Primary Goal of Extropy

Eric Watt Forste (
Thu, 21 Nov 1996 16:33:09 -0800

On 1996 November 20, Dejan Vucinic wrote:
> The entropy of an open system can be decreased by having energy flow
> through it. Pick up a book on thermodynamics and look up thermodynamic
> engines. That's how life on Earth originated: heats up by day, cools
> off by night, repeat many times. The total system (i.e. cosmos) still
> falls toward equilibrium, at least from our present point of view.

There's an implicit assumption here that I'd like to question. Are
there actually any reasons for us to believe that the cosmos is a
closed system? I don't know of any, and I wonder why people often
assume that this is the case. I know about the conservation laws,
but these have only been tested with local closed systems. The
reasons I can think of for believing that these laws apply mutatis
mutandum to the universe as a whole considered as a single system
all seem to be rather abstract and disputable epistemological
principles. I'm perfectly willing to accept the conservation laws
with regard to each and every conceivable closed system contained
within the cosmos, but I would be interested in hearing why others
choose to take the step of believing that they also apply to the
cosmos as a whole, i. e. I would like to find out more about why
so many people assume that the cosmos is itself a closed system.

By the way, I heartily agree with you that there is considerably
more to the idea of extropy than the mere minimization of entropy
in some narrow thermodynamic or information-theoretic sense. For
me, the connection between the idea of extropy and the more
technically precise ideas of entropy has always been a metaphorical
connection. ++ Eric Watt Forste ++