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Title:Revisiting the Gaia hypothesis: Maximum Entropy, Kauffman's 'Fourth Law' and physiosemeiosis PDF Logo
Authors:Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten
Issue Date:2011
Series/Report no.:Working paper series // Frankfurt School of Finance & Management 160
Abstract:Recently, Kleidon suggested a restatement of the Gaia hypothesis based on Maximum Entropy approaches to the Earth system. Refuting conceptions of Gaia as a homeostatic system, Gaia is seen as a non-equilibrium thermodynamic system which continuously moves away from equilibrium, driven by maximum entropy production which materializes in hierarchically coupled mechanisms of energetic flows via dissipation and physical work. I propose to relate this view with Kauffman's 'Fourth Law of Thermodynamics', which I interprete as a proposition about the accumulation of information in evolutionary processes. Then, beyond its use in the Kleidon model, the concept of physical work is expanded to including work directed at the capacity to work: I offer a twofold specification of Kauffman's concept of an 'autonomous agent', one as a 'self-referential heat engine', and the other in terms of physiosemeiosis, which is a naturalized application of Peirce's theory of signs emerging from recent biosemiotic research. I argue that the conjunction of these three theoretical sources, Maximum Entropy, Kauffman's Fourth Law, and physiosemeiosis, allows to show that the Kleidon restatement of the Gaia hypothesis is equivalent to the proposition that the biosphere is a system of generating, processing and storing information, thus directly treating information as a physical phenomenon. I substantiate this argument by proposing a more detailed analysis of the notion of hierarchy in the Kleidon model. In this view, there is a fundamental ontological continuity between the biological processes and the human economy, as both are seen as information processing and entropy producing systems. As with other previous transitions in evolution, the human economy leverages the mechanisms by which Gaia moves further away from equilibrium. This implies that information and natural resources or energy are not substitutes, i.e. the knowledge economy continues to build on the same physical principles as the biosphere, with energy and information being two aspects of the same underlying physical process.
Subjects:Gaia
non-equilibrium systems
Fourth Law
work
Peirce
triadism
hierarchy
economic growth
JEL:Q40
Q57
Document Type:Working Paper
Appears in Collections:Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management

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