In this series of five posts, I explain the workings and implications of dissipative structures that regulate kinetic activity (wars) in our System. The series consists of five parts and is based on my latest research On the Thermodynamics of war and Social Evolution.

The four accelerating cycles the core of the System produced during the period 1480-1945, were an integral part (component) of the first dissipative structure.

The organization of the System in a core (Europe) and a non-core (the rest of the world), and the structure of the European state-system (the core, with its fractal properties), can be considered structural manifestations the first dissipative structure.

As I mentioned, the first dissipative structure started with a bifurcation in 1480 (in Europe), which was enabled by the conditions that prevailed on the European continent, at the time, including the presence of an entropy- (tension-) gradient. Population growth (accelerated through compensation for the depopulation during the Black Death) was an important driver for the production of the entropy-gradient.

Entropy – tensions- in the System are a “byproduct” of (social) interactions and exchanges between communities, societies and states. Tensions, like entropy (tensions are entropy) contribute to disorder and uncertainty, but also to new possibilities in the System.

Tensions – entropy – enable that more configurations are possible within a certain macroscopic setting; they serve as a source of order in the System. Tensions can be considered opportunities or threats, which is a matter of (social) perspective.

The first dissipative structure consisted of four closely related and complimentary “components”; a process of integration of/in the core (Europe); a process of expansion from the core to the non-core (colonization); a process of empowerment (e.g. an increase in (self-)regulation in societies/states); and a process of kinetic activity (war, war dynamics).

These processes were instrumental in the regulation of energy (E), matter (M), information (I) and entropy (S); EMIS-regulation, and were “imposed’ – enforced – by the dissipative structure to ensure compliance with the second law of thermodynamics and related principles, in a state far-from-equilibrium.

Kinetic activity (war, war dynamics) of/in the European state-system was subject to regulation by the dissipative structure, and also involves regulation of entropy and information.

The patterns that can be observed in war dynamics (kinetic activity in/of the System), can be attributed to (the regulation imposed by) dissipative structures, that (obviously) always comply with the laws of thermodynamics and related principles.

However, the formation of patterns in the System is not restricted to kinetic activity. For example, the decrease in the number of states in the core (the European state-system), and the increase in the control of non-core territories by the core (European states), can be best described with power laws. These power laws point to the presence of fractal structures and the optimization of related processes (to the optimization of the distribution of (kinetic) energy and (re)distribution of entropy/tensions).

Figure 8: The components of a dissipative structure.
The components of a dissipative structure in the System are closely related, there is a constant interplay and there are continuous EMIS-exchanges. The dissipative structure ensures control and coordination, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics and related principles, that apply far-from-equilibrium.

Information – and the processing of information – was an integral component of these processes. The fact that the processes of integration and expansion – and also the scientific revolution (it is information processing) – accelerated (sharply) around 1480 and became also more “organized’ and streamlined, is not a coincidence, and is a phenomenon that is closely related to the emergence of the first dissipative structure in 1480.

The period – I also refer to as the transition period when the phase transition was accomplished through the first dissipative structure – the entropy of the structure of the European state-system decreased. The fact that state-structures (their organization, including their appearance) became increasingly standardized is indicative for a decrease in entropy (of these structures).

Through the first dissipative structure (1480-1945), Europe (the core of the System) developed from a loose collection of circa 300 diverse communities/societies, with a total population of circa 83 million in 1480, into a system of 25-30 tightly connected and highly standardized state-structures, with a total population of circa 544 million in 1939.

The decrease of the entropy of state-structures (of the state-system as such), in combination with the simultaneous accelerating increase in entropy-production – powered by exponential population growth and intensifying rivalries between states – produced an increasingly large entropy-gradient, that provided  an increasingly powerful force to the first dissipative structure. Through this force (generated by the entropy-gradient) the European state-system was forced – driven – to thermodynamic equilibrium.

While a temperature gradient constitutes the engine of a hurricane (of a heat engine), an emergent dissipative structure in the atmosphere that drives the atmosphere back to equilibrium (by eradicating the temperature gradient); an entropy-gradient constitutes the engine of a dissipative structure in the System, and drives the state-system to equilibrium. 

The research shows that the efficiency of the first dissipative structure was remarkably high and consistent. The dissipative structure – in compliance with the second law and related principles, far-from-equilibrium – ensured the core (the European state-system) accomplished a phase transition and reached thermodynamic equilibrium (1945), via the most efficient path.

During its life-span, the first dissipative structure was always able to regulate and fine-tune its processes and structures. Kinetic activity was imposed on the System, to contribute to EMIS-regulation. Social processes and structures always adjusted to the requirements that were imposed by the dissipative structure. Thermodynamic laws and principles served (and still serve) as organizing principles for the System and its components.

The fractal structures that can be identified in the System, point to the optimization of (distribution)processes; e.g. distribution of energy and (re)distribution of entropy (tensions). See figure 9.

Figure 9: Fractal structures in the System (1480-1945).
Data-analysis shows that a series of closely related fractal processes and structures can be identified in the System. These fractal structures are produced by the first dissipative structure and point to optimization. Above figure is a schematic depiction of the kinetic activity (war dynamics) of the System at four levels of organization, during the period 1480-1945.

Full implementation of thermodynamic equilibrium in the Europe (the former core), was temporarily hindered and consequently delayed through the second exceptional period (1945-1989). This period is better known as the Cold War. This exceptional period, with its abnormal war dynamics (data-analysis also shows), can be explained by the upstart of the second (global) dissipative structure following the phase transition that was accomplished by the first dissipative structure (1480-1945), and by a distortion of the mode-coupling of the second dissipative structure, caused by an overproduction of entropy (tensions) at that time; this was a consequence of the intense rivalries between the United Stated and the Soviet-Union and the resulting decrease in the number of degrees of freedom (to two) in the (now global) state-System.

Data-analysis shows, that during RSP’s of cycles, non-systemic war dynamics are normally chaotic. Chaotic dynamics are deterministic, but very sensitive for initial conditions and consequently highly unpredictable.

The System produced two exceptional periods with Abnormal (non-chaotic) non-systemic war dynamics. Besides the second exceptional period (1945-1989), there was a first exceptional period (1657-1763), during the second RSP (1648-1792) of the first dissipative structure.

In this case the abnormal (non-chaotic) dynamics can also be attributed to intense rivalries between two Great Powers (in this case between Great Britain and France).

While during the second exceptional period (1945-1989), the war dynamics were highly suppressed, during the first exceptional period (1657-1763), the war dynamics were periodic and consequently highly regular, data-analysis shows.

Historians observed that during both periods, the System was remarkably predictable. The predictability can be attributed to the non-chaotic nature of the dynamics, this study shows.

We also noticed that the moment the Cold War ended that the world became more unpredictable.

Figure 10: Periodic war dynamics during the first exceptional period (1657-1763).
Normally during RSP’s non-systemic war dynamics are chaotic, and consequently intrinsically unpredictable. As I mentioned, during the second cycle (1648-1815) of the first dissipative structure (1480-1945), the normal (chaotic) war dynamics were fundamentally different, as a consequence of the intense rivalries between Great Britain and France. During the first exceptional period war dynamics were periodic and highly regular. Data-analysis also shows that these periodic war dynamics were preceded (1648-1657) and followed (1763-1792) chaotic dynamics, in accordance with the so-called Feigenbaum sequence. Such a periodic interlude is also referred to as a periodic window. This is another indication for the highly consistent behavior of the System.

To be continued.