4 The dilemma of low-entropy body and the technical steps faced by it
Malthus pointed out for the first time in “On Population” that human resources seemed to be increasing arithmetic at that time, and the law of population reproduction was exponential growth. Although many people criticize Malthus for being cold-blooded and ruthless, in terms of logical narrative, Malthus’s theory is irrefutable.
Those who have studied high school mathematics will know that exponential growth will definitely exceed arithmetic growth. But in the following 200 years, even with the rapid population growth, the living standards of human society have steadily improved, and humanity has not fallen into the Malthusian trap.
If considered from an economic point of view, this paradox is explained in Solow’s economic growth model. The Solow model believes that when exogenous technology grows at a fixed rate, the economy will grow on a balanced growth path. Therefore, technological progress is the main driving force of economic growth. Denison and others confirmed and consolidated Solow’s view through empirical analysis of US economic growth. Conversely, when the level of exogenous technology tends to stagnate, the economy will tend to stagnate, and investment can only compensate for the depreciation of fixed assets and equip new workers.
If you look at the problem from the perspective of the second law of thermodynamics, all of this is based on a series of resource/energy-related technological revolutions. Mankind has crossed a new technological stage and found a large-scale new level of negative entropy flow, ensuring that human society can maintain a low entropy state for a long time.
From a macro perspective, technology is the cornerstone of human civilization. Technology will turn what was previously regarded as garbage into resources, so that human society can maintain an orderly state. If technology meets the ceiling, the space for human development will gradually be limited, and the room for flickering and maneuvering will become smaller and smaller.
The ancient Chinese civilization is an example.
In terms of geographical isolation, Chinese civilization ranks first among the many civilizations in Asia and Europe. Although there is communication with the outside world, it is much worse than the level of civilization exchange in the Mediterranean region. In the case of technological stagnation in the agricultural society, the early Chinese farming civilization, before the Tang Dynasty, was able to escape the Malthusian trap through spatial expansion. But afterwards, Chinese civilization fell into a predicament. The 1,000-year cycle of chaos is actually the struggle and helplessness of civilization experiencing technological stagnation.
For human civilization, on a large time scale, the expansion of new resources and energy by technology must conform to the law of exponential growth, which is the demand for capital and civilization expansion. Therefore, the 2008 financial crisis may represent the arrival of a new era: low-entropy bodies have begun to abandon the path of growth.
4.1 Talking from the second law of thermodynamics
Eddington, a world-renowned scientist who has verified the general theory of relativity, commented on the second law of thermodynamics as follows: “I think the principle of entropy increase—the second law of thermodynamics—is the supreme among all the laws of nature. If someone points out you The favorite theory of the universe doesn’t match Maxwell’s equations-then Maxwell’s equations are unsuccessful. If it is found to contradict observations-then the observer must have messed up the matter. But if you find that your theory violates the second thermodynamics law, I dare to say that you have no hope, your theory can only be lost and collapsed.”
4.1.1 The wisdom of Tao Te Ching
There is a saying in the “Tao De Jing”: “The way of heaven is to make up for the inadequacy. The way of man is otherwise, and the damage is not enough to give up.” Many people simply regard it as a problem of the polarization between the rich and the poor, but in fact , This sentence implicitly corresponds to the second law of thermodynamics and modern dissipative structure theory.
There are several ways of expressing the second law of thermodynamics. The most explanatory is the entropy expression: as time goes on, the entropy in an isolated system will never decrease.
What is entropy? The concept of entropy was proposed by the German physicist Rudolf Clausius. It is more troublesome to paste formulas. To put it simply, entropy is a measure of the disorder of the large number of microscopic particles that make up the system. The more disordered the system The more chaotic, the greater the entropy; the more orderly the system, the smaller the entropy.
The second law of thermodynamics states that: in an isolated system that does not exchange matter and energy with the outside world, regardless of its initial conditions and history, its state function “entropy” will increase monotonically over time and move spontaneously. Uniform, disordered, simple, and evolve toward equilibrium, until it reaches thermodynamic equilibrium. This is actually a degraded direction.
Therefore, without external interference, put a drop of red ink into a glass of water, and eventually the entire glass of water will turn red. A house will eventually collapse over time, the summit of the mountain will collapse, and the planet will eventually collapse.
Order will eventually become disorder, and the process of increasing entropy is the process of erasing differences.
Therefore, the way of heaven will make up for the shortcomings.
On the other hand, biology describes the development of the system from disorder to order, from simple to complex, from low-level to high-level, and from non-functional to functionally organized. This is an evolutionary direction. At the same time, human history has repeatedly shown that humans can build a huge, prosperous, and orderly city on a barren land. As a result, a contradiction between Clausius and Darwin arises, the contradiction between degradation and evolution, it seems that the biological world, including human society, follows a completely different law from the physical world, and has a completely different evolution direction.
The above contradiction was finally resolved by Prigogine’s dissipative structure theory. Prigogine pointed out that in order to maintain an orderly system, the system must be open and introduce negative entropy from the outside world.
For an open system, the change in entropy (S) can be divided into two parts. One part is the increase in entropy of the system itself due to irreversible processes (such as heat conduction, diffusion, chemical reaction, etc.), that is, entropy production (diS), which is always positive; the other part is the entropy caused by the exchange of matter and energy between the system and the outside world Flow (deS), this term can be positive or negative, and the change in entropy of the entire system dS is the sum of these two items:
According to the principle of entropy increase, diS>=0 (equilibrium diS=0), and deS can be greater than or less than zero. If deS is less than zero and its absolute value is greater than diS, then dS=diS+deS< 0
This shows that as long as the negative entropy flow from the outside is large enough, it can offset the entropy production of the system itself, reduce the total entropy of the system, and gradually develop from disorder to a new orderly direction, forming and maintaining a low-entropy non-equilibrium Ordered structure of state. In this way, under the condition of not violating the second law of thermodynamics, Prigogine introduces negative entropy flow to offset the entropy production, which shows that the open system may transform from a chaotic and disordered state to a new ordered state, thus solving the problem The contradiction between Darwin and Darwin.
However, “the way of humanity is otherwise, the damage is not enough to give more”, the meaning behind it is that within a certain time and space, human beings can circumvent the principle of entropy increase by introducing negative entropy flow from the outside (consuming external Resources and energy) to maintain a high degree of order for a long time and maintain a low entropy state. This is the biological significance of human beings.
The key to maintaining low entropy in an open system lies in the ability to introduce negative entropy from the outside world, but if you expand the system a bit and include the outside, you will find that the overall entropy of the new large-scale system is increased, and the overall disorder is Is increasing.
When this principle is applied to life, the result is cruel. To put it bluntly, the more we want to make a place in order, the more disorder it will lead to. The more effort we put in and the higher the technology used, the greater the overall disorder caused. For example, cleaning up garbage. Although the garbage in front of us is gone, the consumption of transportable garbage and disposal of garbage has increased. This also includes the manufacturing cost of related tools; for washing clothes, although the clothes in front of us are cleaned by us, The consumption of water, electricity, washing machines, chemical detergents and sewage treatment for washing clothes will increase accordingly. Such cases exist around us at all times. In short, cleaning one place will cause another place to become dirty, and, according to modern standards of excellence, it will only make more places dirty.
4.1.2 Negative Entropy Flow and the Leap of Civilization
The concept of entropy leads mankind to look at the changes of civilization from a new perspective.
Through entropy, effective energy can be distinguished from ineffective energy. Effective energy is irreversibly transformed into ineffective energy during the development and application process, and at the same time it increases the chaos and disorder of the external world-entropy! Therefore, even if energy is conserved, civilization will find that within a certain time and space, the available energy seems to be getting less and less. In order to maintain a low entropy state, chasing the flow of negative entropy has become the instinct of all civilizations. In the process of civilization expansion, human reproduction follows the law of exponential growth. Correspondingly, the flow of negative entropy must also keep up.
There are roughly two ways to satisfy the negative entropy flow required for exponential expansion.
-The first is the expansion of the same level of quantity. The negative entropy flow of agricultural civilization mainly comes from food production with fixed solar energy. Therefore, all early agricultural civilizations regarded the occupation of arable land as the core mission of society. Take Chinese civilization as an example, starting with two small tribes by the Yellow River, gradually expanding outward. By the middle of the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese civilization finally occupied most of the land on the East Asian continent that could produce stable grain, and civilization reached its peak. Another example is the production of coal. Britain went from 10 million tons in 1800, to 49.8 million tons in 1850, and then to 112 million tons in 1870. The exponential growth of steam engines and coal finally made Britain the first global empire.
-The second is to introduce a new level of negative entropy flow. Civilization will always be limited by space. Correspondingly, there is always a limit to the number of negative entropy currents at the same level. At this time, a new level of negative entropy current must be found, otherwise, civilization will encounter insurmountable steps. In the second half of the 19th century, the limits of coal began to be revealed. A very simple fact is: the steam engine has too low a thrust-to-weight ratio and can never propel the aircraft to the sky. Fortunately, the emergence of oil and electricity has helped the earth’s civilization leap to a new level, greatly expanding the scope of human activities.
Before the Industrial Revolution, human society maintained an orderly flow of negative entropy mainly from the sun. Through agricultural activities, mankind has realized the initial use of solar energy, obtained food, fuel and building materials, enabling human society to multiply for generations and gradually break away from the barbaric state, and establish a primary civilization. According to current perspectives, this kind of agricultural civilization is actually very low-level, and the degree of order is not high. Relying on this initial use of solar energy and negative entropy flow, agricultural society can be maintained for a long time. In fact, due to the existence of the technological ceiling, the negative entropy flow of major agricultural civilizations reached their limits long ago, and civilizations immediately stagnated.
The limit of agricultural civilization was finally broken by Watt’s improved steam engine.
Standing on the time coordinate point of the 21st century, looking back at the changes in the level of human civilization, it can be seen that the negative entropy flow provided by agricultural activities to convert solar energy into biological energy cannot support today’s industrialized society. Human beings now mainly provide negative entropy flow through fossil energy-solar energy deposited in the past tens of millions of years.
During the first industrial revolution, humans were mining coal mines on a large scale. The productivity demonstrated by capitalism was unimaginable in the past agricultural society. In the second industrial revolution, oil and electricity (partly realized through hydropower) became the core of the energy industry, and the utilization of energy by mankind reached a whole new level. Corresponding development and utilization of internal combustion engines and electric motors changed the huge earth. Became a small village.
The rhythm stopped abruptly by the third industrial revolution. From the perspective of energy supply and control, the usual third industrial revolution can only be regarded as a half industrial revolution.
Many people may argue that information technology and biotechnology have made great progress after 1945. It is true that after the 1950s, information technology has made rapid progress, and biotechnology has also made some progress. Regarding the most critical energy technology, unfortunately, a few small steps have been taken, but there has been no breakthrough since then.
From the perspective of energy acquisition, fission nuclear reactors have been promoted on a large scale, but from the current perspective, they cannot replace traditional fossil energy at all, and they account for a very low proportion of primary energy. The global nuclear power accounts for 5.8% of primary energy.
In terms of energy conversion and utilization, steam engines, internal combustion engines and electric motors still dominate. Rocket engines and aero engines are the products of the peak of the second industrial revolution. After 1970, improvement gradually stagnated, resulting in aerospace technology and aviation technology advancing at almost the same speed. Relying on the current rocket engine, landing on Mars is just a delusion. The imaginary nuclear engine can only stay in science fiction. Information technology has improved the control of energy and increased the efficiency of energy use, but it cannot solve the fundamental problem facing mankind now-the source and conversion of new levels of energy.
The development of negative entropy flow has encountered trouble, and over time, economic crisis will be inevitable. Many scholars believe that behind the 2008 financial crisis are high energy prices.
From 1947 to the end of the 20th century, with the exception of several wars in the Middle East between the 1970s and 1980s, which caused a pulse fluctuation, international crude oil prices have been stable. Since the 21st century, driven by the real estate bubble in the United States and the rapid economic growth of China, international crude oil prices have risen all the way. On July 11, 2008, crude oil futures prices in New York hit a record high of US$147.27 per barrel. High energy has led to high inflation. High inflation led to high interest rates, and the bubble burst immediately.
The transmission path from energy shortage to financial crisis
Since then, oil prices have never returned to the low prices at the end of the last century, and the energy issue has become a stumbling block in front of countries around the world. The European debt crisis and China’s economic slowdown can bring energy prices back down temporarily, but if the world economy grows slightly larger, energy prices will soar. If human society wants to make great strides and step onto a new level, the outside world must be able to provide more cheap negative entropy flow, otherwise, economic crises will only be wave after wave, until the various sub-groups of human civilization temporarily reach a balance state. Unfortunately, the balance of agricultural society can theoretically be maintained until the end of the sun. The balance of today’s industrial society is an unstable structure based on limited fossil energy and cannot exist for a long time.
1 Civilization and technology
1.1 Rough talk about paradigm
1.2 The paradigm shift experienced by human civilization
1.3 Science Theory stagnation
1.4 The gap between science and technology
1.4.1 Nature of Science
1.4.2 The core of the technology
1.4.3 Talking from Watt: Positive feedback caused by steam engine
1.4.4 Demand is not a lifesaver
1.5 Science and Technology Interest Group
2 The paradigm spring dream advocated by scientific and technological interest groups: the so-called technological explosion
3 The shadow outside the paradigm spring dream
3.1.1 The stagnation of energy conversion technology 3.1.2 The dilemma of new energy 3.1.3 Agriculture, medical and biotechnology 3.1.4 Troubles in the depth of information technology 3.1.5 Other technologies 3.2 Numerous technical gimmicks 3.2.1 Solar / PV gimmicks that fell early 3.2.2 The enduring artificial intelligence gimmick [3.2.1-3.2.2](/en/posts/science-theory-stagnation-3-2-1-2/) 3.2.3 Amazing quantum computer gimmicks 3.2.4 Awesome nano-material gimmick [3.2.3-3.2.4 ](/en/posts/science-theory-stagnation-3-2-3-4/) [3.2.5 New gimmicks in recent years](/en/posts/science-theory-stagnation-3-2-5/)
3.3.1 The origin and influence of biological gimmicks 3.3.2 Research paradigm and problems
4 The dilemma of low-entropy body and the technical steps faced
4.1 From the second law of thermodynamics
4.1.1 The wisdom of Tao Te Ching 4.1.2 Negative entropy flow and the leap of civilization 4.2 The backbone and forks of the technology tree 4.3 Forever 50 years and controlled nuclear fusion 4.3.1 Dream of perpetual motion machine 4.3.2 Difficult delivery and gimmicks of controlled nuclear fusion 4.4 Think calmly : the future is not necessarily better
The Pit Before 5 Steps: The Fate of Human Society
5.1 The Sociological Significance of Dissipative Structure Theory
5.2 The disappearance of the big competitive environment
5.3 Differences erased by globalization and the thermodynamic balance of human society
5.4 Aging self-locking
5.5 How to fill the hole?
The essence of 6 steps: complexity devil
6.1 What is complexity
6.2 Two rules behind the complicated world: survival of the fittest and expectation of return on capital 6.3 Technological progress and technological revolution: changes in complexity 6.3.1 Evolution example of transportation / power system 6.3.2 The characteristics and complexity of the technological revolution 6.3.3 The high-complexity science devil facing 6.3.4 Dilemma originating from technical foundation
6.4 Many evil consequences brought by high complexity ( more is different)
6.4.1 I know you have a life and death race 6.4.2 Maintenance costs 6.4.3 Negative feedback from society
6.5 Simple mathematical derivation
7 Silent Star implied by the prospect of terror
7.1 The Great Silence and Fermi Paradox
7.2 Three scenarios for contemplating extreme fear
7.3 The Great Sieve of the Universe
7.4 A small match
8 reflection and summary
8.1 The tragedy of Easter Island
8.2 Calmness does not mean pessimism
8.3 R&D requires a paradigm revolution
8.3.1 Starting from the central limit theorem and the law of large numbers 8.3.2 Disadvantages of the current scientific research system