My long time friend David Rowe (who I learned thermodynamics with) read my post the other day on the election and political thermodynamics. After thinking about it for awhile he spurred me into extending my initial social thermodynamics property definitions. For additional context, these other reads are also helpful: understanding of mixing of social states and empathy, and insights on social reaction. Dave’s key statement came after thinking about the election and my property definitions:

“…how could one person prioritize anti-establishment concepts over overtly racial division? … As I’m writing, I’m thinking – what if heat capacity actually represents a person’s capacity to accept a certain issue?” ~David Rowe, November 10th, 2016

This insight spurred me into thinking about the “higher-order” and “derivative” thermodynamic properties, including heat capacities, and how they relate to my initial thermodynamic property definitions

Measurable properties like heat capacities and sound speeds are very powerful for a surface of state because they are related to other measurable properties through derivatives. Hence everything else is highly sensitive to small changes in these slopes. Let’s see where these take us!

Heat Capacities

Heat capacity in thermodynamic world is defined as the amount of thermal energy required to change the temperature of a substance (typically by one degree). There are several ways this can be measured: A) heat capacity at constant volume, known as the isochoric heat capacity, or Cv, B) heat capacity at constant pressure, known as isobaric heat capacity, or Cp, and C) heat capacity at constant saturation (think phase change), denoted as Cs.

The most typically utilized heat capacity, and easiest to relate to social thermodynamics is Cv. Cv = dU/dT in thermodynamic world. Transferring this to social space, I defined Temperature (T) broadly as “resources” and internal energy (U) as “value evolution.” This relates perfectly to Dave’s definition of “a person’s capacity to accept an issue,” A person has a low tolerance/capacity for an issue if it takes a huge change in resources to influence their values. And a person has a very high capacity for an issue if their values change considerably for a small change in resources. This is possible from people in high v-Meme states that are tightly bounded within a knowledge framework (like a fluid fitting within the container boundaries). As long as the new value state fits within the knowledge framework, people with a high capacity for the topic can be influenced about an issue with relatively less resources. It takes considerable resources to teach someone the concept of genetics, for example, before convincing them whether two things a separate species or not.

The internal energy and heat capacities go up big time with social entropy (empathy) at the higher memes and temperatures. Many people low on the empathy pyramid, where dichotomous right vs. wrong decision processes rule, are going to take a HUGE amount of effort/resources to sway on issues like gun control or abortion, which may be the only issue in their mind. However, many of us know that these problems are WAY to complex for right or wrong broad strokes. So it makes a lot of sense that it is much easier for people higher up on the empathy pyramid (transferable to spiral memes scale) to accept other ideas of differing values with minimal resource input (change in temperature). Things are no longer white or black, but rather a spectrum of gray lies between and a small shift is easy!

Other Derivative Properties

There are endless ways that thermodynamics properties can be defined, or related through derivatives. Several of my lectures cover the relation techniques. Here are a couple of examples of insightful relations as the meanings become apparent:

Temperature/Resources T = (∂U/∂S)|v = (∂H/∂S)|P This means that a large value shift (∂U) with a small change in empathy (∂S) at constant population density (v) takes a HUGE amount of resources (T), and vice-versa. Makes sense! We’re not going to radically change public opinion on gun control or abortion anytime soon and the resources being injected are huge.

Pressure/Stress P = -(∂U/∂v)|s = -(∂A/∂v)|T This means that a large value shift (∂U) with a small change in density (∂v) at constant empathy causes a huge amount of stress (P). Consistent with the definition of temperature. A large change in societal laws/values on gun control or abortion without changing the empathy of society or density will cause a hugely stressful situation (certainly for at least a substantial subset of society).

Volume/Density v = (∂G/∂P)|T = (∂H/∂P)|S This means that a large space (v) is required for a phase change to occur with little change in stress (∂P) and constant resources. Phase change (G) with little space (v) and constant resources (T) causes a lot of stress (∂P). Think about it in terms of changing the system of organization in a closet, if you don’t have the space to pull everything out and rearrange, or resources to purchase a new organization system, it’s going to be stressful.

Entropy/Empathy S = -(∂G/∂T)|P = -(∂A/∂T)|v The greater the empathy (S, # of ways) by which you approach a problem, the higher the likelihood you will achieve a phase change (-∂G) with minimal resource change (∂T) at constant stress (P). Another way to think about this is that it takes a large amount of empathy to have a large change in your capacity to convey resources (-∂A) with limited change in the resources you have (∂T).

Where do we go from here?

I’ve seen enough connections now to be convinced that the structure of thermodynamics is indeed transferable to sociology. But we still have not applied these to actual social systems. Why? The question remains of how to transfer real sociology quantities to the thermodynamic properties in a consistent way. What systems can we draw a balance around and test the concepts with? How do we apply an energy or empathy “balance” to predict the behavior of a social system? How do we relate the work and heat transfer terms to the properties we’ve defined here?

For example, entropy is Thermodynamically defined as ds = ∂Q/T , so if s = empathy and T = resources, what is Q in social space? Information? If we transfer information out of our system do we directly reduce the empathy we have? If so, then what is Work? Is it simply the capacity to convey resources? We’re on the verge of something very neat. So please send your ideas!