Efficiency and Emergence LO22451

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Mon, 16 Aug 1999 11:11:26 +0200

Replying to LO22435 --

Dear Organlearners,

Thomas Struck <t.struck@bham.ac.uk> writes:

>Dear At,
>thanks for your contribution, I wish I had a physics teacher
>with your ability to "tell a story". You cleared a lot of the
>confusion which blurred my understanding of thermodynamics.

Greetings Thomas,

Thanks for the flower!

I had been expecting thorns also because I took some liberties with

For example, in the machines sciences (physics and engineering)
where traditional thermodynamics is studied, the relationship
between heat Q and work W is given by
/_\E = Q + W
where /_\E is the change (written as /_\) in the total energy
(written as E). This is the famous LEC (Law of Conservation of

Unfortunately, it is seldom said that ONLY conversions of forms
of energy into WORK AND HEAT are assumed. We should
expect this assumption when studying machines. Consequently
this ASSUMPTION excludes, for example, the energy needed
"to effect" an emergence upon a bifurcation which is quite an
un-machine phenomenon. Should we stop making this "machine
assumption", the equation above will get additional terms
indicated by the question marks as follows
/_\E = Q + W + ? + ?? + ??? + .....

Even worse than misfortune, it is virtually never said that only
some of the total energy E is involved in the conversion to
work W and heat Q. The reason is that some of the total
energy E is needed to maintain the PRESENT ORGANISATION
of the system. (This measured by the entropy S of the system.)
Should we search through all the texts of the machine sciences
for the topic self-organisation -- machines changing their
organisation -- we will find none. Thus there is no reason in the
machine sciences to distinguish that part of the total energy E
available for FUTURE ORGANISATION, namely the free energy F.

It is only when we get to chemistry, where the rudiments of
self-organisation begin to play a role, that we have to think
of specifically free energy F rather than total energy E. However,
chemists think of the chemical system in terms of its
components, each having a definite structure allowing it a definite
reaction mechanism. But they do not think of structure and
mechanism as but one way to look at organisation in general.
Nevertheless, thanks to the genius of Gibbs, they have to work
/_\F = Q + W + ? + ?? + ??? + .....
rather than
/_\E = Q + W + ? + ?? + ??? + .....

The chemists fill in the question marks with what they call
"chemical potentials". But already they begin with discarding
the rest, the mysterious "+ ....." of the equation. By cashing
in on this tunnel vision, the result eventually becomes
/_\F < W
In other words, when excluding the "Q + ? + ?? + ??? + ....."
part, the = sign has to be replaced by the < sign if we still want
to "believe in the numbers".

What do we do to ourselves when we close our eyes for the part
"Q + ? + ?? + ??? + .....", especially the last part "+ ....."? We
shut our eyes for evolution, self-organisation, increasing
complexity, call it whatever we like. Some consultants on
complexity theory even cash in on it, claiming that we will never
know the future -- that the future is a mystery forever. In a sense
they are right -- we cannot expect to know anything about the future
when we look at the present with eye blinkers.

>Still, I interpreted your last posting in terms of "efficiency or
>emergence", and, here, I tend to disagree. Efficiency in my
>understanding has a lot to do with learning. People
>"automate knowledge" while learning. Actions which formerly
>took a lot of conscious regulation (take, for example, a
>learning driving novice) are executed with less and less
>awareness. Broadly speaking, this automation creates
>efficiency, but it does something more. It frees cognitive
>capacity, which can be used for future learning. Experts show
>a high level of "automated" (and tacit) knowledge.
>From that point of view, I think, efficiency may be a facilitator
>of learning rather than an obstacle.

Hey, do not shoot the story teller ;-)

What I did in my last post, is to show how the machine sciences
(physics and engineering) define efficiency. Actually, they do it
EF = W|/_\E (the sign "|" means division)
rather than
EF = W|/_\F
However, I explained above why I took some liberties with

Perhaps I have erred by not calling it "machine efficiency". But the
far bulk of literature in physics an engineering simply call it

It is possible to define many "kinds of efficiencies", taking a que
from the machine sciences. The word efficiency is derived from the
Latin word "efficax"=effect. In "mechanical efficiency" the only
thing we will be interested, is the effect "work". In every other kind
of efficiency we will take the ratio of the energy /_\E(X) actually
used to obtain the effect X to the free energy /_\F released (applied)
to obtain the effect, i.e
EF(X) = /_\E(X) | /_\F
In other words, the kind of efficiency EF(X) for effext X is the
SPECIFIED energy ratio of the output to the input. In short:
EF(X) = (specified output energy change) | (input energy change)

Thomas, although you have not actually defined it, you are speaking
of "learning efficiency" rather than "mechanical efficiency". The
definition for "learning efficiency" will be
EF(learn) = (energy gained by learning) divided by
(change in free energy available)

Now let us think what will happen if we have a 100.00% efficient
learning system. We have
EF(learn) = /_\E(learn) | /_\F = 1.0000
or rearranging
/_\F = /_\E(learn)
In other words, all our free energy F (physical and spiritual) goes
into learning, 100% efficiently. No free energy is left over for any
other organisational change. This is a much worse situation than
100% mechanical efficiency. Machines are designed to do as much
work as possible -- nothing else. Are we created (or have we evolved)
to learn as much as possible, doing nothing else? What about the
act of believing which emerges from the act of learning. Is it
possible to create any articles of faith should we learn day and
night, awake and asleep?

The lesson we ought to learn is that as soon as we set our sights
on 100% for any particular kind of efficiency, we will have no free
energy left over to pursue any other organisational changes. It is
like money. If we pour all our incoming capital into one project, we
will have no money left over for other projects.

The wisdom we ought to learn, and I think this is the one point you are
trying to get over, is that we should not distribute our free energy over
all our activities with equal priorities. In other words, we need to
increase some kinds of efficiencies by decreasing the other kinds of
efficiencies. The other point which you are trying to get over is that we
ought to give a high priority to increasing the "learning efficiency".

How high a priority should we give to the "learning efficiency"? I would
love to go into this very, very important issue for LOs, but I will leave
it to fellow learners to meander into. I think that it is this question
which you had in mind when writing:

>May be, managers of learning organisations need to find some
>sort of equilibrum between learning and application. "Phanta rhei"
>instead of ever increasing acceleration?

Yes, there is something very omnious in your words "ever increasing
acceleration" when we apply it to mainly one ability (dynamical quality).
It is something which I wanted to write about for a long time, but had to
wait for somebody showing sensititivity to it. For example, will we be
able to handle this "ever increasing acceleration" when we focus it on an
ability such as human creativity? Thanks to you, I now will plan to do so

>However, Goethe's sorcerer's apprentice comes to mind (Oh Herr,
>oh Herr, die Not ist gross, die Geister, die ich rief, werd' ich
>nicht mehr los- sorry, I don't know the English translation, but I
>gather you understand some German).

Yes, enough to realise from his works that Goethe was one of the few great
thinkers to worry about this most serious problem. Today I may safely
claim that it is one of the most serious problems to solve for those who
want to participate in Learning Organisations.

Many Americans like to boast how their economy accelerate from most other
countries from the world. (This is not uncommon for other people of the
so-called G7 countries. ) It gives them a great feeling of security --
acceleration makes them winners. The young people on our roads also think
so -- until they open their eyes in hospital if fortunate enough. It is a
pity that Goethe's works are closed books to all these people.

Thank you Thomas for your valuable inputs.

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

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <rkarash@karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>