‘Theory of Everything’ by Stephen W. Hawking is one book with rich deposits of scientific fundamentals which can reign in on one’s thought-train forever. The emeritus scientist Hawking delves in to direction of time, expansion of universe at a critical rate, ever increasing disorderliness of things and even absolute truths like remembrance of past but not the future in a super simple language. A superb book, in all respects.
The book brings meaning to nearly all instances of real life using the Second Law of Thermodynamics. A law which states that Entropy – i.e measure of disorderliness – of Universe is always increasing. And remarkably, there is an undeniable relationship between what is explained by Stephen Hawking in the book (i.e. ‘role of Second Law of Thermodynamics’) and the advent of Internet 2.0 and of Government 2.0 as it evolves slowly. Read on.
Before getting into Physics, I’d simply conclude here that Government 2.0 is not only a thermodynamically feasible process but also an irreversible one. And we all (Hierarchy from top to bottom) are just mere pawns of a larger game by nature, by Entropy. As a pre-cursor to the post, for those who are unaware about the subject, there are only two outcomes of a situation in thermodynamics: 100% occurrence or no (0%) occurrence at all – i.e. a binary truth. Time is nothing but a dimension which reflects the rate of change towards an occurrence only.
Oh yes, the naysayers of Internet2.0 & Government 2.0 will find this piece particularly useful.
The First Question
What is common between Internet & Physics? Any Takers, here?
No, no there is no need to dig very deep coz Sir Tim Berners Lee, a well known physicist & the inventor of World Wide Web is definitely an answer. But of course there is one more meaningful answer to this question: The Second Law of Thermodynamics. While I am sure Sir Berners Lee knows what we are talking about here, but his understanding of the subject is probably much deeper coz he has seen it before we did! Well, I will dwell upon this topic but a little later.
An Example – The Memory Stick
Devices like computer memory have two orderly states: say ONE (To remember, Yes) & ZERO (To remember, No).
Let me quote from Stephen Hawking’s book:
“Before an item is recorded, the memory is in disordered state with equal probabilities for one & zero. After the memory interacts with the system to be remembered, it will definitely be in one state or the other according to the state in the system. Thus the memory passes from disordered state (having more probabilities) to an ordered one. However, to ensure that the memory is in the right state, it is necessary to expend certain amount of energy. The energy is dissipated as heat that increases the amount of disorder in the universe...Thus when a computer records an item in memory, the total amount of disorder in the Universe goes up.”
Same goes on in human memory too which records data by increasing the entropy of the universe from past to present. The entropy of present is always higher than entropy of past. And that’s exactly the reason why we remember our past but not the future. So there begins the relevance of Thermodynamics!
The Game of Jigsaw Puzzle
Entropy is more commonly explained with an example of a jigsaw puzzle.
Take a Jigsaw puzzle having a picture of say the model – Kim Kardashian .
When the Jigsaw is arranged properly, what we get is a very nicely resolved (ordered) picture of Kim. Now shake the box containing the jigsaw pieces vigorously and you’ll see that the picture breaks apart and the arrangement gets altered. The picture destroys more as we shake it more, and the jigsaw finally reaches a state of maximum disorderliness irreversibly. In effect the entropy of the jigsaw puzzle has gone up and the picture will never go back to its original state on it own. Not without at least one of us who is interested in Kim Kardashian to sit down and re-arrange the pieces back to its picture form, expending energy & time along.
The Disruptive Internet Explained:
So why does TechCrunch go ‘ga ga’ whenever it sees a promising startup deploying internet as a means of change? What is that disruptive potential of internet after all?
Well for that let us see Earth from above. Earth is like a big jigsaw puzzle where the jigsaw pieces are nothing but interacting pieces of ‘people’ (or individuals) who are divided under silos called countries, cultures, languages, societies, techies, experts and what not. Each jigsaw piece has its own fit on real earth having a unique energy level, vibrancy and ’separation’ from the rest. This separation gives every piece an identity and brings a kind of orderliness in dividing the pieces into clearly separable parts. Until the pieces are not brought online and shaken up together in the box called the internet, that is.
So in other words, a world without internet is divided into groups (a state of clearer separation and higher order i.e. lower entropy) where people of same culture, beliefs, expertise stay together. In jargon of Physics, such a model is unstable according to Second law of thermodynamics. Bringing these off-line pieces together over the internet, is like shaking them all in a box and mixing talents, values, identities together.
Internet lets everyone & everything mix together and allows the jigsaw pieces to ‘disorder’ themselves thereby raising the overall entropy of the system. Geeks mix with non-geeks. Blacks mix with Whites. Hispanics meet Asians. Americans meet South Americans meet Russians meet Japanese meet Indonesians meet Europeans and so on. That’s exactly the reason why Facebooks or Twitters or Wikipedia or Google grow.
Internet simply allows everyone to get out of their own silos (geographical limitations) and become a part of much more disordered system where a username and password or not even that is the only separating identity. It is a process that eventually leads to an overall increase in entropy of the Universe, and thus is a ruthlessly disruptive model in a natural way.
Sir Tim Berners Lee surely had a brilliant idea when he invented the internet but I am not sure if he shared the Thermodynamic view or not.
Feasibility of Government 2.0?
Is that still a question? The answer is Government 2.0 is not only feasible, but also irreversible. While Indian Government might be lagging behind in adoption of technology, social media and there might be several separations at the ground level too but an outcome of the overall process of Internet & technology over our country is going to be positive no matter what.
Consider this: What is a more stable eco-system thermodynamically? Having (1). several silos called the Public, Private, Government, Citizens and other entities or (2). having a single unified disordered Social Tree like Facebook where civic action is shared over the internet? IMHO advent of Government 2.0 with social media tools over the internet is all about increasing spread of influence & re-distribution of power among people. This process increases the Entropy and therefore, is a path of no escape for anyone, at least from Thermodynamics point of view .
Besides there is a remarkable upside in the Government 2.0 initiatives too. Social balancing is gonna get easier and perhaps talent is going to shine over bureaucracy any day. The rate of change might be small, but I do believe that system of Government finally will be able to deride itself from same old bunch of suppliers and look outside too.
Another frontier, that I’d say is thermodynamics feasible & irreversible is that internet & technology is going to play down the barrier of spoken languages too. Turn a century over (or less) into future and you will see that Chinas & Irans are not able to ban Twitters simply to promote Mandarin or Arabic based clones because people would drive such policies simply by reading English text in Chinese or Arabic without any hiccups.
The order created by means of languages is going to disappear too, entropically.
What do you think?