Entropy production and emergence in behavior LO20330

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Fri, 8 Jan 1999 17:14:49 +0200

Replying to LO20309 --

Dear Organlearners,

Jon Krispin" <jkrispin@prestolitewire.com> writes:

>At, I think your observation that I was reducing my awareness
>of the force-flux pairs to the structure which gives rise to them
>is correct.

Greetings Jon,

I never realised myself up to 1983, even after having been exposed to
irreversible thermodynamics (entropy production) for 15 years, how
much I have been caught up in the mode of ontological thinking. (In
ontology all representations are finalised in terms of being or
structure.) Most of my behaviour up to then was to promote "being",
although I was seriously believing that I was also promoting

Thus I fully appreciate how much self-examination it took you to write
the following sentence:

>However, by observing the "flow", or change, in behavior over
>time, we can see the immediate results of the entropy
>production and the "becoming" in the behavioral system.

If one carefully study Ilya Progogine's book "From Being to Becoming",
trying to form an overall picture, this is also a message which he try
to get accross.

>The distinction between antecedents and consequences may
>better be understood as the different types of forces that Leo
>describes, the push and the pull.


Many thanks for the beautifully articulated explanations. It makes a
vivid connection between behaviourism and entropy production. There
are many points which I would have liked to question further, but I
want to rush myself to two extremely important problems which you have
observed with respect to negative reinforcement:

>One is the fact that the behavior that results may not be
>exactly what is needed or wanted (the spread goes in all
>directions, not just the desired one).

I cannot stress enough how important this observation is. Nowadays
many people come under the impression that complex systems cannot be
"deterministic systems". They use all sorts of arguments (like
linearity and closedness) to vindicate their tacit knowledge that a
system may lose its deterministic property -- that it may act like a
loose cannon on a ship. The loss in determinism is a fact and thus not
the issue. The reason for it is the issue. You have identified the
correct reason.
Forcing NON-SPONTANEOUS behaviour by negative reinforcement leads to
inderministic actions.

To regain determinictic behaviour, spontaneous behaviour based on
positive reinforcement should be promoted. In other words, the system
should be allowed to follow its own course of irreversible
self-organisation by producing its own entropy. This is how every
living species have been acting since times immemorial. Our task is to
"guide" human systems to focus on a particular course through
self-learning. I have use quotation marks to stress that the word
guide does not give precisely the meaning which I want to articulate.
When I think of "guide", it exludes regulation, enforcement, ruling,
controling, authority, dominion or similar things. In other words,
when I think of "guide" it exludes pushings and includes pullings.

>The second is that it takes a great deal of energy to
>maintain the flow once it is started. One of the defining
>characteristics of behavior that is reinforced using negative
>reinforcement is that it stops as soon as the undesired
>condition (or the potential of one) is removed or reduced....

This observation is just as important as the previous one. It cannot
be stressed enough. This great amount of energy required to maintain
the nonspontaneous behaviour by negative reinforcement is perhaps
nowadays the most important single factor making our organisations
costly. In those kinds of organisations with a very low (or no) profit
margin, especially education, it is fast bleeding those organisations
to death.

It all hinges on the Law of Entropy Production. The best way to
uncover this truth is to investigate Gibbs transformation of the LEP
the entropy of the universe increases
change in free energy < work
or symbolically
/\F < W
See the section "Work and irreversibility" in
Primer on Entropy - Part III B LO20048
(The Jack and Jill story. Maybe one day I will give a more structured
account of this equation /\F<W because our very ethics of work depends
on it!)

>Now we are back to the issue that Fred Nickols raised
>(particularly in LO20098), that something which occurs
>in the future cannot possibly effect, or change, something
>that has already occurred. If positive reinforcers are the
>attractors that pull a system of behavioral energy into an
>equilibrium state, then they must have a parallel in here
>At, can you possibly make sense of all of this? Or, can
>you try to explain the minimality qualification for entropy
>production again in the present context?

Yes, I do make much sense out of it. But I think it is better to
explain this minimality qualification for entropy production once
again. Then you can rethink this in terms of psychological behaviour.

When a system is isolated, even though it may be far from equilbrium
at the moment of isolation, it will produce entropy, but less and less
of it until it does not produce entropy any more. It is then in a
state of dynamical equilbrium. While producing entropy, certain
changes happen in it. Of "all possible changes", only that change for
which the entropy production is minimal (will become less) is
allowed. In other words, the minimal determines the future as if
"something from the future" is pulling the system to it. That
something is nothing else than the dynamical equilbrium - the
attractor - which the system will evolve into.

I have written in quotation marks "all possible changes". How at all
do we have knowledge of this "all possible changes" if the isolated
system makes only one change? Well consider the isolated system as a
world (or even our universe) consisting of many systems in it. They
may be partially or fully open whereas the universe (world) UN itself
is closed. Thus many interactions between them are possible. Let us
consider one of them as the system SY and all the others together as
one system called the surroundings SU. At every point of time we have
S(UN) = S(SY) + S(SU)

The change in the entropy S of UN, namely S(UN) is given by /\S(UN).
Likewise for S(SY), the entropy of the system and S(SU) the entropy of
the surroundings. All these changes has to add up so that
/\S(UN) = /\S(SY) + /\S(SU)
The Law of Entropy Production says that
/\S(UN) = /\S(SY) + /\S(SU) > 0

Now for the big, big surpise. Although S(UN) must increase, writing
/\S(UN) > 0
and this increase must be minimal, writing symbolically
/\/\S(UN) < 0,
it is not the case for the (sub) systems SY and SU.

Here are a number of examples for the change in entropy
which concerns the production
/\S(SY) /\S(SU) /\S(UN)
+2 +3 +5
+6 -4 +2
-5 +2 +3
In other words, although the entropy of the universe increase in each
case, it may actually decrease in some systems.

Here are a number of examples for the change /\ of the
change /\ in entropy which concerns the minimality
/\/\S(SY) /\/\S(SU) /\/\S(UN)
- 1 -2 -3
+2 -5 -3
- 6 +3 -3
In the first example both SY and SU produce entropy minimally. But in
the second example the system SY increases its entropy production more
and more. Thus the surroundings SU have to take up this hammering,
decreasing its entropy production even faster and faster because the
entropy production of the universe UN must become less and less
itself. In case three the two systems merely switch roles. This case
seldom happens because of the richness of systems in the surroundings.

What is the hammering which the surroundings have to take in case 2?
Since entropy production is the cause of diversification, the
surroundings will have less opportunity to diversify. It is like a big
corporation with many divisions. When the one division is usurping
most of the profits earmarked for expansion, the other divisions will
stagnate. What is the gain for the system when the surroundings have
to take this hammering? By increasing the entropy production,
additional bifurcations can be reached and thus new possible actions
be explored. This is how human systems gain knowledge of "all possible

OK. Human systems can gain much knowledge of "all possible changes".
History shows that the majority of humans do not worry too much on the
hammering which the surroundings have to take in terms of reduced
diversity. But there is a "silent hammering" which the system itself
takes and which may be worse when it tries to live persistently at the
edge of chaos. Since it seldom produce entropy minimally, it seldom
have the opportunity to mature into a dynamical equilbrium with
respect to that change. This phase is necessary to produce a new
source of free energy. For example, a young sapling has to grow into a
mature tree to produce enough fire wood. The system jumps from the one
revolution to the other like a cat on a hot tin roof, using up all its
sources of free energy. Eventually the system will collapse with
little effort.

Do you want examples for this? The so called glucophosphide herbicides
do this to plants. The communist revolution had been doing the same
thing to the social system -- likewise the ideology of apartheid.

Capitalism, like communism, will end up in the same manner when it
relies on some kind of persistent maximal entropy production for its
existence. The incessant demand for innovation may just be the straw
which will break the back of this global camel.

This is why I have to caution once again taht when we are involved in
the change of other people -- please take it slowly. Allow for each
change to feed and mature into a dynamical equilibrium. Otherwise all
the immature changes will add up and cause a "burn out". I have seen
it happen so many times to people in South Africa that it scares the
hell out of me.

Best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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