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Author Topic: Entropy and Hackerspaces -- Good or Bad?  (Read 334 times)

tetsuharu

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Entropy and Hackerspaces -- Good or Bad?
« on: March 16, 2016, 06:53:01 PM »
Old Man @Science suggested the strange idea that maybe a generalized trend towards institutionalism might be an instance of entropy. Or that entropy could describe some of the disagreements between members and visitors about the purpose and direction of the lab.

Definitions of Entropy:
  • a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
  • lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.
  • a logarithmic measure of the rate of transfer of information in a particular message or language.
According to the first definition, my preferred definition, "entropy" is a measure of how much a system fails to be accurately predicted by a predictive model, defined here as the "energy" in the system being unable to produce "mechanical changes". To me, this reads as the system containing energy, which may be shifting concentrations in dimensions that aren't under consideration in our model, not being capable of providing measurable changes in system behavior, as measured by those dimensions that ARE under consideration. This is kind of like saying you have a 'model of the universe' that only includes velocity, acceleration, and gravity, but your objects also have color which is changing dynamically according to interactions with other objects. All objects could have stopped, and we could consider it as having high entropy because no energy was lost and now its distributed in a way that we can't measure the energy distribution (by changing the height of a mercury thermometer or moving a scale), but because the energy is not lost in the system we know that it's there. So, a highly-entropic system is a system that our predictive model doesn't completely represent.


In a hackerspace, "mechanical work" would not be raising a mercury thermometer or changing the height of a weighing scale. "Mechanical work" might be defined in terms of the goals of the organization.

One goal that could be considered "mechanical work" is the creation of new "hacks" and cool things. Within this perspective, having "high entropy" is when no new creations / hacks can be performed, when no "mechanical work" can be done with the energy in the system.

Do-ocracy, a sort of side-show of the hackerspace movement, can be considered an entropy-negative policy. It encourages energy to be used to do mechanical work, to change the space. Restriction of do-ocracy is entropy-positive, but it's not the only thing that modifies entropy.


Another goal would be the external mission of the nonprofit, to improve the community and expand the range of "hacker" values, or to educate STEAM concepts into the population. Things that would reduce the reach of the hackerspace's message or would deter the messages from being received are then "increasing entropy".


@Science's poorly mannered joke in slack yesterday, about throwing a chair through a wall and whether it's acceptable or not, can be considered in the context of it's effect on entropy. Throwing a chair through a wall is mechanical work. The chair has moved, and the wall has been deformed. This is an example of "mechanical work" being performed. If the wall is not fixed, that same work can't be performed again, so it can be considered a rise in entropy. If the person were to repair the wall, or use the chair-throwing as part of a process to cause more mechanical work to be done, it might be entropy-neutral.

If the chair-throwing encourages people to do new things, from the perspective of 'creating new things in the space' it is entropy-negative.

If the chair-throwing causes people to not view the hackerspace as an outwardly-focused educational institution worthy of changing their perspectives on things, it might be considered highly entropic, if you hold the perspective of the space as being focused on outwardly education.



Considering these things, the ability to make changes to an institution is the entropy of the institution itself. Very ironically, the ability of the institution to change is negative entropy, and resistance to change in the institution is positive entropy. Do-ocracy improves the availability of work by allowing anyone to perform it, and the restriction of do-ocracy causes a negative effect.

Therefore, institutionalization is high-entropy in human social systems, but when the system and model are expanded to include the external effects of the institution, it may be considered highly ordered and productive.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2016, 06:56:21 PM by tetsuharu »

tetsuharu

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Re: Entropy and Hackerspaces -- Good or Bad?
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2016, 06:54:49 PM »
this is based on a conversation between Mr. @Science and Mr. @Dsh80