The Second Law of Thermodynamics introduces us to a couple of interesting concepts to chew on. The first is the concept of entropy, which is a way to measure the amount of disorder in a system. This is necessary because of the second and more interesting thought. Systems break down from complex to simple as more chaos and disorder emerges…or put simply, things fall apart over time. While this is true for scientific analysis of heat to energy exchange , I have found it to be just as applicable for a wide range of other phenomena.
The natural order of systems breaking down is seen in thousands of examples…the decline of the European monarchies resulting in World War I, the collapse of the Soviet Union under communism, the housing bubble, the dot-com bubble, etc. At the most basic, our very bodies degrade over time, culminating in our physical death. This natural transition is, in my opinion, the fundamental reason conspiracies and motives ultimately are discovered. The concept of a criminal devolving and making mistakes is a core tenet of law enforcement and, yet, we ignore this basic concept as it applies to other complex social systems.
Lee Childs’ protagonist Jack Reacher put it this way, everybody has a plan until they are punched in the face. In this very statement lies the reason for the underlying truth of entropy. We have plans, sophisticated, interconnected, well-thought out, etc. Then the moment comes where something unexpected happens and our plans have to change on the fly. We no longer have the luxury of time to replan, rather we have to replan based on our experience and understanding of the situation as it unfolds. We have moved from strategic to tactical approaches and we have begun to introduce our own chaos into the cycle, thereby increasing the entropy, until, at the end, the system or the plan stops functioning.
So, why is this important to know or write about, you ask? It is because we generally spend a lot of time believing that the systems, situations and individuals arrayed against us are superior. They have all of the advantages and they play a perfect game. We convince ourselves that the odds stacked against us are too high and that the house always wins. While sometimes true, the fact that we respond that way ignores the concept of chaos and entropy. The simple fact is that humans are agents of entropy and chaos in systems. For good or bad, we introduce unplanned for chaos into situations and systems thereby contributing to their ultimate breakdown. So, when facing a situation that seems almost robotic in its execution against you, remember, you represent the “punch in the face” that can break the cycle and ultimately change the situation.