War as a thermodynamic phenomenon

When people think about hurricanes, they think of them in context of bad weather. I, however, think of them as a thermodynamic phenomenon of cooling the ocean, which accumulated too much energy from the Sun and, in context of seasonal change, releases the excess via entropy into the atmosphere until thermodynamic equilibrium is established.

People also think of war in terms of bloodshed and conflict of nations and ideologies and interests, but the more I think of it, I think of war in terms of a sociological hurricane – a thermodynamic phenomenon of equalizing energy potential (wealth and control of resources) of different groups of people in a situation when current distribution of resources doesn’t match the balance of power between the groups.

Let’s test my hypothesis on the example of two world wars. I am yet to see the satisfactory explanation of the First World War. Nobody seems to be able to tell the root cause. They can tell you the unimportant stuff, they can tell you how the events themselves unfolded, but none of it explains why the great colonial powers felt such a strong itch to go into war, jumping on the first casus belli that presented itself as if war promised more than peace. None of it makes sense – the Austro-Hungarian empire, for instance, was seriously itching to go into war, for which it was the least well prepared of all great powers. Germany was better prepared, and it too itched to go into battle against Russia before it grew unstoppably powerful due to its ongoing industrialization, and yet the end result of the war was a near-destruction and humiliation of Germany. Austro-Hungary didn’t survive the war – it broke apart and its constituents started their independent lives as unstable, immature states, whose erratic behavior seems to have boiled over into the second world war, and the process doesn’t seem finished even now. What are we seeing here, since it doesn’t seem to be motivated by obvious self-interest? We have a war that transformed the society and yet none of the parties involved seems to have benefited from it; all seem to have been disrupted and brought out of balance as a result.

As an alternative explanation, I came up with modernity. You see, the most significant aspect of modernity is change of the entire energy-structure of society. Prior to the explosion of science and technology, the entire society was solar-powered, in a sense that you had land on which you could grow plants, and domesticated animals which fed on those plants, and the amount of resources available to the society was more-less constant and determined by the amount of people who worked on the available land with primitive agricultural technology. Those people were treated as a basic resource that came with the land, and were divided among the warrior class which used force to conquer and dominate. Political power was measurable through the amount of agricultural land populated by serfs, that a nobleman controlled. Each nobleman could directly control only as much land, and the pyramid of power was established, with lower-tier noblemen who directly controlled the serfs who in turn controlled the land, and higher-tier noblemen who had lower-tier noblemen as underlings. The higher-tier noblemen were subjects to a king, who in turn was subject to the highest entity of civilizational cohesion, for instance the Pope. As long as the basic energy source of the civilization remained constant, this was a stable system.

However, with the ascent of technology, industry and free market, the energy structure of society changed, and it became possible to acquire wealth by means other than top-down distribution of force-acquired solar-powered resources. Inventors, industrialists and bankers acquired wealth that rivaled and soon greatly surpassed that of feudal solar-powered structures; the social leverage, essentially wealth, that was created with the invention of the steam engine or the mass-production of high quality steel, or fractional distillation of petroleum, or electricity, or artificial fertilizers, changed the entire energy structure of the society, while the entire social system relied upon an obsolete hierarchy that was established in the pre-industrial age and was ill-suited to handle the needs and challenges of modernity. This is why the entire society boiled over in order to establish a new thermodynamic equilibrium, a political and economic structure that was better suited for the open-ended energy model. One example of that is the abandonment of the gold standard of currency and adoption of the fractional reserve fiat currency, which is able to create new money based on GDP in order not to artificially constrict the economy of the state. This is absolutely necessary when you have a situation where a Rockefeller or a Tesla can invent an entirely new open-ended energy model which creates an extreme amount of new wealth that is not covered by the gold reserves. Unless you want to artificially appreciate gold and thus give the owners of gold reserves an unfair and undeserved amount of wealth, you need to grow the monetary supply by the amount that at least equals the growth of the real economy, and in fact anticipates further growth. Furthermore, you need to acknowledge that nobility no longer controls significant enough portion of the economy to warrant their special status, and political control of the country must take the new balance of power into account.

I see the two world wars as hurricane 1 and hurricane 2 of the same season, where the second one continued where the first one failed to finish the process of achieving thermodynamic balance. Whenever a group of people controls too much resources for the amount of actual power their wield in the current state of affairs, there will be a violent conflict that will establish the real state of affairs. An example of this is the conflict between the Europeans and the native Americans, who controlled too much land for their state of technological and military power, and were therefore wiped out in order to establish a thermodynamic equilibrium.

The Second World War and its aftermath allowed modernity to run its course and try to fulfill its promise, and when it mostly failed, it resulted in profound soul-searching and often destructive self-criticism within the Western civilization, which is now trying to figure out its fundamental guiding principles and its reason for being; essentially, it is trying to figure out whether it has a mandate, and has for the most part relinquished its dominant role, with inferior savages such as Muslims trying to fill the vacuum created by the Euro-American civilization’s unwillingness to assert itself in ways it previously did. Establishing “life”, without any further elaboration, as the supreme value, is indicative of this abdication of mandate.

To me, all the elements of a social thermodynamic storm are ready to produce an outward phenomenon that will redistribute energy across the system according to the new realities that are yet to fully establish themselves.