Sunday, 8 July 2018

Sometimes The Important Things Are The Hardest Things To Accept

The dogmatic interventionists, by whom I mean people enchanted by socialism and green politics, get so much wrong primarily because they have never understood the big tension that underwrites human beings' relationship with nature. That tension is one of conflict between order and disorder in the natural proceeding of things. Here's how it goes - and if I succeed in my task of making this easy to follow, some of you may acquire a fresh perspective on the matter of how we could view human beings and our interface with nature.

The fundamental axiom about being humans (or at least one of the fundamental axioms) is that we are evolutionarily primed to strive for order over disorder in just about everything we do. We may experience minor peaks and troughs, but the overall goal of each human is to be in a constant state of improvement - to favour ‘better' over 'worse’ and ‘right' over 'wrong’ and ‘true' over 'false’. The species wouldn't have been able to thrive without these qualities.

The human journey, especially in recent decades, has seen the explosion of millions upon millions of thoughts and ideas into standards and values that draw us gradually nearer to cultural and social convergence, and keep us pressing forward together in search of more and more improvement. Order instead of disorder is our cultural and social analogue. Whether it is a simple act like cleaning up some spilled juice, or pruning a garden, or something more complex like improving our own individual life, or trying to help a family get on the straight and narrow, or bringing about peace in a war ravaged country – progression is our shared preference. Where there is disorder we look to bring about order. 

But if you've been attentive throughout your life, you may have noticed that this puts us at odds with nature's natural tendencies. The reason being: nature tends towards the opposite direction - it tends towards disorder - and this is primarily due to the first two laws of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy is conserved in any process involving a thermodynamic system and its surroundings.  That is to say, the increase in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of energy added by heating the system minus the amount lost as a result of the work done by the system on its surroundings.

The second law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time. This is what is meant by the notion that nature's tendency is towards disorder, not order. In a closed system, disorder increases with time, but amongst the tend towards disorder, when one bit of the system becomes quite ordered, there will be an exhaust of disorder elsewhere to offset the decrease in entropy, meaning the overall effect still produces higher disorder. This process is what we call thermodynamic disequilibrium, which exhibits a driven directionality of time irreversibly (that's why we see time going in one direction not two - forwards but not backwards).

But as you have no doubt noticed, nature is not maximally disordered. If it was, we would not be here to talk about it. In biological evolution we see this directionality of order in action, because there is an evolutionary arrow of time which locks in organised complexity in biochemical systems. That does not mean we have to believe there is intentionality in the system, much less that evolution has an end goal – but in the sense of being good at surviving at the genetic level, the ratchet mechanism that occurs in the system creates pockets of order. This is the process that humans try to mirror in our own endeavours.

And here is where things get even more interesting, because although nature's tendency towards disorder puts humans in tension with nature as we try to bring about order, there is another one of nature's fundamental principles that humans have adopted to make the progress as efficient as possible - and that is the principle of least effort (also known as the law of parsimony). Because the total energy content of the universe is constant and the total entropy is constantly increasing, nature always prefers low energy, to tend towards maximum entropy - that is, it will make the least effort to reach any observable pathway it tends towards. That is why, for example, when light travels it reverts to the path of least time; and it is why a hanging chain reverts to the shape of lowest centre of mass; and it is why soap bubbles revert to the shape of least surface area and volume.

Similarly, in human nature, the physical mechanisms that underwrite our drive forward, our biological evolution, the global economy, and the state of living things in terms of the planet, are also all bound up in nature's thermodynamic principle of the law of parsimony. Whether we are talking about Newton's laws of motion, the biological mechanism of natural selection, electromagnetic radiation, the second law of thermodynamics, or running a successful clothing business, installing machinery in a new factory premises, trying to get from London to Brighton, or setting up a remote controlled railway system for your children at Christmas time, all these things are underpinned by the law of parsimony - that what works most efficiently is the path that takes least effort and uses the least energy.

Consequently, then, there is often a big price to pay for the kind of short-sighted meddling we frequently see in things like climate change alarmism, strivings for enforced equality, stifling competition, price controls, state subsidies, damaging regulations, censorship, and most taxes you can think of - the human state of affairs would be greatly enhanced if left to many of its natural paths of efficiency, and would progress a lot quicker than it is being allowed to with the meddlings of the socialists and the eco warriors.

I'm not saying that everything the state does is a hindrance to progress; and nor would I wish to gainsay the idea that some social justice warriors begin their endeavours with good intentions. But quite often the motives of the establishment are not conterminously aligned with the overall human drive for improvment, which is cooperation and mutually beneficial transactions according to the Nash equilibrium of whichever system is in play during the transaction. Because of humans pursuing their best possible approach as per Nash equilibria, the agents of participation have to negotiate strategies that identify risk in order to have sufficient transparency to obtain an optimal (or efficient) end goal. When there is negative outside interference that distorts this process and diminishes transparency, we get perverse incentives and less-efficient outcomes.

And lastly, this has a big implication on the other of society's big incompetence - the hugely pernicious model of fabricated equality, whereby people try to artificially level the playing field to achieve equal outcomes. Given that the underwritten hardwiring of humans is competition for fecundity and species resilience, it is inevitable that strivings for equality of opportunity are problematical (although not necessarily undesirable) and drives for enforced equality of outcome are mostly reprehensible.

Equality of outcome should not be enforced because of its ultimate futility - it is anti-human nature. It would be tantamount to forcing the species into a reduced level of prosperity on the basis of a highly questionable, undifferentiated uniformity. The reality is, if humankind was artificially flattened down to the common denominator of the most unskilled, least hard working, uncompetitive members, it would not be able to thrive as a species in the way it has.

There is transparent knowledge and empirical understanding of how reality operates, how humans thrive best, what helps our development along, what aids our psychological well-being, and what retards progress - and whether you choose to swallow the red pill or the blue pill is entirely a matter for your own conscience and whether you want to embrace reality, truths and facts, or dwell in the realm of illusion and denial. Just remember that no one really ever gets away with anything negative they do; and no one ever really fails to benefit from anything positive they do.