Extropy

What greater calamity can a neologism inherit than a techno-hippy paternity? Such a fate, apparently, induces even other techno-hippies to skirt around it (whilst repeating it almost exactly). But it needs to be said, whether through gritted teeth or not, that ‘extropy’ is a great word, and close to an indispensable one.

Extropy, or local entropy reduction, is — quite simply — what it is for something to work. The entire techno-science of entropy, on its practical (cybernetic) side, is nothing but extropy generation. There is no rigorous conception of functionality that really bypasses it. The closest approximation to objective value that will ever be found already has a name, and ‘extropy’ is it.

The importance of this term to the investigation of time is brought into focus by the work of Sean Carroll (although, of course, he never uses it). If the directionality or ‘arrow’ of time is understood as Eddington proposed, through rising global entropy (or disorder), as anticipated by the second law of thermodynamics, local extropy poses an intriguing question.

Carroll’s discussion is directed towards his sense of the ultimate temporal and cosmological problem:  the low entropy state of the early universe (assumed but not explained by prevailing cosmo-physics). Given this intellectual momentum, the problem of local negative-entropy production (extropy) is little more than a distraction, or a spurious objection to the conceptual scaffolding he presents. He comments:

The Second Law doesn’t forbid decreases in entropy in open systems — by putting in the work, you are able to tidy up your room, decreasing its entropy but still increasing the entropy of the whole universe (you make noise, burn calories, etc.). Nor is it in any way incompatible with evolution or complexity or any such thing.

The perplexing question, however, is this: If entropy defines the direction of time, with increasing disorder determining the difference of the future from the past, doesn’t (local) extropy — through which all complex cybernetic beings, such as lifeforms, exist — describe a negative temporality, or time-reversal? Is it not in fact more likely, given the inevitable embeddedness of intelligence in ‘inverted’ time, that it is the cosmological or general conception of time that is reversed (from any possible naturally-constructed perspective)?

Whatever the conclusion, it is clear that entropy and extropy have opposing time-signatures, so that time-reversal is a relatively banal cosmological fact. ‘We’ inhabit a bubble of backwards time (whoever we are), whilst immersed in a cosmic environment which runs overwhelmingly in the opposite direction. If reality is harsh and strange, that’s why.

February 20, 2013admin 11 Comments »
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