Monday, October 10, 2011

The Paradoxes of Freedom

What most of my students don't get is this thing about Gibbs's free energy. Why is it that when ∆G is positive, things are non-spontaneous and when ∆G is negative, things are spontaneous? Using the equation ∆G = ∆H - T∆S tells us the mathematical story, but fails to tell us the human story. And so, some random thoughts cascaded through my mind...

In brief, Josiah Gibbs defined this free energy in terms of how much work you could get out of a certain well-defined amount of substance in a fixed state without a nett change of state. Call this a 'lump'. If the lump showed a positive ∆G, you'd need to ADD energy to it to get anything done. If the lump showed a negative ∆G, work would flow out from it spontaneously.

This, with some other thermodynamics, leads us to the reason why ultimate freedom is a silly ideal for humanity. If everyone had perfect information, you wouldn't have a free market — rather, everything would equilibrate. If the equilibrium were dynamic (i.e. no dominant strategy existed) people would have to change their output all the time. If the equilibrium were static (i.e. a dominant strategy existed), then people would be bound by their knowledge to produce specific things, and it would be in the majority interest to maintain this equilibrium regardless of free will.

Also, information freedom requires abundant energy. You need energy to produce, transmit and receive information. The more energy, the better the signal. However, energy requires gradients. Somebody will have to suffer. Ah, but suffering might be negligible if the energy available were huge enough! Yep, at which point, one of two things might happen: a) you wouldn't need all that because you'd have enough energy to be godlike; or b) you would be envious of relatively small differences because of energy inflation, if you were still human enough. Or has Moorcock has hinted, having what feels like infinite energy would lead to what felt like infinite boredom.

Freedom functions best in a relative sense. One feels more free relative to others being less free. One feels free to do work for something, against something, with something, or in spite of something. If we were all free, we would all be enchained by that freedom. Or by each other.

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Blogger Albrecht Morningblade said...

I think there's one more point of transference that needs to be added:

Energy transference is never perfect. So when it goes from one body to another, a good portion of it is 'lost' in the transfer. In terms of information, or work, it gets distributed to surrounding bodies/entities. So by spreading freedom, one is actually spreading it further than you can see, or believe, don't you think?

All systems seek to equilibrate. The reason why it hasn't is because there are sinks that just soak up freedom, much like black holes.

These are called governments : )

Monday, October 10, 2011 9:48:00 pm  

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