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Moment of Truth: February 4 2017

Toward, But Not Directly Toward, A Thermodynamic/Information Theory of History

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

There's a framework for thinking about evolution in terms of thermodynamics, and I'm here to misunderstand it for you. Complex thermodynamically open systems, such as living organisms, but not only living organisms, but in this case, yes, living organisms, tend to want to redistribute the energy going into them by discharging it in the most entropic way possible. So, if you eat a lot of fuel, such as a pizza, you're going to be able to stomp around, breaking stuff and kicking up dust. On top of that, you'll be able to make machines that will take in energy and smash stuff and give off heat, destroying more organization than if you hadn't made the machine, and creating greater entropy than otherwise.

I'll be honest: I don’t think that's a very good illustration of the theory. Oh! That's because I forgot to say that the organization isn't just thermal energy, it's information. Information wants to be free, somebody said. I have the vague recollection it was a lawyer. But what information wants is beside the point. Energetic input helps cajole information to organize itself into complex systems. That's why there's something instead of nothing. Maybe. And information forms complex systems to more efficiently transform energetic input into entropy.

Without a shadow of a doubt, I am doing great violence to this theory. But maybe that's my purpose: to redistribute my breakfast into nonsensical misinterpretations of popular science articles in Quanta magazine, thereby turning organized chemical energy, as well as well-organized information in plain English, into froth and ado and evenly-distributed confusion.

This is why it is almost one hundred percent certain that the listenership of the This Is Hell radio program is going to continue to grow: broadcasting the information to more listeners distributes it over a greater area, therefore more evenly, in the cosmic scheme of things. Nature wants This Is Hell to have more listeners. It's only natural. And the listeners, absorbing this information, will mess up the world around them, creating entropy more efficiently.

I've slept through most of the past century's philosophical trends, so I don't know if people are still as pumped about dialectical materialism as they were back when I was a boy in the late 19th Century. I assume there have been some changes. I always felt Marx added that stuff in order to position communism within the history of philosophy. It didn't seem like a great idea. The history of philosophy doesn't seem like a great idea. Philosophy itself seems like a pretty iffy idea to begin with.

If dialectical materialism hasn't by now been trashed by ecological descriptions of historical forces, or by game theory, which totally explodes everything, then allow me to segue into my early musings on a thermodynamic information theory of the state and the masses, which should put the last nail in. Into everything. Let's illustrate it like this: sometimes the state is an organism, and the masses are a bath the organism lives inside of. And sometimes the state is the bath, and the masses are the organism. They switch places, and it's not always clear which party is an organism and which is its environment.

For example, right now, the current administration, representing the state, is like an ill-formed octopus, trying to reach its tentacles into things, and the masses are all over it like a salty ocean battering it with currents and rising temperatures. The octopus attempts to adapt, in order to accomplish its tentacle intentions, but because it's not a very well-crafted animal, it's having a hell of a time, flailing in frustration. It's not able to absorb the energy the ocean is bombarding it with, in order to turn that bombardment energy into entropy, yet internally it can't help struggling to assimilate that energy. How fast could a giraffe adapt to a tornado? Not too fast. It would pretty much be splintered down to a pile of knees in seconds. This octopus administration is doing everything a failing organism does, which means it's mostly consuming its own insides right now.

I told you I didn't understand this stuff too well. Now you see what I mean.

You need to look at it like this: imagine chemicals are a collection of billiard balls. And under certain circumstances the balls combine to give you RNA. Once you get RNA, you're on the way to all kinds of exciting stuff. RNA reacts to energy by duplicating itself. At least I think it does. I'm pretty sure you'd be hard-pressed to find an Earthlike planet, you know, a Goldilocks-zone planet, anywhere in the universe with just a single RNA molecule floating around on it. Not gonna happen. You can put your money on that.

You need to look at it like a card game. You need to think of the auto-industry. Think about a forest fire. No, no, think about a recipe in relation to its ingredients, its instructions, and your hungry family. Or a topiary display.

The thing about the billiard balls is, each kind of ball has different properties. This is information. I think.

Back to the forest fire. Or the topiary. Think about the distance between the pitcher's mound and home plate in the context of baseball history. That's what I do, sometimes, just to stop thinking about ice cream.

I had these bananas. It was a dollar for a whole lot of them, because they'd been cut off from their bunches. For some reason I had the idea that I'd make bananas Foster with them. When I got them home I realized I was missing a few ingredients. I needed black rum, brown sugar, and ice cream.

I got those ingredients, and then the Trump travel ban for people from certain mostly Muslim countries came, so I ate the ice cream.

That's what I'm talking about. When life gives you lemons, make avgolemono. You'll need eggs, chicken broth, and rice, too. Adapt. That's what we're doing. We're very good at reorganizing in response to totalitarian energy. I was very impressed with all you young people showing up so quickly at the airports to demand the release of the victims of the travel ban.

 It's almost like you were all an octopus, and the state was an ocean, battering you with fascist currents and erratic temperature changes, but the information in you was so flexible that it could reorganize to send your tentacles into the spaces where they were most needed. It was an evolutionarily analogical thing of beauty. Wasn't it? It really was.

You really made some good avgolemono out of those lemons. Not like the batch I just made. I forgot to let the rice cook before adding the lemons and eggs, so the eggs curdled while the rice was cooking. I take this as evidence that I myself may not survive this administration. But I have a lot of optimism regarding the rest of you.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!


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