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In part 1 of this series we saw how the ‘state of a system’ can be seen as a ‘marble’ at a certain position in a ‘stability landscape’.

In this section, we look at how this can translate into health indicators.

“Forces” (from inside or outside the system) can push this marble from one valley into another valley. But the landscape itself can change as well. …

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In a world that becomes more complicated for people, it is more difficult to judge whether things are going ‘well’ or not. Economists and politicians have traditionally used the term “Gross National Product” (GNP or GDP in English) for this: after all, if an economy grows, we will all benefit from it.

In recent decades it has become clear that this economic growth, certainly since the industrial revolution, also entails quite some consequential damage, especially in the social field (for example, growing inequality) and for our living environment (pollution, impoverishment of raw materials, decrease in biodiversity, etc).

We can certainly measure a number of things pretty well (Gini coefficient for income inequality for example), but most of these indicators only measure very superficial aspects. And suppose that a few of these indicators are suddenly moving in a worrying direction, that may indicate something underlying has changed. I mean: we only measure symptom aspects of the underlying system. Just like an elevated body temperature is a symptom caused by systemic stress. …

In nature, not a single organism keeps growing indefinitely. And not a single individual significantly outgrows its peers. There is a logic behind this.

However, in our financial and socio-economic domains we see multiple examples of excessive growth, sometimes in the order of magnitudes, relative to their peers. This is by many considered unsustainable, and unfair.

Currently there is a lot of talk about GDP being non-inclusive and the need for other metrics (circular, regenerative, etc), and breaking up big tech/big banks etc. This is part of fixing the current crisis in fundamentals in the economic discipline.

But before we make any judgments on economic aspects, qualitative or even normative and moral, it is imperative that we understand why things grow and stop growing in nature, and if and how this differs from growth in some human/fin/soc/econ. domains. For us to make any real steps forwards in creating new economic paradigms, we need to take a step back first. …


Martijn Veening

Founder of EntropoMetrics, center of expertise (in formation) on nonlinear thermodynamics in fin/socio/econ/tech domains

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