The Green Gap

In the Cold War, we feared a Missile Gap was a strategic weakness. Nowadays, we must awaken to the fact that the Green Gap is true strategic weakness: the nations whose economies will thrive in the coming years will not be those with the biggest factories, but those with the most sustainable, efficient, and ecological markets. What we require is a Strategic "Green Reserve" of ecological design to weather the coming changes that both climate and resource scarcity will force on the international economy.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Part 2: Irrationality does not exist because of entropy

Part 1 is here.
Another actor who often finds themselves tarred with the classical epithet of irrationality is the schizophrenic. The condition of schizophrenia gives a person access to a new source or sources of data to which others may not have access. This data may or may not be perceived as “real” by the schizophrenic. The condition of schizophrenia may, over time, make the sufferer so suspicious of all data that they become less capable of separating accurate data from the physical world and the data derived from other sources. Information Theory, which considers data not by its content, but by its simple existence as a quantum of communicable information, is the best lens to view this type of “irrationality”. Specifically, the concept of entropy in Information Theory provides a key to one part of the puzzle.

Entropy is the probability of being able to predict the content of a piece of data. It is less probable for me to predict the winning lottery numbers than it is to predict the outcome of a coin-flip. The result of a coin flip is a piece of data. The winning lottery numbers are also, taken together, a piece of data. Entropy tells us that one is easier to predict than the other because there are more potential results for one piece of data than another. While this sounds like straight probability, be warned: Information Theory started in the 1920s and gave you such wondrous toys as the Voyager space probe and the CD. We’ve only just come to the mouth of the rabbit hole on this topic, and this paper isn’t long enough to go too deep.

Experiences that are a product of a schizophrenic’s environment produce interesting results. When a person hears voices or sees things that he is unable to differentiate from the simple physical reality others perceive, his world is no longer bounded by the same rules. Some of the data he receives is unbounded by physical laws. This may or may not help him in trying to sort the physical from the perceived. If a vision or sound accords with the laws of physics, a schizophrenic may be forced to determine whether or not this seemingly real data is truly real. This is akin to flipping a coin and seeing a heads – but not knowing whether the result is due to the actual coin toss or simply due to one’s own perception. There is greater entropy in a schizophrenic’s life because even if he receives data, he must still determine whether it is “real”. In such a high-entropy environment, it is very difficult to discuss rationality simply based on environment. Whereas the environment is the source of sensory input to the actor, the high entropy of the data received from the environment changes the very nature of that data. Environment plus entropy yields potential uncertainty, and that uncertainty can lead to what might be called “irrationality”. Still, if a person is schizophrenic and is acting in a high entropy environment, they are simply making the best choice available to themselves under the circumstances. That is a perfectly rational action, and while the schizophrenic deals with high entropy all the time, everyone experiences a moderate level of entropy because our perception is imperfect.

Part 3 here.

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