Entropy is over-rated. Long live Complexity! (Bonus: The Venter)

Does everything tend towards Entropy?

One of the first things we learn in chemistry is that everything tends towards entropy.

How can that be? Whereas Steven Johnson calls it the Long Zoom (in that you can zoom up and down levels of complexity) we constantly are seeing lower-order networks yielding a new level that itself begets new levels.

I lost my notes long ago, but I remember trying to grapple with the way sub-atomic particles glommed on to form atoms to form molecules to form auto-catalytic systems to form cells to form organisms to form societies to form <ad infinitum>. I tried to recapture that thought in an earlier essay, but there are a ton of other folks like Steven Johnson and the folks at the Santa Fé Institute who are also trying to understand the properties of complex systems.

But if all tends towards Entropy, how to we form these complex emergent systems in the first place? Do we have to Zoom all the way down to the fabric of the Universe to understand that single simple little principle that allowed a slight formation of a complex network that caused the domino effect that leads to today, a little principle that has been at War with Entropy since the formation of Everything?


A lot to think of. And I know I am way over simplifying somehow.

Bonus! The Unit of Measurement for Complexity

I don’t know if it exists (but I am sure Hugo can find it), but, in the course of writing a script for a graphic novel set in the far future (which I am set to overhaul under the ‘show-don’t-tell’ principle), I started thinking about how reductionist we are and that we have no way for describing complexity in a system (that I know of).

And, as you probably know my fascination (fanboi?) with Craig Venter, I thought he’d be an appropriate label for the measurement of Complexity – he’s re-written the books on the Genomic Age so many times and has ushers in the Age of Meta-Genomics.

Venters (Vn), a logarithmic scale of biological complexity. A virus is 3Vn, bacteria 3-10vn, fungi 10-30Vn, single cell 10-20Vn, complex 20-50Vn, planaria+ 50-100Vn, social arthropods 100-500Vn, reptiles, birds, fish, mammals, social networks…

My original thought was that the Venter would be a logarithmic scale of _biological_ complexity. But I suppose it could be a measure of complexity in general. Complexity can be measured by nested levels of networks, levels of connections between networks, and level of energy to maintain network (the inverse of Entropy, I suppose).

The symbol for Venters would be Vn, as V is widely used and taken for Voltage or Volume.

Any takers?

Heh, really being a geek.


  1. Now abstract this thinking for social networks. People, today at least, are worried about building the next big club that everyone visits, joins and uses with a level of addiction so high that the ad dollars are practically flying into their pockets.
    Why are people refusing to build the tools that give control to the nodes in the network, the people?

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