The Economy : a Process of Self-organized Criticality

Seminar by François Roddier, April 21st, 2017

Crédit : Institut Inspire

Similarly to all living beings, human societies are dissipative structures. By deriving circles around a critical point the dissipative structure creates mechanical work. It alternates between abrupt phase transition and continuous phase transition.

The state of the economy, like the metabolism of all living beings, may be described using Gibbs’s thermodynamic potential. Demand is associated to a potential P, which represents a “social pressure”, whereas supply corresponds to an “economic temperature”, linked to currency: T. Economic cycles resemble Carnot cycles, in which those two parameters (P and T) oscillate in quadrature.

Capital is a memorized information which plays the role of entropy. When reaching the critical point its fluctuations become invariant under change of scale, which implies wealth inequalities and infinite variance.

An abrupt transition phase, which separates two successive economical phases closes the cycles. Capital can only be re-invested within lower temperature economies (in comparison to the economic temperature of the economy in which it was previously invested), which implies that two different currencies have to be used. Historical and prehistorical data, particularly on social inequalities, will be used to exemplify this process. The economic data published by Thomas Piketty are particularly useful to shed light on the history of the 20th century.

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Jean-Paul Demoule, On a retrouvé l’Histoire de France, Laffont (2012).
Eric H. Cline, 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed, Princeton (2014).
Peter Turchin and Sergey A. Nefedov, Secular cycles, Princeton (2009).
Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century, Verso (1994, 2010).
Thomas Piketty, Le capital au XXIème siècle, Seuil (2013).

François Rodier is an astrophysicist, mostly known for his work which has helped compensate the effects of atmospheric turbulences during astronomical observation. He created the astrophysics department of the Université de Nice and moved to the United States where he worked at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (Tucson, Arizona) and at the Institute for Astrophysics of Hawaii University, on the adaptive optic systems, which are now used at the Canada-France-Hawaii Observatory and at the European Souther Observatory (ESO), as well as on the Japanese telescope Subaru. Always curious, his interest has now shifted towards the thermodynamic aspects of evolution. He published a number of books, including “Thermodynamics of Evolution. An essay of thermo-bio-sociology”, éditions paroles, 2012