Energy and complexity (Philosophy of Complexity II)

A brief note today, about something to look into more.

Could the energy consumption of a civilization be a measure of its complexity? If so, we could easily say that our civilization is becoming more and more complex – since we are consuming more energy all the time. There is something intriguing about this measure – it relates the complexity of a phenomenon to the amount of heat it produces, and so the entropy it drives.

It seems an obvious metric, but it also seems to suggests that there is nothing structural about complexity – by this metric, the sun is more complex than we are. But then, again, we could argue that there is a difference here between natural phenomena like the sun and a constructed artifact.

Can we say, then, that for artifacts it is a good proxy to think about the heat they generate? A car generates more heat than a computer, does it not? Consumes more energy? So again, it seems, the measure is shaky. But the attraction in this kind of metric seems to remain: our civilization is more complex than that of the Egyptians, and we consume much more energy.

A variation on this theme is to look at the energy we can produce, harness — that would connect this measure to the Kardashev scales. Maybe there is something there.

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