Twofish's Blog

January 13, 2007

Wow!!!! Energy and preindustrial societies

Filed under: Career, economics, energy, finance, massachusetts institute of technology — twofish @ 8:30 pm

Every now and then some powerful ideas collide.  I was just at the Houston for a luncheon on the MIT energy initiative and which meant that I couldn’t read the new books from Amazon until today.  So I’m reading the “Qing Formation in World Historical Time” and then I get to page 279 in a article that Jack Goldstone writes and then suddenly…..

 The ulimate bottleneck in preindustrial economies was quite simple.  It lay not in land or other raw materials but in energy.  Given sufficient energy, land could be enriched by irrigation, and applications of distantly produced fertilizers, fibers could be imported and economically worked into finished products, grain could be harvested and threshed with far less manpower, bricks and other construction materials could be cheaply fired and moved, construction and transportation bottlenecks could be overcome.  Whenever breakthroughs in energy use occurred – in wind or water power, in peat or coal or charcoal or coke – gains generally followed.

The got me thinking, there are three elements in the world

  • matter
  • energy
  • information

And matter, energy, and information both exist in

  • time
  • space

This gets back to thermodynamics and finance.  There are some very basic physical connections between time, energy and information, and information is connected to money in a market economy, because money is the means by which information travels between different points.

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1 Comment »

  1. Your listing of matter, energy, and information, reminds me of a theory that I spin about organizations (by which I mean cells, humans, firms, or states). I introduced this theory in a paper “An Engineer’s View of Morality
    Set in a Model of Life” . I intend to keep broadcasting this thermodynamic theory of organizations when I get beyond more of life’s speedbumps.

    Comment by Richard O. Hammer — April 13, 2007 @ 1:22 pm


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