Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Part II- The conservation of Risk

We will continue where we left- the conservation of energy means energy can neither be created nor destroyed within a closed system. We will again discuss why this must imply a conservation of risk also exists for a closed system.

ALL life on this planet needs energy to survive. Without it, all life would die. The acquisition of energy for food, warmth, shelter, procreation, etc... is therefore of primary concern to all life forms. If a life form is unable to acquire enough energy to meet its needs, it must either reduce energy consumption or it will die.

This issue therefore creates a kind of risk situation for organisms.

Before I continue I will therefore define a few terms. In particular, I would like to define the term risk, and distinguish it from the term uncertainty. Risk can be defined as the “the threat or probability that an action or event, will adversely or beneficially affect an organisms' or an organization's ability to achieve its objectives”.

The risk situation surrounding an organism's energy requirements is therefore something I shall call energy risk and I will define it the following way: energy Risk is the risk an organism faces when it attempts to create an information structure. Energy risk can be thought of as the risk doing something will cost more energy to produce than it will ultimately pay back to an organism.

... Notice I used the term- "information structure".
I will come back to the idea of information structures in later postings but to give a basic working definition: information structures are basically everything we know or understand. Think of them as the scientific community's equivalent of the linguist's noun. Information structures are things like people, places, "things", networks, society, friendship, literature, love, emotion. Indeed anything you can think of is basically an information structure or almost by definition you couldn't think of it in the first place.

So remember how I defined energy risk and remember the conservation of energy?

Since (for closed systems) energy can only be changed from one form to another, but never created nor destroyed, if an organism were to create an information structure than could lower its energy risk forever, it could in effect create an information structure that would create energy forever. Since energy cannot be created forever, energy risk also implies that risk itself must be conserved. In effect risk can never be created nor destroyed for a closed system- it can only be changed from one form to another... Or as Cotton succinctly put it the other day: "risk can't be destroyed, it can only be mitigated".

It most certainly applies to things like CDO, ABS, etc... but it actually applies to everything else- and I mean everything.

Next posting- Part III, we will describe its relation to that favorite game theory dilemma of mine- The Tragedy of the Commons.


Dink said...

Intriguing and well-written. The squirrel is very thankful for the definitions.

Must ponder for a while...

Debra said...

The linguist's point of view on your undertaking, Thai...
I checked out the wikipedia link to the word "risk".
Interesting how wikipedia immediately pointed out that the word has more potently tangible NEGATIVE connotations than positive ones.
This ties in DIRECTLY to my pet peeves (see the casket scenes in the Merchant of Venice "he who chooses me must risk and hasard all he hath..." and take careful note of ALL of the possible responses given in the play.
Of course, this is SIGNIFICANT.
From a metatheoretical point of view, and I am a metatheorist...
Another thing :
what a jolly coincidence that you spotlighted the NOUN, Thai...
Substantives FIX our perceptions of what we try to define as "reality", a word I ALWAYS put between quotation marks.
Now, VERBS, that's a different story.

SS said...


Your theory is getting better, e.g. more comprehensible but still needs another chapter. I assume one is coming. It should not fail to treat whether there is free will, e.g. some type of choice or perhaps randomness, I'm not even sure randomness and choice are the same but anyway the topic of whether the system is pre-determined or subject to conscious or even unconscious choices by the actors is important.


Dink said...

So Thai, I was going to beg for an example to help set the idea in my head. Perceiving that I was going to look like a idiot by asking for an example, I was going to type one of my favorite phrases "Curiosity over Pride".

So I got to thinking, "Man, ego is a bitch-goddess". Which led to me thinking "Hey, maybe ego is one of those "information structures" that we assume always benefits us, but in many cases is actually hindering our cause and therefore is a risk".

Or I could be totally off-track in which case I beg for an example.

On your hiatus you should start a journey into sci-fi. Maybe start with Asimov's "Foundation". Asimov also wrote a book on Shakesspeare who he admired. I think you'll find good sci-fi is usually more sociological than physical science

Debra said...

Dink, I think I am probably one of few people who managed to wade all the way through the WHOLE Dune series.
I used to read Zelazny, Asimov, Bradbury, Ursula K Le Guin, and, of course... Lovecraft.
But living outside of the mother country has its drawbacks.
Like having to pay mucho bucks in postage for having things sent over here...
And I'm not too keen on reading the stuff in French, although I sometimes hold my nose and do so.

Thai said...

Thanks all for the kind words.

SS- don't worry (or do), we have a long way to go (and I mean a long way). There are definitely have many many more chapters. In fact it is kind of tough when you are dealing with a subject where everything is related to everything else. I will just have to chose an ending and I haven't done this yet.

@Deb- re: risk. "Yes", it does understandably have a negative connotation from most points of view but "it is what it is". I am not intending to get into the issues of whether people do or don't like the way the universe works as this too is again one of those "it is what it is" things.

Also, risk always has to be understood from ALL points of view and one of the main points of this entire series of posts is there are always an infinite number of points of view (most are not from humans).

... And don't worry, it may take a while but the verbs are coming. ;-)

Dink- Kudo! You are starting to catch on. Ego is most definitely an information structure.

... Your question reminds me that I will probably need to create a post or two on information science as information science and epistemology are so important to everything else in these posts.

Debra said...

Well Thai, I have just ambled into the saloon after a long stint on my French forum, the one that I have occasionally alluded to here.
I feel rather MINORITAIRE here, particularly when Cotton is not by my side, as I can tell that we are basically not at all on the same side of the fence.
For me, the real ENJEU, and there is no good English translation for this word, and I am too lazy to find an approximation of it, is WHETHER WE CAN SEE EYE TO EYE on something, Thai. Whether YOU can give ME something that I can receive, and whether I can give YOU something that YOU can receive. (All of the words in that last sentence have meaning.)
Is this, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus ?
But compared to my French forum, where some of the most asocial people you can imagine, the people who have been labeled crazy by our society, are hanging out TOGETHER, talking TOGETHER, and having fun, this blog of (probably) self proclaimed NORMALS finds us talking PAST each other most of the time. (I feel, at least) And Yoyo has already been banned in a gesture that I don't approve of, even if Yoyo's behavior still mystifies me.
The older I get, the LESS I get excited about IDEAS.
This is wisdom, in my book.
So, I will probably be going against you pretty heavily in your analyses, Thai, as your theories are excessively abstract in my book and this is NOT a good thing.

Debra said...

And Thai, re your comment on risk above.
You are accepting way too many things on FAITH, Thai.
And I don't think that you see this...

Thai said...

Deb, this will move from the theoretical to the practical, I promise. Right now I am trying to build a "foundation" so questions that otherwise keep arising can be answered more easily.

If you want to disagree with this, please do, I welcome it. If you want to ignore it, that is OK too. As I said, it will become more practical but it may take a little while.

Would you be willing to point to where you see me accepting things on faith? FWIW I strongly agree with this statement by the way.

If it is just an observation about me- "ouch".

But if it is an observation that science itself tends to engender "faith"- agreed.

Though I might say this with a slightly nuanced variant that science has a tendency to put food on the table in a way religion does not, and this "deliver the goods" aspect tends to create zealous supporters.

But remember THE MAJOR requirement of science is also the absolute recognition that ANY of its ideas can be wrong- even this very requirement ;-)

As for minds working different ways. I agree- the way your mind works is as foreign to me as the way mine may or may not be to you. And I do very much enjoy the idea of exploring these differences, but you may need to explain a little of what you are talking about as well as I often do not follow your points.

As for minority status, we can have all the Venus postings you want ;-)

Dink said...

@ Deb,
"this blog of (probably) self proclaimed NORMALS"

Improbable that such proclamations would ever be made ;)

There's a false dichotomy out there that has always been a pet peeve of mine. To say that someone is either 0% or 100% of "x" characteristic creates some strange ideas (and therefore resulting behaviors). Take the idea that someone is either an artist or a scientist. Why should someone limit themselves to one camp or the other? And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy all to often when a kid gets labeled when they're young.

On that note, sorry that I forgot you had read more Dune than I (I only read the first book). Its definitely in the sci-fi pantheon.

"And Yoyo has already been banned in a gesture that I don't approve of"

You were the only one he was civil to! I truly used all the negotiative skills in my arsenal, but in the end I was backed into a corner.

"your theories are excessively abstract"

Now this amuses me ;) You are both well-studied in your chosen witchcraft and sometimes don't realize that you're leaving the uninitiated in the dust. Thai is heading in the right direction with his foundation posts filled with definitions. You might want to follow this pattern as I get the impression sometimes that you don't realize that I don't know who Baudelaire is, etc. Please note that I am not anti-Baudelaire, I just truly have no idea who he/she/it is/was so I can't comment in response to those posts. I must be educated before I can argue with you ;)

Thai said...

I have no idea who Baudelaire is either.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits