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Entropy production delusion

It is common in knowledgeable circles to talk about the development of civilization in terms of entropy discussion. The term 'entropy...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Information overload swamps understanding reality

 The extremely rapid increase in information in recent times due to the phenomenal development of the ability electronics to store vast amounts of information in a digital form and process it at astounding speeds is overwhelming. A few companies, such as Google and Palantir, provide information processing and search services for the community at large as well as for government bodies.

Many people bless this easy access to information and associated visual and aural recordings for entertainment, social discourse, management and education purposes. Others are overwhelmed by the rapidity of the growth of virtual civilization as they find it hard to learn how to handle passwords and the many other novel essential issues to be crammed into the memory.

The media makes a lot of how scientists are advancing the frontiers of knowledge often with the help of the greatly improved ability to handle vast amounts of information, control major experiments and run complex mathematical models. There is no doubt that science and technology has underpinned the high standard of living that many people now enjoy.

However, society has a myopic view of the development of civilization. They welcome the advances without really understanding of how it has come about. The reality is that the systems of civilization irreversibly use up limited natural resources and produce irrevocable waste during their limited life time. Technology only makes use of natural forces to produce goods and services. It has never created any material even when it has enabled the production of many novel items that society happily use without understanding the basic physical principle limiting what civilization can deliver.

Ironically, the information revolution is not helping society to gain the wisdom of knowing that the operation of civilization is unsustainable. The vast amount and complexity of this information hides the simple physical principle that the demise of industrial civilization is certain within this century. And scientists are so preoccupied with their specialties that they do not provide the populace with understanding of the holistic malaise that is the operation of industrial civilization. The slow awakening to the damaging impact of using fossil fuels to supply energy is now awakening society to some extent. Irreversible rapid climate change is one unintended consequence of that lack of understanding.

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