Friday, August 29, 2008

Efficiency is a tool, not an end

A class I started recently brought up the idea of the endless pursuit of efficiency. Chase it chase it, make everything efficient and everything is better. Don't ask why we make things efficient, just make it more efficient. Supposedly this was an influence on the Nazis, explaining a little bit why they were so focused on the efficiency of their killing without asking why they were killing.

They had tunnel vision. They were efficient at killing, but the effects of the killing were not efficient. Despite their glorification of science and technology, progress, they were nothing higher than another generation of religious zealots, blinding by their beliefs. They ultimately destroyed themselves with this. Setting aside moral reasons for a moment, killing or driving out all the Jews, especially German Jews, was incredibly stupid. It may have lost the war for them. But that isn't my point.

Efficiency is what? I see it as a streamlining of a process in order to reduce consumption of energy while creating the same output. This can be seen as a mathematical equation, so feel free to multiply (don't ask about division, they're the same thing) or add (ditto for subtraction). You can create more for the same energy if you want or less but with way way less energy.

Ultimately efficiency is a fight with entropy. What is entropy? Think of it as a decay which cannot be stopped, barely even slowed, and never reversed. This is in the overall universe, so there's nothing much preventing local reductions in entropy. Ultimately entropy will increase to the point where there is no longer order, or even disorder, instead there's just not much of anything. Rather depressing, isn't it? Efficiency is a fight with this, and it cannot win, so taking the side of efficiency is rather silly.

What is more efficient than what we do now? For one it would be more efficient to surgically remove the emotion centers of our brains. They cause all sorts of inefficiencies such as crying and wars. Going further, remove taste buds, in fact most senses can go. They waste a lot of energy and only hasten the demise of the universe. Animals are pretty bad too

Monday, August 11, 2008

Evolution Everything

Evolution needs to stop being taught as the origin of life. It needs to stop being taught as a new theory to explain species. That is not what it is. It's a part of something bigger and much more significant. I propose a new law of the universe, a very simple, very obvious one, yet something that no one seems to explicitly state or realize the importance of.

Those things which survive and/or in some manner replicate at a rate which at least exceeds the rate at which they are destroyed, will continue to exist. More simply: things that exist and continue to exist will continue to exist. Like I said, obvious. This is important though, it affects all sorts of areas of research and discovery. An example might help.

Why do so many people seem to need to convince you of their ideas and spread them? Ask the reverse; why are there so few people who keep their thoughts to themselves and never try to spread their ideas? Most obviously, it's a matter of counting, you don't notice the quiet ones, only the loud ones. But it's also in the ideas themselves. Ideas have pieces to them, one piece includes what to do with the idea. An idea which tells you to never say it again will die when you do. Ideas which tell you to convince others, even if the conversion rate is poor, will last longer, spread more, than ideas which isolate themselves.

Alternatively, look at the concept of a nation. It exists outside of the individual, it doesn't depend on their existence, if it did, people could not die for a nation or else it would cease to exist. They are something bigger, more general, and they also tend to kill their own people. Why does something so destructive exist? Nations are powerful, they make people act against their own self-interests, in favor of the nation, allowing a nation to be far more powerful in conflict than a social system which favors the individual. If nations were nicer, they would be weaker, and other forms of organization might be more prominent. But nations are what they are, they survive and even reproduce, so they continue to exist.

In light of this, the evolution of species isn't such a startling idea. It's not a dramatic break from religious theories. It's simply a continuation of a fundamental law of the universe. Why not argue about magnetism and what keeps children's artwork on refrigerators?