Entropy of the (International) System

The System I refer to in my research consists of all humans, the social groupings they form, and their (multitude of) interactions. The international system, as defined by international relations theorists, can be considered an aspect system of the (overall) System.

During the period 1495-1945, the System evolved from a loosely connected collection of circa 300 diverse ‘units’ (groupings, predecessors of states), with a total population of about 83 million in 1495, into a tightly coupled anarchistic system of circa 25 standardised states, with a total population of about 544 million in 1945.


Source: http://www.space.com

During the period 1495-1945, the System produced four accelerating war cycles that accompanied a finite-time singularity dynamic. Population growth, increasing rivalries between groupings (that over time were increasingly able to produce and mobilise destructive energy), were drivers of the finite-time singularity dynamic.

In fact, the finite-time singularity dynamic that was accompanied by four accelerating war cycles constituted a self-regulating mechanism of the System. This mechanism ensured that (1) the tensions (free energy) the System produced, as a consequence of its growing population and their (growing) needs for resources to fulfil their basic requirements to survive, and the increasing rivalries between groupings this caused, and (2) the order (organisation) of the System were periodically adjusted, to ensure the overall performance of the System (its ability to fulfil the basic requirements of humans and their groupings in the System). The finite-time singularity dynamic can be considered an enabler of population growth, albeit at a price.

To clarify this perspective, I refer to the article of Herbert. A. Simon “The Architecture of Complexity”, who discusses ‘hierarchical’ systems in relation to the evolution of complex structures (hierarchy is here not to be confused with (formal) control).

Simon argues: “… that complexity frequently takes the form of hierarchy, and that hierarchic systems have some common properties that are independent of their specific content. Hierarchy, I shall argue, is one of the central structural schemes that the architect of complexity uses.” Human groupings, units, states and their predecessors can be considered hierarchical (‘nested’) structures as defined by Simon.

Furthermore (in relation to the evolution of complex systems) Simon observes: “The time required for the evolution of a complex form from simple elements depends critically on the numbers and distribution of potential intermediate stable forms.”. Simon argues that hierarchical structures can evolve faster than non-hierarchical structures that lack intermediate stable ‘building blocks’.

Simon’s theory provides valuable clues to (also) better understand the evolution of the System (from 300 units to 25 states, as described above).

To clarify the ‘application’ of the concept of entropy to the System, I refer to the following observation of Simon, Simon argues: “If the process (IP: the evolution of complex systems from simple elements into hierarchical structures) absorbs free energy, the complex system will have a smaller entropy than the elements; if it releases free energy, the opposite will be true. The former alternative is the one that holds for most biological systems, and the net inflow of free energy has to be supplied from the sun or some other source if the second law of thermodynamics is not to be violated. For the evolutionary process we are describing, the equilibria of the intermediate  states  need  have only local and not global stability, and they may be stable only in the steady state, that is, as long as there is an external source of  free energy that may be drawn upon.”

My findings are consistent with Simon’s observation: the System – I argue – releases accumulated tensions during an systemic war, that are then used – absorbed – by the System to design and implement an upgraded order (consistent with the second law of thermodynamics) , that (again) allows for a lower energy-state of the System, allowing for relative stability (and a functioning international order) and further (population) growth and development. Tensions can be considered free energy, as I explain in the study.

During systemic wars the System absorbs free energy, and the new (upgraded) order has a smaller entropy than the units (human groupings like states) that constitute the System. The net inflow of free energy in the System is supplied by population growth, and the tensions (free energy) generated by the extra demands that are made on (scarce) resources to fulfil the basic requirements of the growing population, and the rivalries between units (states) in the System this causes.

It can be argued that during the period 1495-1945, the entropy in the System was ‘regulated’ by the self-organised finite-time singularity dynamic the System ‘produced’, and that was accompanied by four accelerating war cycles.

How this finite-time singularity dynamic ’emerged’ from the urge to survive of humans and their groupings, I will discuss in another article.