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Revisiting the Gaia hypothesis: Maximum Entropy, Kauffman's 'Fourth Law' and physiosemeiosis

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  • Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten

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. --

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Frankfurt School of Finance and Management in its series Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series with number 160.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:fsfmwp:160

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Keywords: Gaia; non-equilibrium systems; Fourth Law; work; Peirce; triadism; hierarchy; economic growth;

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  1. Wollersheim, Jutta & Barthel, Erich, 2008. "Kulturunterschiede bei Mergers & Acquisitions: Entwicklung eines Konzeptes zur Durchführung einer Cultural Due Diligence," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 94, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
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Cited by:
  1. Yu, Xiaofan, 2011. "A spatial interpretation of the persistency of China's provincial inequality," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 171, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
  2. Böing, Philipp & Müller, Elisabeth, 2012. "Technological Capabilities of Chinese Enterprises: Who is Going to Compete Abroad?," Annual Conference 2012 (Goettingen): New Approaches and Challenges for the Labor Market of the 21st Century 62081, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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