Friday, June 08, 2007

Riots and revolutions: drawing the similarities between fluid convection and ideas thought in members of evolving social systems

There are important similarities between fluid convection and the spread of ideas or other constructs in members of social systems and in particular their nonlinearities, the situations with the disproportionate cause and effect relationships. The common factor in both phenomena is the collective nature of their proliferation. Fluid convection is a property of groups of particles which en masse flow in the surrounding medium to dissipate the heat that caused their motion in the first place and in the proliferation of ideas as these are carried by groups of members in social systems, flow within the system and dissipate either as revolutions, riots, social unrest or simple ordered social change. It is nonlinear as the energy carried is not proportional to each of the parts, the particles that make up the fluid medium. The greater the heat energy carried, the more the flow is turbulent, as it tends to dissipate the energy to its external environment. Turbulence seen as chaotic flow, an intermediate step toward its course to a final presumably ordered state.

In fluid convection the determining factor of its motion, is the temperature difference between the higher and the lower energy level. Likewise in social systems, the determining factor in the proliferation of ideas thought and acts committed in an evolving social structure, is their members' status level difference between the higher and the lower thresholds. If the difference is small, the system remains still for both the cell fluid and the evolving social structure. Heat moves toward the lower threshold, in terms of energy content, by conduction without overcoming the natural tendency of the fluid to remain at rest. Inertia at work, the tendency of a body at rest, to remain at rest or the disposition of members in a social structure to remain inactive or inert. Furthermore, the system is stable. Any random motions that might occur will tend to die out, returning the system to its steady state.

If the difference is large, a new kind of behaviour develops. With regards to the fluid, as it becomes hot, it expands. As it expands, it becomes less dense. As it becomes less dense, it becomes lighter, enough to overcome its inertia and it pushes toward the lower energy level. In a similar manner it can be imagined that a large difference between the higher and the lower thresholds in status levels, instigates motion expressed by ideas thought and acts committed by the members of an evolving social structure that overcome their inertia, toward the realisation of goals connected to status level improvement.

If for fluid convection the defining parameters are the heat content and the inherent inertia, in similar fashion for evolving social structures the defining parameters should be the status improving potential and the social inertia, the resistance to change presented by members of social groups.

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