Book Review :: Entropy


It was November 21st, 2013 when I first encountered Jeremy Rifkin via a quote by him which was mentioned in a book named '자기혁명'. Since then, as I have mentioned numerous times, I became interested in his studies of sociology and his prediction of the future - leading me to read one of his book called 'Entropy'. The book was insane. Though I have heard there were people who thinks Rifkin's theory is complete blasphemy or so called 'B.S', I think this book is one of the most inspiring books I have read in recently.

Before saying any further, I think I should mention what have driven me to come here:

What made me read this book?

I was pondering on one question lately. No, actually a few, for a while (perhaps few months or so). The questions were: is our process of consumption is done in a way that our Earth will still be inhabitable and preserved in a clean state? Which automatically leads to a question which tackles whether our recycling system is actually doing its job of transforming a waste materials into something that we can use it again.

I realised that the Earth, a place where all the humanity live and prosper, does not really seem to be taken care of properly. It does not seem to be a safe place to live in the future - It almost felt like we are destroying our own house not realising the fact that one day we might lose one. If we have no shelter, we have no where else to go (well, I guess we have the space (Thanks to Elon Musk) but still, going to space is not solving the problem but just trying to neglect it). Since I hate this sense of insecurity, I decided to ponder on a question of what we really can do to save the planet.

'Recycling' was one of the obvious solution which I came up with almost at an instant. However, I felt that there was something was not right - if the process of recycling was the process which will save the Earth, why didn't it do it already? The environmental situation is getting worse and worse and it felt like we are just trying neglect the problem because we cannot really see or feel the consequence of this matter.

The process of recycling was not being done efficiently

I realised that the process of recycling was not being done efficiently. If we were to compare the process of recycling which is happening in the world today to a flow of money in a company, it is almost the same thing as the spendings of a company is increasing at an almost exponentially while the revenue that the company is plummeting.  Many videos in Youtube proved that the waste materials that we produce after consumption is just being dumped in a ground or in an ocean since they cannot treat and make all of the waste to become reusable again. Some being treated and returned to be usable again, the percentage seems to be unpromising.

Comparing what I have written above to Rifkin's theory of Entropy proves that our theory have lot in common, except that Rifkin's theory tackles the question of inefficient flow of this consumption and waste in a broader scale. In the book, Rifkin elaborates that an Entropy is a process when human consume more energy, we produce an energy which is not desirably usable in a rate that the energy cycle is extremely inefficient - given the fact that there are no energy created or destroyed.

He ponders this matter with subjects of energy, how this high flow of energy is resulting exponential increase of the energy which is unusable. Rifkin also talks about how technology, education, our social structure etc is strongly linked to his theory of Entropy.

The New Era, New World View

Rifkin elaborates further by saying that the world view of the world is at the verge of shifting into the new era. And in the new world view (if the humanity survives the transition) the process of entropy being high in the current time will change completely - humanity will start to value the beauty of efficiency hence minimise the rate of consumption, understanding the profound act of moderation or self-control. This made me realise that this society of low entropy could solve majority of problems humanity face now.

The Labour

For example, labour. If we look closely why majority of people doing work (labour), we realise that most of them have the purpose of earning money as a method to earn something so that they can spend it and consume goods to satisfy themselves. If we look at more bigger picture, we can realise that the main purpose of labor is for the act of consumption (which again, increases the inefficiency (entropy) since the consumption of energy increases, the waste energy which is not reusable increases more). The concept of labour in our society is considered a negative process. However, in a low-entropy society, people start to realise the beauty of efficiency and the importance of minimal consumption of energy. Hence when people do labour, this act of labour becomes something more meaningful rather than being considered just as a method for people to earn money so that they can satisfy they greed and lust. People in the low-entropy society will take consider act of labour more seriously, perhaps even as a part of process towards enlightenment of human being. Labour will be no longer being considered as an act of crude process, but as a process which helps people to realise think and ponder philosophical questions, driving human introspection. Labour will start to embrace a positive concept in low-entropy society. I think what we are seeing as a technological advancement in the 21st century is something that can be seen in a low-entropy society.

The Nature

Now considering the perspective of nature, low-entropy society will appreciate the importance and the gravity of exploiting nature. Since people in the low-entropy underscores the importance of nature, they will begin to appreciate the relationship between themselves and nature - that they are closely related to each other, and consider human as part of nature. Hence resulting the humanity to have the concept of importance of preservation of nature (While studying this concept, I realised that this concept is really closely related to the Bible).

As we can see above, low-entropy society seem to have more positive effect to the society as it emphasises the importance of each individual human beings, while appreciating the relationship between the human beings and it's surrounding environment. Jeremy Rifkin has thrown a statement that tackles one of the most fundamental problems that we face today.

Technology and Low-Entropy Society

It is important here that I mentioned technological advancement as an example of low-entropy society. The reason I mentioned technological advancement as an example is because technological advancement did provide some of the solutions to the energy supply problems that we have in regards to the theory of entropy. Thanks to technology (and Elon Musk), society have started to give attention to solar powered energy, an energy supply which our society considers clean and renewable. 

However, like Rifkin has mentioned in his book, technology has not only provided a positive solutions, but provided negative results as well. Digital wastes, surplus of unorganised informations etc, are the few of the consequences that our technology have produced.

I think in order for our society to make transition to low-entropy society, we definitely need technology. Don't get me wrong. I love technology and the benefits that it provided the humanity to expand the horizon of human capabilities to do unbelievable things. I believe that act of minimal consumption is not an act of abandoning everything we have, such as our materialistic possessions and technology, but a process of designing an efficient tools or system so that the flow of energy becomes efficient (where the energy we consume will be 100% reusable). And I think, as a designer, I should play in this role.

I believe the environment is something that we should consider with more gravity - it is important - very important. It is our home. It is the place where we live and a place which is so essential for us to live. I believe the humanity have the responsibility to preserve the nature and to somehow find a solution to save it from collapsing.


Now, as a designer, I think it is one of the vital things for me to consider that the designs of whatever things that I design, I have to take consider the theory of entropy - able to design something which makes the flow of energy efficient.

Honestly, I don't know the solution to this question, yet. I no longer think designing smart boxes that can be reused two or more times are not enough. That is, again, seems to be being short sighted since it tackles only the surface of the problem while the main reasons of the problem still remain intact. I think, what I have to do as a designer, is that I have to design something that tackles the core of the problem. The core of the problem of this inefficient flow of energy. And I guess that is my homework.