Constructive Law reveals how people come together to gain better access to scarce resources – ScienceDaily
A Duke University scientist argues that the natural evolution of social organizations into larger, more complex communities that exhibit distinct hierarchies can be predicted from the same law of physics that gives rise to tree branches and trees. river deltas.
In an article published on June 15 in the International Journal of Energy Research, Adrian Bejan describes how these seemingly disparate phenomena are actually connected by the constructive law of the evolution of nature. Written by Bejan in 1996, the law stipulates that for a system to survive, it must evolve over time to increase its access to the stream.
The human vascular system, for example, has evolved to provide blood flow through a network of a few large arteries and many small capillaries. Modern river systems, tree branches and road and highway systems show the same principle at work. Bejan used this information to predict the natural evolution and design of socio-economic systems, the vast array of object sizes found in the universe and the modern airplane, among others.
With his latest article, Bejan adds to the list the tendency of living organisms – especially humans – to organize themselves into increasingly large and complex societies in order to access and better use finite resources. It also introduces the concept that innovation is nothing more than an idea that frees up flows locally and increases the access of all of society to resources.
“Because of the economies of scale, it’s more efficient to move items in mass rather than individual units,” said Bejan, JA Jones professor of mechanical engineering at Duke. “And because resources are moved over an area on the Earth’s surface, long distribution lines are required to move large amounts of resources.”
In this article, Bejan uses the hot water commodity to illustrate his point. When human society was nothing more than a collection of huts, each building could have its own fire to heat water. However, it would be much more efficient to have a single fire located in the center of the community that could serve them all equally well.
This simple configuration would soon become ineffective. As communities grew, people living on the outskirts either had to walk farther to get hot water or build longer pipes, resulting in wasted energy and heat loss.
The solution is to replace this simple radial design using only direct connections with a tree-shaped or “dendritic” distribution architecture. Such a structure reduces heat loss as the water is transported and requires less energy to pump it.
Bejan uses a handful of simple designs featuring both architectures to show that the dendritic delivery solution is more efficient than the simpler setup. The result is an effort to show why humans naturally organize themselves into societies, and why so many of the resulting distribution systems become hierarchical as their size and complexity increase.
“Water systems usually have a large treatment plant with several pumping stations changing from larger to smaller pipes before finally reaching single-family homes,” Bejan explained. “Electricity is similar with a few power plants and many strategically placed transformer stations. Even information has taken this form with a few large data centers serving multiple stages of multi-tiered distribution before it reaches your smartphone. And the reason they all have a similar hierarchical architecture lies in the constructive law of evolution everywhere.
Bejan ends his article by asserting that the true nature of an innovation is simply a local design change that increases the efficiency of the distribution of a resource to the whole population. While the individual innovator can greatly benefit from the idea, the whole community also gets better access to this resource, which serves to reduce overall inequality.
“The effect of innovation on tackling inequalities is an argument for spreading education, know-how and the spirit of questioning and risk-taking,” Bejan said. “These are the essential tools needed to generate innovation in parts of the world that are not traditionally known for it.”
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