Can Hoover Dam’s Design Principles Help Us Solve the Retirement Income Problem?
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And even if you know about Paul Rozin's disgust work, you will still hesitate to drink Dom Perignon out of a sterile toilet bowl. Knowing is not half the battle for most cognitive biases, including the G. Joe Fallacy. Simply recognizing that the G. Joe Fallacy exists is not sufficient for avoiding its grasp. The Internet scholar Clay Shirky puts it well: "There's no such thing as information overload. There's only filter failure.
These aren't trends powered by technology. They are conditions of life. Filters in a digital world work not by removing what is filtered out; they simply don't select for it. The unselected material is still there, ready to be let through by someone else's filter. Intelligent filters, which is what we need, come in three kinds:. Here's the best definition of information that I know of: information is a measure of uncertainty reduced. It's deceptively simple. In order to have information, you need two things: an uncertainty that matters to us we're having a picnic tomorrow, will it rain?
But some reports create the uncertainty that is later to be solved. Suppose we learn from news reports that the National Security Agency "broke" encryption on the Internet. That's information! It reduces uncertainty about how far the U.
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All the way. But the same report increases uncertainty about whether there will continue to be a single Internet, setting us up for more information when that larger picture becomes clearer. So information is a measure of uncertainty reduced, but also of uncertainty created. Which is probably what we mean when we say: "well, that raises more questions than it answers. Filter failure occurs not from too much information but from too much incoming "stuff" that neither reduces existing uncertainty nor raises questions that count for us.
The likely answer is to combine the three types of filtering: smart people who do it for us, smart crowds and their choices, smart systems that learn by interacting with us as individuals. It's a fair point.
We need filters that listen to our demands, but also let through what we have no way to demand because we don't know about it yet. Filters fail when they know us too well and when they don't know us well enough. The roots of this issue go back at least to , when Rudolf Clausius coined the term "entropy" and stated that the entropy of the universe tends to a maximum.
This idea is now known as the second law of thermodynamics, which is most often described by saying that the entropy of an isolated system always increases or stays constant, but never decreases. Isolated systems tend to evolve toward the state of maximum entropy, the state of thermodynamic equilibrium. Even though entropy will play a crucial role in this discussion, it will suffice to use a fairly crude definition: entropy is a measure of the "disorder" of the physical system.
In terms of the underlying quantum description, entropy is a measure of the number of quantum states that correspond to a given description in terms of macroscopic variables, such as temperature, volume, and density. The classic example is a gas in a closed box. If we start with all the gas molecules in a corner of the box, we can imagine watching what happens next.
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The gas molecules will fill the box, increasing the entropy to the maximum. But it never goes the other way: if the gas molecules fill the box, we will never see them spontaneously collect into one corner. This behavior seems very natural, but it is hard to reconcile with our understanding of the underlying laws of physics. The gas makes a huge distinction between the past and the future, always evolving toward larger entropy in the future.
This one-way behavior of matter in bulk is called the "arrow of time. Any movie of a collision could be played backwards, and it would also show a valid picture of a collision. To account for some very rare events discovered by particle physicists, the movie is only guaranteed to be valid if it is also reflected in a mirror and has every particle relabeled as the corresponding antiparticle. But these complications do not change the key issue. There is an important problem, therefore, which is over a century old, to understand how the arrow of time could possibly arise from time-symmetric laws of evolution.
The arrow-of-time mystery has driven physicists to seek possible causes within the laws of physics that we observe, but to no avail. The laws make no distinction between the past and the future. Physicists have understood, however, that a low entropy state is always likely to evolve into a higher entropy state, simply because there are many more states of higher entropy. Thus, the entropy today is higher than the entropy yesterday, because yesterday the universe was in a low entropy state.
And it was in a low entropy state yesterday, because the day before it was in an even lower entropy state. The traditional understanding follows this pattern back to the origin of the universe, attributing the arrow of time to some not well-understood property of cosmic initial conditions, which created the universe in a special low entropy state. The egg splatters rather than unsplatters because it is carrying forward the drive toward higher entropy that was initiated by the extraordinarily low entropy state with which the universe began. Based on an elaboration of a proposal by Sean Carroll and Jennifer Chen, there is a possibility of a new solution to the age-old problem of the arrow of time.
This work, by Sean Carroll, Chien-Yao Tseng, and me, is still in the realm of speculation, and has not yet been vetted by the scientific community. But it seems to provide a very attractive alternative to the standard picture.
The standard picture holds that the initial conditions for the universe must have produced a special, low entropy state, because it is needed to explain the arrow of time. No such assumption is applied to the final state, so the arrow of time is introduced through a time-asymmetric condition.
We argue, to the contrary, that the arrow of time can be explained without assuming a special initial state, so there is no longer any motivation for the hypothesis that the universe began in a state of extraordinarily low entropy. The most attractive feature is that there is no longer a need to introduce any assumptions that violate the time symmetry of the known laws of physics.
The basic idea is simple. We don't really know if the maximum possible entropy for the universe is finite or infinite, so let's assume that it is infinite. Then, no matter what entropy the universe started with, the entropy would have been low compared to its maximum.