Everyday entropy: unintended consequences


Entropy is not Murphy’s law or the law of unintended consequences.  Entropy is the tendency (near certainty) that every directed action has predictable set of undirected and unpreventable side effects.  More importantly, the more energy you put into the directed action, the greater the side effects will become, no matter how hard you focus on your intended result.  So, if you do the same stupid thing over and over, you’ll get the same stupid results no matter how hard you try to make it smart, and the unintended consequences will be so predictable that they will look like intended consequences to anyone with half a brain and a pinch of objectivity.

The prohibition of vice is a good example of a directed action with predictable, undirected consequences.  We know that the prohibition of vice gives organised crime a steady income stream and total control over the workforce in the prohibited industry.  This means that drug pushers and prostitutes work as slaves.  Presumably, this is not the intended consequence of vice prohibition, but it spontaneously happens so consistently that only a complete ignoramus or a politician would consider prohibition as a social good.  Similarly, prison sentences ensure the professionalisation of crime, first by requiring petty criminals to associate with experience criminals to survive in prison, and then by limiting their ability to work legitimate jobs once they are released.  These undirected outcomes are no less predictable than an engine getting hot when it does works.  This is statistical entropy set against the entropy of information.


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