Entropy LO23002

Winfried Dressler (winfried.dressler@voith.de)
Tue, 26 Oct 1999 12:59:04 +0200

Replying to LO22982 --

Was: Boundaryless Organization LO22982

Nick Heap started his questioning of At de Lange with:

>I am confused by your use of "Entropy" in relation to creativity.

Nick, I cannot tell how much I enjoyed your mail. For me it is like
looking back two years ago, when I expressed similar confusion on the

One year ago I would have made an attempt to explain to you what I have
learnt from At. The intent would have been to somehow take your confusion
away by explaining how it is with entropy production. But while being
proud of what I understood, I would have prooved in doing so that I didn't
understand anything significant.

Yet, I don't want to wait to see how At, whom you asked, respond to you. I
want to do something on my own. So let me challenge what you said you

How did you learn that "entropy being a measure of disorder"? If you
learnt it similar to the way I did, you were not less confused as you are
today when you heard about the concept entropy the first time. Then you
had a lot of guided experiences with this concept - lectures,
thermodynamic experiments, reading, following some physical/mathematical
reasoning... Somewhen it all started to make sense and order emerged out
of all the previous confusion: Aha! Entropy is a measure of disorder. Now
it all makes sense. And while you managed to fit all the pieces into that
picture, this order (or knowledge) became more and more rooted in your

Some of it you share with us:

> I remember entropy being a measure of disorder that entropy
> always increases, except when energy is input. The end of the
> universe would be situation of maximum entropy where
> everything had the same temperature and there would be no
> more change. Life is anti-entropic. Through the energy
> of sunlight or geothermal energy complicated things developed
> from simple things. Therefore order increases. This is surely a
> creative process associated with a decrease of entropy.

Although to say "entropy is a measure of disorder" is not wrong, it is
incomplete, there is more to it. The guidance we received in our education
doesn't indicate so but surely there is. There is another order to which
your confusion can emerge with respect to the concept entropy.

To give you a hint to start with: While it is appropriate to talk of
increasing or decreasing order, how about entropy? The second law of
thermodynamics states that the entropy (a quantity!) in the universe
increases. How? It can increase only by means of production, right? What
about the decrease of entropy. Due to the second law, it cannot be
destroyed after it has been produced. Thus to decrease entropy once it is
produced, it need to be shoveled out of a system, right? Are you sure that
input of energy is really the physical way to shovel out entropy?

Let's go one step further:

How then is increase of order linked to entropy production if just
decrease of (shovel out) entropy doesn't work? You conclude with the
evolution of life as an example of increase of order: "Life is
anti-entropic." Let me provoke you: Life is basically entropic, it is
based on entropy production!

Finally, to link this contribution to learning organization: Do you agree
that a learning organization is of higher order than an organization not
capable of learning? It is funny (a slapstick) to imagine that people try
to shovel out entropy faster than it is produced. They surely need a high
input of energy to accomplish this! Reminds me of parents trying to tidy
up their childrens rooms.

> Are you using the word in a different sense? Can you help?

I think, At is using the word in a broader (higher degree of order) sense.
And I too am looking forward to his reply.

Liebe Gruesse,



"Winfried Dressler" <winfried.dressler@VOITH.DE>

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