It does not matter whether you think of the Internet as a series of tubes, a universal game library, or an always-on combination of People magazine, and Entertainment Tonight. No matter what conception you have of the Internet, the fact is that the Internet is nothing more or less than a demonstration of- and a catalyst for- the decline of our civilization. It is the ultimate source of Cultural Entropy.
If you are still reading this post after that last sentence, then you are a part of a special group. You are part of a group that does not make up a statistically significant portion of the population sampled. You have an attention span that can be measured without using a stopwatch.
Out of scientific curiosity we tested a broad sample of Internet users to see if they would read this post to the end, and if not, the reason they went back to playing Farmville or Bejeweled. The results are given in the following chart:
If you are one of the too-small-to-measure sample, we will go into more detail on the subject of cultural entropy. Thank you for sticking with us. You are the reason that we are here. That, and creating web posts beats real work any day. But we digress.
“Cultural Entropy” is a phrase that we wish we had coined, but that honor apparently goes to Richard Barrett, who created this as a label for “the amount of energy in an organization that is consumed in unproductive work.” While that definition can be helpful in a business environment (in fact, it pretty well sums up things around here), it is not the definition that we choose to use in describing the Internet.
Our understanding of cultural entropy is built on the definition of entropy we find in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, which states that entropy is “the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity.” In other words, all of the structure of the universe, complete with galaxies, stars, planets and small beings like us, will eventually wind down to the point where there is nothing but an undifferentiated soup of matter and energy, much like a banana split left out in the sun on a hot day.
To understand “cultural“, we again call on M-W and find that it is regarding “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” Combining the two concepts gives us our definition of Cultural Entropy as “the degradation of human knowledge, belief and behavior to an ultimate state of inert uniformity.”
What can we do to fight against the inevitable decline of our culture into a melted banana split where you can not tell the chocolate sauce from the artificially colored and flavored strawberry? Through the ages, our civilization has accumulated a wealth of learnings and wisdom that can help us. In just touching the highlights, we have
- systems of ethics, morality and theology of the major religions,
- fundamental principles of Democracy,
- examples of flowering artistic and creative works as in the Renaissance,
- explosion of knowledge following the discovery of the Scientific Method,
- productivity leaps of the Industrial Revolution, and
- creativity unleashed in the Information Age.
Yet even with all of this mental energy on one side of the struggle, our global culture has degraded to the point where Gangnam Style gets over a billion hits on YouTube. On the other hand, on the date this was written, a video on cultural entropy (the business kind) had achieved a total of 32 views which puts it right up there with our summer vacation highlights.
If you are fond of analogies, think of it this way. Our world is undergoing a similar transformation to that of a beautifully carved ice sculpture of the cathedral of Notre Dame with all of the structure carved out in intricate detail, that gradually melts into a puddle of lukewarm water. The next time you get an email from a friend with a link to a YouTube video or cute picture, think before you click. Do you really want to hasten the day when we will all be sitting together in that puddle?
Consistent with our corporate marketing strategy of “make it anyway you can”, you can find both a shirt with this theme and a small wall poster our online store.