Wednesday, January 29, 2014

My comment to Bryant on thermopolitics

See his blog post here. My comment follows.

You really need to read Jeremy Rifkin, particularly his book The Third Industrial Revolution. He addresses exacly what you’re talking about. For example, he discusses the worldview matrix that was enacted through the energy regimes of particular eras. Fossil fuels are found is select areas and require large financial and military investments to secure them. Along with this comes a way or organizing business top-down with centralized command and control. For example, the railroad required large financial investments that included foreign investors, and such immense capital required a stock market to track it. Ownership became separated from management, and workers from management. All of which was a drastic change from the more agrarian economy envisioned by Adam Smith. Max Weber studied this shift and noted that the new business model emphasized pyramidal organization structure (top-down), pre-established rules for all operations and jobs, a strict division of labor and wages. This railroad model transformed all businesses (107-09).

He also explored the context in which Adam Smith proposed an economy. Smith looked to Newton for guiding principles and the latter’s three laws became the template. The market, once set in motion, operated on the same principles of motion. Though instead of God being Newton’s prime mover it was for Smith enlightened self-interest , with supply and demand making the necessary adjustments. However the laws of economic motion gives us limited data and doesn’t take into account time and irreversibility. Both Newtonian math and Smith’s economics are completely reversible and both lack the insights of thermodynamic laws. We’ve seen this same scenario play out with quantum mechanics itself, with the earlier versions also not taking into account thermodynamics and irreversibility (193-95).

All of which is due to the modernist paradigm and the assumptions inherent to it. Whereas the emerging P2P and postmodern paradigm surpasses all of the above by using alternative energy sources and the networked modeling of the internet. It’s an entirely different way of doing business that distributes energy, knowledge, power, everything in a truly democratic model.

Also see this interview with Rifkin, wherein he said:

"The problem is Newton’s physics don’t tell you a damn thing about economic activity…. The problem is economics is all about how energy flows, and it’s governed by the laws of thermodynamics, which weren’t discovered until the latter part of the nineteenth century by engineers and chemists studying energy flows.

“By that time, economics was already ossified – didn’t want to hear about it. But economic activity is all about the irreversible passage of low entropy energy inputs whether it’s embedded in the material form in the earth – like fossil fuels, or rare Earths, or in energy by itself. And it’s how that energy in both material and energy form is converted to utilities for society and then they end up back in nature in a degraded state to be recycled or replenished.

“So, the laws of thermodynamics really govern economic activity, but almost no economist ever studies the law of thermodynamics. They don’t have a clue. The engineers, the chemists, the biologists, the architects, the urban planners, the physicists – all of those professions, which actually create economic activity, they do so from a thermodynamic lens. So there’s a complete disconnect between them and the economists.”

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