in every large city find the same shop­ping com­plex, with the same stores, sell­ing the same things to the vir­tu­al­ly iden­ti­cal peo­ple from a few thou­sand miles and a cou­ple of moun­tain ranges away. I fig­ure that path prob­a­bly ends in stag­na­tion as well. Once every­one in the world speaks the same lan­guage, uses the same cur­ren­cy, bends to the same eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal whims and is the same put­ty col­or…

I think what pulled this all togeth­er for me was my recent com­ple­tion of Cord­wain­er Smith’s The Redis­cov­ery of Man. In this col­lec­tion of short sto­ries, human­i­ty becomes so homog­e­nized and stag­nant in their utopic hap­pi­ness that the genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied ani­mal-men called ‘under­peo­ple’ seem more human to the read­er. At least, before the Redis­cov­ery of Man and the sub­se­quent redis­cov­ery of vari­ety.

So while entropy might be unavoid­able, at least we don’t have to hur­ry the process along. [Peak oil, glob­al warm­ing, eth­no­cen­tric eco­tourist con­sump­tion dis­guised as mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism [We just love Indi­an food, but can you believe they eat it with their hand?! How drol­ly uncouth.]] The eas­i­est way for me to start is by seek­ing out vari­ety wher­ev­er and what­ev­er I am doing. That will fight the sta­tus quo of homog­e­niza­tion. Then I’ve got to try to fig­ure out par­a­digm shifts that will pull me out of the efficient/effective trap described by William McDo­nough and there­fore keep me from becom­ing inured in the sta­tus quo of stag­na­tion. At least I’ve iden­ti­fied the prob­lem. Now, on to solu­tions.