Standard system units (SSU) are a lexicon that enables scientists to simplify their work so that it can be understood by scientists in different fields of study. My intention behind creating SSU is that they will help scientists navigate the current scientific paradigm shift by facilitating more effective cross-field communication. SSU will have the added benefit of introducing an element of falsifiability to the emerging field of social sciences which are still in the protoscientific stage of development.
SSU are remarkably simple, considering the complexity and variety of systems which they are capable of describing. Using 5 basic units and a handful of first principles, SSU can describe systems as simple as a single hydrogen atom all the way to something as complicated as a nation undergoing a period of intense political instability.
It is my belief that physics is the science upon which all the other scientific fields are based. Every field of study exists as an abstraction of a less complicated field of study, with a hierarchy of abstractions existing from physics through political science. Regardless of the level of abstraction, every field of study can be described using SSU.
There are three primary components of the current scientific paradigm shift, each of which can be more effectively implemented using SSU:
- Marxism and postmodernism need to be exposed as pseudoscience.
- The physical and social sciences need to unified.
- The social sciences need to be updated so that they can examine transhumanism and artificial intelligence.
I believe that this paradigm shift had already begun in earnest several years ago. That being said, scientific paradigm shifts have a historical record for being difficult to implement, so it remains to be seen the extent to which these components will be satisfied. Even more uncertain is whether SSU will demonstrate enough utility to gain mainstream acceptance within the scientific community. Even if SSU gain mainstream scientific acceptance, it is possible that they will have to be reworked extensively by peer review before they are in a form that is useful to the scientific community.
II. Learning SSU for the First Time
Admittedly, SSU may initially be intimidating to one not well-versed in science. But they are remarkably simple to understand once one obtains a basic understanding of their units and the principles upon which these units are governed. Do not be fooled though, despite their simplicity, SSU are capable of describing systems of immense complexity.
SSU are just one of many examples of enormously complex systems that can be created from relatively simple principles. For instance, one could learn the basics behind binary, the language that forms the basis of all modern computer programming, in several hours. Same could be said for music; the twelve tone atonal music that makes up all of western music could be learned in several hours. Despite the ease with which they can be initially learned, it can take a lifetime to truly master either music or computer programming. And so it is with SSU.
One thing that has puzzled me is that no one has noticed the significance of SSU. I know many have hinted at their existence independently of one another, but no one that I know of has put all the pieces together and realized their significance, versatility and the ease with which they allow one to describe a system.
SSU uses 5 basic units which are governed by principles that have already been established elsewhere within the scientific community. Note that for many practical applications one does not need an intimate understanding of these units to effectively use SSU (in many instances even a vague understanding may suffice).
An unfortunate reality of SSU is that they are initially intimidating. Undoubtedly many people will become frustrated upon reading this article and conclude that SSU is a waste of time. That being said, an unexpected side effect of reading about SSU is that you cannot stop thinking about them, even if it is only on a subconscious level. This will occur up until you have an “aha!” moment when it clicks and you understand SSU all at once. I oftentimes say that SSU sounds like total nonsense up until it makes sense. Once this happens, it is virtually impossible to even make it through daily life without using SSU and you will wonder how you ever got by without it.
III. The Laws of Thermodynamics
Before I delve into the 5 basic units used by SSU, I must provide some background on the scientific principles they are governed by (primarily the laws of thermodynamics). For one with a background in the physical sciences, this may seem like boring review and could possibly be skipped. But for those not in the know, or out of practice, this is a useful review/introduction.
The laws of thermodynamics are immensely useful tools, particularly in the field of engineering. Initially developed for the purpose of making more efficient heat engines, they have since gone on to form the basis of many sciences from engineering to astrophysics. There are no known examples of the laws being violated in any significant manner that can be harnessed by humans or even nature. Indeed, if one were to discover such a violation, it would be an immensely profitable discovery.
First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change forms. Energy comes in many forms (kinetic, thermal, chemical, potential, nuclear). Energy is a property of objects which can be transferred to other objects or converted into different forms.
Note that one may recall instances of matter being converted into energy via nuclear reactions. This may appear to be a violation of the first law, until one realizes that matter is merely a form of condensed energy.
Second Law of Thermodynamics: For a closed thermodynamic system, the sum of the entropies of the interacting thermodynamic systems increases.
This is one of the most contentious scientific principles. Many people have a difficult time grasping its significance (including me at one time). But it is difficult to unlearn the second law once you have learned it.
Entropy is simply a measure of the number of specific ways a thermodynamic system can be arranged. It is a physically quantifiable property in the units of J/K·kg, where J=joules (energy), K=degrees Kelvin (temperature) and kg=kilogram (mass of substance). However, measuring the true entropy of a system is a very complicated task, and is oftentimes unnecessary. In most instances, simply measuring the change in entropy is sufficient to gather the necessary information about a thermodynamic process.
The concept of entropy may seem abstract, but it does not need to be this way. An increased entropy simply means that a thermodynamic system can be arranged in more combinations. In other words, entropy is a measure of the amount of disorder in a system. It is established by the second law that systems can spontaneously move towards increased disorder.
For an example of what this means, think about a computer chip at the molecular level. At this level all of the atoms comprising said chip are ‘locked’ into place. Now this is not completely true, as atoms are always vibrating. This vibration is caused by what is known as thermal energy, i.e. heat. The higher the heat is, the greater the molecular vibrations.
An important implication of this is that by raising the temperature of a system, the system has more possible molecular arrangements. In other words, it contains more disorder. There is a direct correlation between temperature of a system and its entropy. The greater its temperature, the greater its entropy (disorder). In fact, this is a simplified version of the third law of thermodynamics.
There are ways to increase the entropy of a system other than raising the temperature. Remember that the atoms in the computer chip are locked into place. One could smash the computer chip into pieces using a sledge hammer, eventually grinding it into a fine powder. It would require quite a bit of effort to grind the chip down to the individual atomic level, so the atoms would still be locked into place by their respective neighbors, however not to the extent they were prior to smashing them with a hammer. In other words, they would have more possible configurations, i.e. more entropy. So smashing objects with a sledgehammer is a way to increase their entropy without increasing their temperature.
A closed system is a system from which there is no inward/outward flow of energy/entropy. Such systems do not truly exist in nature (except for some possible niche theoretical scenarios), but this is not to say the laws of thermodynamics are not without utility. Many systems have such a small exchange of energy/entropy with their surroundings that they can be considered closed systems. In other instances, the interaction with the surrounding environment is constant enough that it can be assumed a constant property of the system. For instance, the earth receives a constant input of energy via sunlight, thereby making it an open system. However, this input is of such a constant nature that it can be assumed to be a constant property of the earth.
IV. The 5 Basic Units of SSU: Energy, Extropy, Space, Time and Sentience
Now it is time to get to the meat of the subject: the 5 basic units of SSU. This was only a brief introduction to the laws of thermodynamics (in fact there are two other laws that are not even being discussed). But this analysis provides enough background to obtain a rudimentary understanding of SSU. So with no further ado, the 5 basic units of SSU are:
- Energy: In physics, energy is a property of objects which can be transferred to other objects or converted into different forms, but cannot be created or destroyed.
- Extropy: Extropy is the opposite of entropy; it represents the amount of order in a system. For the purpose of many discussions it is easier to think in terms of extropy. Extropy is measured in the same units as entropy (joules/kelvin), so that a positive change in entropy corresponds to a negative change in extropy.
- Space: Space represents the spatial orientation between energy/extropy.
- Time: Time represents the temporal orientation between energy/extropy.
- Sentience: Sentience is the least understood of the 5 base economic units. At its most basic level, a source of sentience is capable of experiencing sensation.
The first principles governing the relationship between energy and extropy are described by the laws of thermodynamics. The special theory of relativity is the generally accepted theory describing the relationship between space, time, energy and extropy.
Energy comes in many forms (kinetic, thermal, potential, chemical, etc.). It can also be condensed to form matter, and vice versa. In all of these instances, this change in type of energy represents a change in extropy. An extropy source, at its most basic level, is capable of interacting with other energy/extropy sources to create a change in extropy. A change in spatial/temporal orientation between extropy sources also constitutes a change in extropy.
As of now, the scientific community has not agreed on any first principles regarding sentience. I will propose the following first principle: It would appear that sentience requires an extropy source (a brain being the best example) to manifest in the physical world. The continued manifestation of this sentience requires the constant creation of entropy. For example, cutting off the blood supply to the brain results in death. A bloodless brain is not supplied with the necessary extropy sources (i.e. oxygen, glucose, etc.) to create the entropy necessary to maintain consciousness.
V. Examples of SSU
There is still more to explain regarding the basics of SSU, but for now it is best to provide some examples as they are the best way to lead one to the “aha!” moment necessary for understanding SSU:
Example 1: Using the energy from a cheeseburger to pound a nail into a board.
The situation depicted in the above figure may seem absurd; a cheeseburger is needed to pound a nail into a board. But break it down into SSU and it begins to make more sense how this can be accomplished. Pounding a nail in the board represents a change in extropy. Whether this constitutes the creation or destruction of extropy is irrelevant; what is important is that it is a change in extropy.
Remember, an extropy source, at its most basic level, interacts with other extropy sources to create a change in extropy. In this case, the nail being pounded into the board represents a change in extropy. In order for this change to occur, an extropy source is necessary to interact with the nail and board to facilitate this change.
The cheeseburger contains energy in the form of chemical energy which is primarily stored in proteins, fats and carbohydrates. A human serves as an extropy source that is capable of interacting with the cheeseburger to create a change in energy/extropy. Assume that prior to eating to the cheeseburger, a man is lethargic due to hunger, but upon eating the cheeseburger he becomes nourished and has energy again. This gives him the energy necessary to pick up the hammer and use it to pound the nail into the board.
Several important things are occurring that need to be addressed. As stated, the cheeseburger already contains energy, but it is not the correct type to pound the nail into the board. But upon eating it, the man is capable of converting that chemical energy into kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is the energy associated with moving objects, such as swinging a hammer.
Remember the first law of thermodynamics, which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. If this is true, it brings up an interesting question: what is the point of the hammer? The man is supplying a set amount of kinetic energy; using a hammer will not increase the amount of kinetic energy that is being applied to the nail. However, the hammer will facilitate a change in extropy.
The kinetic energy supplied by the man represents a source of both energy and extropy. The hammer is an extropy source which converts the energy into a different type of kinetic energy. In this case, the kinetic energy is changed to a type that is more conducive to pounding a nail into a board than using his bare hand.
An important lesson to take from this is that the energy needs to be of the correct type and amount. The kinetic energy applied by the man’s hand and the hammer’s head are equal, however the hammer converts the energy to a more appropriate form. Too much energy can be applied. For instance, if the man used a wrecking ball to pound in the nail it would certainly provide sufficient kinetic energy, however it would also provide so much that the board with which the nail is being pounded into is destroyed in the process. Alternatively, the man could use an atomic bomb to pound in the nail. This would apply far too much energy, but even if it were the correct amount it would still be the incorrect type of energy as atomic bombs release electromagnetic energy, not kinetic.
Note that extropy changes can occur in different manners. In the case of the man eating the cheeseburger, two extropy sources (i.e. the cheeseburger and the lethargic man) are combined to form a new extropy source, a nourished man who has the energy to pound a nail into a board. The above image shows the formula for this type of extropy change, with the “A” representing the cheeseburger, “B” the lethargic man, and “AB” the nourished man.
The above image shows the formula for the extropy change that occurs when the man pounds the nail into the board. “A” represents the man prior to swinging the hammer and “B” represents the nail prior to being fully pounded into the board. “A*” represents the man after he pounded the nail into the board (note that he will be slightly tired out after doing this) and “B*” represents the nail after it has been fully pounded into the board.
Note that these are just two of many possible formulas that can be used to described extropy changes. The important thing to remember is that all extropy changes abide by the same simple rule, regardless of the formula they follow: extropy sources, at their most basic level, interact with other extropy sources to create changes in extropy. I do not know how many potential extropy change formulas can be derived from naturally observed phenomena, perhaps it is an unlimited amount (remember what I said about SSU’s potential to describe incredibly complex systems from several basic principles?). The following images depict several more extropy change formulas that one may encounter while using SSU:
“Abstractions” are the final concept that can be derived from this example. Note that technically the man and the hammer are two separate extropy sources. But for the sake of simplicity, it may be easier to treat the man and the hammer as if they are a single extropy source, i.e. (the man + the hammer) are an extropy source which is capable of converting cheeseburgers into pounded nails.
Example 2: Using a factory to convert $1 million into 10,000 cat statues.
Imagine that I want to acquire 10,000 of these cat statues. Unfortunately, I do not possess the necessary extropy sources to produce one of these statues, let alone 10,000, so I contact a local factory and they agree to make 10,000 of these statues in exchange for $1 million. The factory is effectively operating as an extropy source that converts money into cat statues.
This factory is a great example of an abstraction. Factories are immensely complicated extropy sources, but for my purposes I do not need to understand anything about the factory aside from the fact that they are capable of converting my money into cat statues. This is a testament to the utility of abstractions; they are able to abstract simple extropy sources from a much more complicated system of extropy sources.
There are numerous examples of how people use abstractions such as these on a daily basis. For example, I have a vague understanding at best of the complex physiological interaction food has with my body. Despite this, I am able to abstract the necessary (and much simpler) information from this interaction: eating food stops me from starving to death.
A television set is another example of an abstraction. Television sets are immensely complicated extropy sources which I, again, have a vague understanding of at best. This does not prevent me abstracting a much simpler extropy source from the television set: by pressing a few buttons on the television set, I can cause it to play my favorite show.
Example 3: A hungry woman hiking in the woods.
This example demonstrates the significance of space and time. Imagine that a woman has been hiking in the forest all day and is getting hungry as a result. Food and her body are two extropy sources that will combine to form a new extropy source, i.e. her nourished body.
The woman has a cheeseburger which is capable of facilitating this change in extropy, but unfortunately it is at home. Thus, the cheeseburger and the hungry woman cannot combine to create the desired change in extropy, as they are occupying different spaces. Either the woman has to go home or the cheeseburger has to be moved to the forest. This illustrates the importance of space when using SSU.
The woman can walk home to get the cheeseburger. She would be using what remaining energy she has to create the desired change in extropy. In this case, changing her proximity from the forest to her house is the desired extropy change.
There is a problem with her walking home. She is so far in the forest that it will take her 5 hours to walk home. Further problematic is that she forgot to put the cheeseburger in the refrigerator. Instead, it is sitting on a table in the sun. By the time she makes it home, the cheeseburger will be getting moldy and will no longer be edible. So even though she is occupying the correct space, she will not be able to eat the cheeseburger as it was edible at a different time. This illustrates the importance of time when using SSU.
The woman can overcome this situation by running home instead of walking. Whether she walks or runs, the change in space is the same (she will still make it home either way), so it is tempting to say that the overall change in extropy is the same. This is not true when one factors in that time changes are a component of extropy. Getting home faster requires her to run. She will have to decide if she is capable of running fast enough to get home in time before the cheeseburger spoils. Running requires a different change in extropy than walking. If she cannot make it home in time, she will have to find something else to eat when she gets home. She probably should have planned her day better.
VI. Scientific Fields are a Hierarchy of Abstractions
Now that I have established the relationship between the laws of thermodynamics, SSU and the concept of abstractions, it is time to provide a real-world example for how these concepts can be tied together.
Science is fundamentally based on these principles, whether the members of the scientific community realize it or not. Recall that extropy sources, at their most basic level, interact with other extropy sources to create changes in extropy. Science provides a method for systematically observing, documenting and predicting the behavior of extropy sources. As I have already stated, physics is the base science upon which all other scientific fields are based. The extropy sources physics is dedicated to studying are subatomic particles, i.e. quarks, leptons and bosons.
If one were to spend enough time studying subatomic particles, they would notice that they have a tendency to aggregate into larger units which consistently behave in a predictable manner. If one wanted to study the behavior of these larger units, it would be too cumbersome to do so by tracking the behavior of all of the subatomic particles. At this point it would be easier to treat these larger units as extropy sources which are an abstraction of subatomic particles.
Scientists have already created an abstraction for these larger units, which they call “atomic particles,” i.e. protons, neutrons and electrons. These atomic particles, in turn, combine to form larger units known as “atoms.” The study of the behavior of atoms is a field separate from physics known as “chemistry.” Simply put, chemistry is a method of systematically observing, documenting and predicting the behavior of atoms, which are two levels of abstractions higher than the extropy sources covered by physics.
For the sake of brevity, I am omitting some nuances from this discussion, but one can create a hierarchy of abstractions from physics all the way up to political science. This hierarchy is as follows (with the extropy sources studied by each abstraction in parentheses): physics (subatomic and atomic particles), chemistry (atoms), organic chemistry (organic molecules), biochemistry (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and nucleic acids), biology (organisms), psychology (humans), sociology (groups of humans) and political science (nations).
Every field of science has its own idiosyncrasies that take years to master, which is why we encourage scientists to specialize in specific fields. The beautiful thing about this hierarchy of abstractions is that scientists do not have to master the idiosyncrasies of every field in order to abstract meaningful information from them. Once you realize that all fields are studying the behavior of extropy sources, you begin to notice that extropy sources behave in the same recurring patterns at every level of the hierarchy.
While this may seem like a groundbreaking observation, I think it is something people are hardwired to understand at an intuitive level. I notice that people (including non-scientists) oftentimes explain things to one another in terms of these recurring patterns of behavior, and that people usually become angry when you do not do this. For example, imagine a scientist explaining their research to a non-scientist in a way that is overly complicated. It is not that hard to imagine that the non-scientist would become frustrated and say “explain this in layman’s terms!” Whether people realize it or not, this is an informal way of telling someone to explain things in terms of the recurring patterns of behavior that extropy sources are known to engage in. My hope is that SSU will help facilitate these types of discussions by providing them with a formal framework instead of the intuitive and informal one that people currently use.
VII. Information and Intelligence are Specialized Forms of Extropy
I believe that information and intelligence are the two most significant contributions SSU will have to science, as they will help introduce a level of falsifiability to the social sciences, thus bridging the gap between the physical and social sciences.
Example 4: A robot is able to interpret information and act as a source of intelligence.
Information and intelligence can be explained using a simple thought experiment. Imagine that you have a robot which is capable of moving in numerous ways, such as walking, jumping, sitting and running. This robot is an extropy source, and when it moves in these ways it constitutes an extropy change. Imagine further that this robot has eyes that let it see pulses of light, and that these eyes are connected to a computer which is capable of controlling the robot’s movement. This example is already getting overly complicated, so treat the robot, eyes and computer as if they were a single extropy source.
The robot is able to receive commands in the form of pulses of light. One pulse causes the robot to walk, two to jump, three to sit and four to run. The pulses of light are an extropy source that are capable of interacting with the robot to produce a change in extropy. The remarkable thing about this is that these pulses of light are all very similar and yet are able to produce dramatically different extropy changes.
This phenomenon is of such significance that it is worth defining. These pulses of light are known as “information” as they are able to cause dramatically different extropy changes upon slight modification. The eyes in the robot pass this information along to the computer which acts as an “interface” between the information and the robot. The purpose of the interface is to transform information into a physically significant extropy change (i.e. walking, jumping, sitting, running).
Imagine further that in some cases the robot has the ability to respond to information by producing his own information, whether it be talking, gestures or even coded pulses of light. In this case the robot would be classified as an “intelligence” as it responds to an input of information by producing an output of information.
Of the natural sciences, biology (or perhaps biochemistry) is the level of abstraction that introduces and makes extensive use of information, interfaces and intelligences. Organisms rely upon numerous senses to translate information from the environment into meaningful extropy changes. For more complex organisms, the brain behaves as the interface between this information and extropy source.
More advanced organisms demonstrate intelligence by communicating with one another. During communication organisms transmit information to other organisms, to which they respond back by transmitting their own information. In the case of humans having a conversation, this process can repeat itself numerous times.
VIII. In Conclusion
SSU is incomplete and undoubtedly there are some bugs I have to work out with the framework I have provided. I am okay with this as I believe that in time the truth will present itself and SSU will be recognized as an indispensable tool in navigating the current scientific paradigm shift. The reason I am so confident in SSU is because to me they are an obvious solution to some of the most pressing issues facing the scientific community. I am so confident in the obvious utility of SSU that I suspect there are already members of the scientific community who have independently come to the same conclusions I have. If you are reading this right now, you may be among the first handful of people hearing about an idea that will one day be used by millions.