[iDC] DIY: nightmare for humanities, social sciences, media

John Hopkins neo at neoscenes.net
Tue Sep 20 16:41:03 UTC 2011

Hallo George --

> I've been reflecting on this DIY discussion and questions about how it
> relates to formal learning and such. At this point, I cannot imagine a
> scenario or situation that will be more damaging to humanities, social
> sciences, and, to a lessor degree, media scholars, than the large scale
> breakdown of traditional universities. What system (certainly not patronage)
> has given philosophers and scholars better support? Sure, artists will
> produce art even if they are not eating. And have throughout history.
> However, artists, thinkers, philosophers - people who shape our view of
> ourselves and enable us to shape our future - are pushed to the margins of
> influence if they are not connected to a system that amplifies their
> influence and preserves their freedom to work.

Howard Odum, in his landmark (updated) book "Environment, Power, and Society 
(for the 21st Century) The Hierarchy of Energy" (2007) demonstrates that because 
information/knowledge requires energy for it to be captured, maintained, and 
propagated, when a society (or other system) heads into an energy-poor situation 
(versus the energy-rich 200-years we've been enjoying to date), the scope of 
information AND knowledge available to the system decreases.

So the breakdown is not (will not be) a conceptual abstraction of disciplines 
fighting in a hierarchy of ideas, but rather a systemic result of the wider 
phenomena of social collapse brought on (purely) by the lack of resources.  Any 
details, and especially those least practical in real terms will be lost in the 
general social contraction ...

I'd highly recommend that anyone working in the humanities and especially those 
without a background in science to peruse Odum's book -- you will not see your 
relation to the world the same.  And (social) organization/order is subject to 
the rules of thermodynamics and energy flow in real terms.

Fluctuations of order are occurring at all scales in all systems all the time, 
so if you look closely 'throughout history' you will find that available 
knowledge/information 'content' changes dramatically, depending on the energy 
reserves of the (social) system in question.

For Odum "Information is defined as the parts and relationships of something 
that take less resources to copy than to generate anew.  Examples are the 
thoughts on a subject, the text of a book, the DNA code of a living organism, a 
computer program, a roadmap, the conditioned responses of an animal, and the set 
of species developed in ecological organization.

Information is carried by energy flows and storages."

Just a thot, reflecting on your statement.  Marginal ideas (by nature 
idiosyncratic) could be seen as those which take too much social energy to 
replicate -- it's easier to let wackos live and die and do their thing at the 
margins (ill fed, ill housed, lower energy availability than to elites) rather 
than to draw their individual knowledge into the main storehouse of the social 
system.  This is merely the pragmatic operation of life-systems which seek to 
maximize their energy effeciency.  This is not a tendency, it is a law which, so 
far as science has observed at any scale anywhere, cannot be contravened...


John Hopkins
exploring cosmological patterns of flow @

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