ssrn-id1269035

ssrn-id1269035 - Understanding Social Systems: A Free...

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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1269035 Understanding Social Systems: A Free Energy Perspective Jing Chen School of Business University of Northern British Columbia Prince George, BC Canada V2N 4Z9 Phone: 1-250-960-6480 Email: chenj@unbc.ca Web: http://web.unbc.ca/~chenj/ September 2008 A b s t r a c t Social systems are a part of physical systems. In principle, social systems can be described by physical laws. However, there is a long running debate about how much knowledge from physics can be applied effectively to understand human societies. Compared with the vast amount of literature in both natural science and social science, attempts to understand social systems from physical laws are very sporadic. In this work, we show that the structures and evolution of social systems can be clearly understood with some simple and well established knowledge from physics. Key words: Free energy, social system, entropy, freedom, temperature, income Initial draft. Comments welcome. We thank Rongshu Chen and Balbinder Deo for helpful comments. Detailed comments and editing from Richard West greatly improved the quality of this paper.
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Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1269035 1 Human societies are a part of the physical world. However, compared with the vast amount of literature in both natural science and social science, attempts to understand social systems from physical laws are very sporadic (Muller, 1998; Thims, 2007). The few pioneering works about social conditions from detailed mathematical analysis of physical laws received little attention from the research community (Rossini, 1971; Leonard, 2006). There is a long running debate about how much knowledge from physics can be effectively applied to human society (Hall et al, 1986; Ball, 2004; Chen, 2005; Bryant, 2007). In this work, we will not engage in this debate. Instead, we will follow the advice of Jaynes (1957) and see how much the properties of thermodynamics, which describe the collective behaviors of small particles, can be applied to understand the collective behaviors of large particles, such as human beings. We will show that some simple reasoning from free energy, a basic concept in physics, can greatly clarify the understanding of the structures and evolution of social systems. Some Basic Analysis The concept of free energy measures the quantity of energy that is available to perform work to external bodies. Free energy of a system can be defined mathematically as (1) TS E F =
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2 where E is the total amount of energy, T is the temperature and S is the entropy. In human society, E represents the amount of energy resources available for human consumption. Changes in entropy represent a change in randomness. Where an increase in randomness represents an increase in freedom in a system (Rossini, 1971). For otherwise identical systems, the ones with less constraint will have higher level of entropy (Jaynes, 1957). Entropy can be thought as the tendency to spread out. The wish
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This note was uploaded on 10/24/2011 for the course SCIENCE PHY 453 taught by Professor Barnard during the Winter '11 term at BYU.

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ssrn-id1269035 - Understanding Social Systems: A Free...

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