Every organisation, and every organism, is constantly forgetting how it was organised. The solution to the problem of Maxwell’s Demon was informational entropy, that the work of processing the difference between high and low energy atoms adds more informational entropy than the physical separation of atoms can reverse. Life seems to reverse entropy, increasing and then maintaining the order within its walls. The cost is informational entropy. Death is life’s escape from entropy. Life may increase order within its nominal borders over a period of time, but over that time it loses track of the design for the processes that keep the physical entropy down. Everything forgets how it was put together, and eventually succumbs to the loss of informational integrity. Skin forgets how to be elastic; nerves forget how to feel; brain cells forget how to remember; muscles forget how push; bones forget how to support. Even as the body is building and rebuilding itself, it’s DNA is degrading, and the longer an organism lives, the less it remembers how to hold itself together. This is true of organisations as well. It’s why big companies survive by eating small companies. It’s also the genius of short-lived creatures. Cancer, dementia and parasites can’t hurt you if your adult life lasts 24 hours.
“In the 1990s, in one of life’s tragic ironies, Shannon came down with Alzheimer’s disease, which could be described as the insidious loss of information in the brain. The communications channel to one’s memories–one’s past and one’s very personality–is progressively degraded until every effort at error correction is overwhelmed and no meaningful signal can pass through. The bandwidth falls to zero. The extraordinary pattern of information processing that was Claude Shannon finally succumbed to the depredations of thermodynamic entropy in February 2001. But some of the signal generated by Shannon lives on, expressed in the information technology in which our own lives are now immersed.”