Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Our Low-Entropy President

I don't want to poison the well, but this cold has moved north from the throat to the head, which has compromised my usual powers of synthesis just when I need them most. So if any of the following is murky, I'm sure it will be clarified in subsequent posts.

In Knowledge and Power, Gilder lays out something like a scientific basis for contemporary conservative liberalism. It is rooted in the new science of information theory, which is "postmodern" in a non-pathological sense.

That is to say, literary postmodernism makes a mockery of what came before, whereas postmodern science builds upon but transcends (without negating) what preceded it -- e.g., as Einstein to Newton in physics, or Gödel to Aristotle in logic.

Classical science works at the elimination of surprise. In a closed and deterministic system -- say, the solar system -- we know in advance what it is going to do.

But even then, the solar system isn't really closed; rather, that's just an abstraction. If the solar system were literally closed, then it would be devoid of surprise -- you know, little surprises like life, mind, and spirit. Or, at the other end, just ask a dinosaur if our solar system is closed to surprise.

Now, this is not to say that determinism is somehow a bad thing. Rather, we rely upon determinism at a lower level in order to allow for the emergence of freedom -- which is another word for surprise -- at a higher level.

For example, the rigid laws of grammar allow us to say anything we want, even while adherence to the laws alone doesn't "say" anything, i.e., contains little to no information. Likewise, you cannot create a hit song out of the rules of music; well, maybe Miley Cyrus can. But if you want to make an aesthetic statement, you need the rules, obviously, but there is an x-factor, a vertical ingression that enlists the rules for a higher purpose.

Similarly, Gilder writes that "the miracles forbidden in deterministic physics are not only routine in economics" but "constitute the most important economic events." Very little of what we take for granted in life can be extrapolated from the laws of classical economics, because such laws necessarily ignore free will and human creativity.

In fact, Marx elevated this to a doctrine, converting economic history into a closed system of class warfare, thus eliminating freedom entirely. For the Marxist, freedom is just "noise," whereas for the conservative it is everything -- both the ground and goal.

Now, the modern illiberal leftist also vaunts a kind of freedom, but as we shall see, it is an entirely self-defeating one. Referring back to the examples given above, it is as if the leftist wants all the benefits of high-entropy musical freedom without the boundary conditions of low-entropy musical rules. The result is moral, or intellectual, or spiritual chaos, which can resemble freedom, since it is difficult to discern low- from high-entropy.

This is because a high-entropy message is so loaded with information that it appears random. For example, a sky in which each star is placed purposefully will be indistinguishable from one in which the stars are strewn randomly, and both will appear quite different from the one that is merely ordered. This can be a tricky concept to wrap your mind around, but you have to think of order -- which is another word for predictability -- as the opposite of information -- which is surprise.

This is why political power is at antipodes to knowledge and information. It "originates in top-down processes" that attempt "to quell human diversity and impose order."

Political correctness, for example, is a typical sort of low-entropy stupid power that imposes its toxic bromides from on high in order to suppress not just spontaneity, but even the perception of reality. You might say that it is a low-entropy mechanism for maintaining a low entropy intellectual environment, e.g., university life or the media matrix.

To bring the discussion down to street level, consider the results of Obama's "smart diplomacy." This is synonymous with "low-entropy diplomacy," since it is rooted in a simplistic, abstract ideology that ignores the complexity of the real world. The result, predictably, is global chaos.

Physics, in all its predictability, is a wonderful thing. But it cannot in principle account for life, let alone mind, for the same reason that the most complete knowledge of hydrogen and oxygen tells one nothing about this very surprising thing called water -- let alone of the beauty of this waterfall that now flows outside my slackatoreum window. Why should molecules be beautiful, either alone or in combination?

To quote a high-entropy aphorism or two from Don Colacho, The laws of biology alone do not have fingers delicate enough to fashion the beauty of a face. And To be stupid is to believe that it is possible to take a photograph of the place about which a poet sang.

To be extra stupid -- not to mention evil -- is to believe it laudible to impose the low-entropy tyranny Pete Seeger sang about.

Gilder: The "transcendence of the physical by the informational, of matter by idea, has powered all economic development through all of history, and before."

Stay tuned to find out how!


Magister said...

Gilder: The "transcendence of the physical by the informational, of matter by idea, has powered all economic development through all of history, and before."

Now that we have 3D printers, the Postindustrial Age will be the Age of Design.

Gagdad Bob said...

An Anthony Weiner is the logical endpoint of the left, in which we are not permitted to create any boundaries or make any judgments on personal behavior, and yet, he is permitted to impose his judgments on the rest of us via, say, the government takeover of healthcare. It's completely upside down, as the constraints should be on the lower, the freedom at the top.

Gagdad Bob said...

That's kind of the recipe for personal success, but the left preaches just the opposite: behave how you want, and let government bail you out.

Magister said...

behave how you want, and let government bail you out

And often, though unspoken: "*so that* we can bail you out."

Enabling the Leftist to be both sinner and saint, God and the devil, the whole existentialada.

Back to the Garden, plebes!

mushroom said...

This can be a tricky concept to wrap your mind around, but you have to think of order -- which is another word for predictability -- as the opposite of information -- which is surprise.

I'm thinking about how you fit a regression line to scattered data points. That makes sense. The line imposes an order and gives some predictability.

Gagdad Bob said...

Don Colacho has a number of aphorisms to the effect that only surprise really delights and satisfies us. I now understand this in a new light....

julie said...

Along those lines, when we finally came home from the hospital on Sunday, the boy walked through the door, threw his arms wide and shouted "Aprize, Daddy!"

Or perhaps it was "Uprise;" in any case, he meant "Surprise," though all three were suited to the occasion...

Gagdad Bob said...

This piece on lethal effects of loneliness touches on one of our pet theories: mothers as the hinge of societal evolution.