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Old 12-26-2012, 02:49 PM   #1
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"Reducing Entropy" -- Is it worth it?

I dedicate this thread to those of a scientific AND philosophical bent...

***

From time-to-time I see something out of place or similar, an example would be a rock on a street. So, in the case of a rock), I will often kick the thing to get it off the street, but not into a neighbors yard (or window...).

Or pick up some litter and throw into a trashcan. There are other actions along these lines that I take sometimes.

But, each action like that requires a little bit of energy use. I became curious as to whether or not it is "worth it" to do this. My actions may actually INCREASE entropy for all I know (for the moment I assume that increasing entropy is bad)... Is a small action, to sort of "reduce entropy" (to make things more orderly and predictable) worth the extra ENERGY USED, however small?

Please discuss! You may either include (or exclude) whether or not such minor charitable actions add value to anyone else. I would be interested to read comments on this (or related) topic.

***

Now that Christmas is over (things went very well for us), I would like wish you all a Happy (and of course Prosperous) New Year!
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Old 12-26-2012, 05:43 PM   #2
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You pose a hard one, DoChen. Humans just being alive have "negative" entropy.
We create far more positive entropy just to live, much less do anything, than cancels.
Well, then. I note you put entropy in quotes, and that might be the key. As well as one's definition thereof. I can explain the scientific POV, as officially received by the majority. But I doubt that's just what you meant.

Order is indeed reduced entropy. But is an order that humans like the most negative? Define order - and you have the key to what's worth it in your context.
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Old 12-26-2012, 07:03 PM   #3
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Entropy is classically described as chaos which exists within a [typically thermodynamic] system. I would therefore submit that if used in a non-classical sense, and applied to mean simply chaos within a given system [mankind, earth, communities] I would personally postulate that indeed we can remove obstacles, we can remove those impediments that would otherwise slow the orderly function of society [such that we can anyway] but we cannot remove chance. That said, I suspect that your random act of removing a stone [impediment] from the road, was perhaps a reduction of entropy, as it inevitably led to a less chaotic ride or trip for some random individual. However, the throwing of the stone to another space may indeed have led to another unintended consequence, perhaps an individual tripping and falling......breaking a femur and requiring great outlays of available energy to repair and heal said fracture. We cannot know the outcomes of such exercises except within the closed construct of a theory.

One can never know the effect of the pressures resulting from the flap of the wings of a butterfly, but we can have a hell of a lot of fun trying!

I sincerely appreciate the thought provoking discussion however, and look forward to rebuttal/validation.

Good times!
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Old 12-26-2012, 08:18 PM   #4
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@ DCFusor and ancona

NOW we are off to the races!

Defining this carefully (DCFusor) will take more thought than I am willing to give to the reply for the moment. Later?

PROBABILISTIC thinking, ohh, I LIKE that ancona!
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Old 12-27-2012, 03:32 AM   #5
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The ripples from every action, no matter how small, always affect everyone and everything in the world.

For example, if that rock had been left in the road, a passing car could have airborned it through someone's window thereby requiring replacement window from somewhere in the world. That replacement may have used sand that otherwise would have been left to grow some plants that some animal may have eaten which in turn may have been an animal through a chain of events that ultimately could have kept the driver of the car that hit the rock from starving to death. By leaving the rock in the road in this scenario would have caused the death of the driver some time down the road.

Or the driver would have swerved to miss it, hit an oncoming car which had occupants on the way to the airport to return to some foreign country. But those occupants would have died causing a long chain of events affecting their families, their employers, their friends, and numerous other people, even including airlines since these occupants would no longer be flying in the future.

Removing the rock would make other changes both on the road and wherever the rock was deposited. No matter what was or was not done, billions of people ultimately would be affected.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:22 AM   #6
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I thought we already buried Schrodingers cat!
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Old 12-27-2012, 08:26 AM   #7
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Don't know about whether my actions are entropy neutral, positive or negative, but I will bring order to chaos without hesitation.

Consider the Odd Couple. One roomate who is a slob and the other who is anal retentive about cleanliness and order. The slob expends less energy keeping the apartment clean and orderly and generally pays no penalty for it (in terms of energy) until he needs something he can't find (because of the disorder he created). The other expends more energy keeping the apartment clean and orderly but suffers no penalties (in energy expense) in daily living as everything is in known locations.

This is similar to the programmer's choice of whether or not to sort data to enable the use of more efficient search algorithms. With random data, there is no computational expense in sorting, but searching is necessarily limited to a brute force paradigm (search item by item in whatever order - potentially requiring a search of all "N" number of items.). When the computational expense for sorting is paid, the programmer can use less expensive searching algorithms that are guaranteed to find the required data within a less than "N" number of searches (log(N) efficient). Generally, the benefits of this approach grow with the size of the data set. Additionally, while the initial expense to sort the data the first time can be large, maintaining a sort order while increasing the data set is not very expensive (especialy compared against the growing cost for a brute force search).
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Old 12-27-2012, 08:54 AM   #8
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Quote :
The ripples from every action, no matter how small, always affect everyone and everything in the world.
Not necessarily. Not all recursive systems are divergent. Some average out small noises. Reality is a recursive system - its next input is always the previous state.
(assuming time exists and always goes in the same direction)

I think we have definition problems here. Why assume entropy is bad? It's what nature does. It defines the direction of time.

We living things (at least, some of us) are rare instances of localized negative entropy (in the science definition) that to exist, however, create far more positive entropy than we constitute negative (in information theory).

For example, while Bug's post is perfectly correct in info theory, the entire need for computers, the resources to make them and power to run them, is generated by us - part of the positive entropy we generate by being us - and while his scheme to reduce that positive entropy is good computer science it's still a reduction in something that without us wouldn't even exist.

Now, if you want to get into discussion of good vs evil, and define for whom things are good or evil, that's fair game. But as beings, we are all creating more entropy than we can ever remove (unless we find something really new under the sun). Whether that is bad or not, dunno. It certainly is.

So, I'd shift discussion to whether "random acts of kindness" are good or not. I believe that they can be - you feel better having done them - that's gotta be good. If it was a true act of kindness that actually helped someone (not just buying a drunk a drink) - that's good too, at least in my moral system. But that has nothing to do with entropy or order. Sometimes disorder is good too - if something is getting too fixated, a little revolution can be a good thing.

Sure, no one can really know the future, at least with the tools we have now. But you're going to make choices anyway - and doing nothing is just one choice of many possible ones.

The only really important question is "what do I do now". This is philosophy, not science, so much. Trying to co-mingle the two outlooks at the current state of both doesn't seem to work out too well.

In this case, scientifically, you're always increasing entropy. But philosophically, it might not be bad.
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Old 12-27-2012, 09:28 AM   #9
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I find it interesting to observe these differing, yet valid answers. The way that the individual perceives, calculates and manages information to formulate decisions or ideas is so incredibly varied from person to person. To me anyway, it is kind of a snap-shot in to the world frame of reference that each of you have, with responses ranging from analytical to analgous, yet each answer appears on its surface to be perfectly rational and valid on merit.

I would like to see this thread expand.
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