Jack Died Friday

I met Jack playing Bingo.  He was a nice, well-mannered older gentleman from Boston and a retired nurse.  He was kind and soft spoken and he was a happy person, and he was serious about Bingo.  Today I was told, there is a little memorial on the bar at the place where Jack always sat.  It consisted of his picture, flowers, a pitcher of beer and a glass with ice in it, all where Jack sat just last Sunday.  Jack died of a heart attack alone in the room he rented, his housemate found him I’m told, Jack died alone.

So I’ve been thinking about entropy, that all Jack’s energy has dispersed, he used it all up and now his body stopped living.

I was taught while studying at University that everything moves to maximum entropy.  It was a fascinating idea that stuck with me and like most sticky ideas I collect, little bits of info stick to it over time and usually an event makes me realize it’s all still there and related.

If you couple entropy theory, that energy disperses until there is no ability of the possessor of the energy to do work because it has been completely dispersed with the theory of the conservation of energy, that being that energy is constant – neither created nor destroyed – then Jack’s energy has gone somewhere else.  Perhaps Jack’s energy went into everyone he contacted, into his job, his friends, his family, into lifting his glass of beer with ice cubes in it and into calling out an excited “BINGO!”  Jack expended all his energy and now it’s all used up but it isn’t gone, it’s all around us, it’s in us.  Physical Jack is gone, but his energy is still moving forward passing through everything and everyone he touched.

Definitions from: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/

entropy (ntr-p)

A measure of the amount of energy in a physical system not available to do work. As a physical system becomes more disordered, and its energy becomes more evenly distributed, that energy becomes less able to do work. For example, a car rolling along a road has kinetic energy that could do work (by carrying or colliding with something, for example); as friction slows it down and its energy is distributed to its surroundings as heat, it loses this ability. The amount of entropy is often thought of as the amount of disorder in a system.

conservation of energy

A principle stating that the total energy of a closed system remains constant over time, regardless of other possible changes within the system. It is related to the symmetry of time invariance.

So within the universe, energy is not created and is not used up, it is simply transferred from one place to another, changes.  So Jack’s energy has been released, he’s done his job here whatever that was.  Tonight he is being mourned and his loss is being felt and energy is being expended in the form of crying and remembering.  Yes, Jack’s energy is still moving people in spite of his death.

So I see a news report on “60 Minutes” tonight about a new computer virus that someone created to disrupt the Internet and it makes me think about Jack’s death and entropy.  The virus is called “conficker” and it isn’t doing anything yet even though it’s on many computers around the world.  All it does so far is check in with whoever created it every day to see if there are any instructions.  The report said that it has instructions to do something on April 1, but nobody knows what it’s supposed to do.

I guess that the important thing about “conficker” isn’t the virus itself but what it represents.  There are people out there whose goal is to mess up the Internet, to corrupt electronic communication, to break up world commerce and to undermine Western capitalism.  We have all known about hackers for a long time, the white hats (like Symantec) and the black hats (like hackers) have been locked into a battle for electronic supremacy, a modern day “rule the world” scenario.  The hacker groups are even using Nazi symbols to represent their efforts to dominate cyber-space.  The breakup of the Internet whether real or imagined worse-case makes me think of entropy and the huge expenditure of energy it has taken for the US to create and implement the Internet.

How real is the threat depends on following the money I’d guess.   Money is what truly rules the world so whoever has the money should be able to buy the best minds to either bring down the electronic system or to beat back the challenges of unscrupulous hackers right?  Well the disturbing thing about the hackers I learned tonight is that they are ideologues from other countries, mostly Russians, who are out to do in capitalism using illegal Internet maneuvers.

What happens when ideas trump money?  You get the Middle East in cyber space.  What if cyber-terrorists are just as capable or more so than corporate ones?  What if dedication to an ideology means more than money?

So follow the entropy model that all things disperse their energy and thereby disintegrate over time.  If capitalism is entering a disintegration phase, has dispersed all its energy, has run its course so to speak, then what’s next?

Can the teenage cyber-geeks in Russia bring down Western capitalism that is increasingly dependent on Internet-based commerce?  Will the idea that one committed person can accomplish anything spell the demise of Western civilization?  Can cyber-terrorists create as much turmoil in cyber-space as they do in Iraq?  Could an energetic teenager outwork a 40-something overpaid computer whiz who’s hooked on coke?

Could the very idea of entropy hold the answer?  American ideology has imposed an order on the world for many decades now.  I recall conversations with people in Europe when I travelled there in the 1980’s and the anger they expressed about the level of American interference in their laws and the way we would use international organizations to impose changes that didn’t reflect their values. 

American values and way of life have been spread widely at a great expense of energy.  American energy isn’t boundless and it has been spent and spent and spent; in two World Wars, in Korea, In Vietnam, in Kuwait, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the UN, in the World Bank, and in thousands of other ways.   Is the principle of entropy about to play out?  Is America’s energy running out?

I know that there are many people at home and abroad who will welcome that day.  In truth, I think most Americans would mostly sleep better at night.  We’d still eat and drink, have families and grow food.  But we wouldn’t have to be the driving force of the world, police the world, feed the world, buy every plastic piece of crap manufactured in every slum across the world.  We could just live and love and be; and maybe let be, that might be the most positive part.

Personally, I feel the energy drain.  Entropy is in play here and energy may be conserved but it gets used and dispersed and America is running on empty.

So if “conficker” turns on April 1 and shuts down the Internet I want to be in the business of selling cash registers.  I want to be in the business of selling stamps.  I want to be in the business of recruitment for salespersons.  I want to be ready to the tidal wave of humanity that would suddenly be required to do work again, and most of whom would be happy to live a simpler life again.

An electronic dark age would not necessarily be a negative thing.  We’ve done it the old way before, it takes more people, it takes more labor, it takes people power.  And it takes a lot less stress.

Our problem now is that energy transfer is not so much between people, but between people and machines.  Maybe the hackers’ real role in the world is to promote the end of the machines and a transfer of energy back to people.

Jack transferred his energy to a lot of people.  He may not even have realized that his energy was so positive.  I hope Jack realized it before he died, he deserved that much.