Entropy & the Internet of Useful Things
The 'Internet of Things' is finally here. Every week a new 'connected device' appears with a slick video and a remarkably trivial application. Why are these devices so consistently failing to fit into our lives in meaningful ways? Where should we look for the inspiration to create the devices and systems that are truly important?
Remarkably, thermodynamics can help us. Specifically an understanding of the how the forces of order and disorder work in nature - and their analogues in our physical environments.
Thermodynamics says that everything tends to mess, and yet nature is able to consistently deliver order from this chaos - from crystals to self-replicating organisms. This is possible because of the intimacy with which nature binds information to matter.
Humans have historically been unable to do this. So we've had to tidy up. The Internet of Things is our first opportunity to challenge this, to make messy situations workable when tidying up is undesirable.