In any closed system, efficiency is always less than 1. In this world, a closed system with .8 efficiency is an excellent machine. ‘Machine’ being translated in the classical way: as a closed system which allows for one form of energy to be transformed into another, or which takes force and redirects it… hopefully in the service of work.
What does it mean to say something isn’t fully efficient? When you turn on your automobile, you might think that every bit of potential energy in the fuel is being realized to turn the wheels and propel you down the road. In fact, a sizable chunk of the energy in every litre of gasoline is going toward things like making your engine too hot to touch, and making the usual vehicle noises as the engine runs.
Not only is your engine responsible for turning your wheels, but these days it also sends some of its energy into an alternator, to create alternating current, which comes out of your outlets to power your phone. Your engine runs a compressor on hot days, that powers your air conditioning unit. Your engine provides the means to that bumping system you had Guido install, and to those neon lights that illuminate the undercarriage. At every step along the way of all these various energy-redirects, power is being lost.
As an aside, some of the most efficient machines are hydroelectric dams. In the mountainous parts of North America, it’s common for power generating facilities to pump water into upland reservoirs at low-use hours. As the water travels upward, its potential energy increases. At times of peak energy use (i.e. on hot summer days) the sluice gates are opened, and the water comes back down to push turbines and generate extra electricity. The dam is, in fact a big giant battery. I’ve seen reports that claim such machines are .9 efficiency. I’m not an engineer, but it’s a cool bit of trivia.
Brother Stroller has cited this video in the comments section. I finally got the chance to watch it. It addresses the correlation between cultural change with technological advancement.
I’m not any more a sociologist than I am a hydraulic engineer, but I find this sort of discussion interesting also.
What rarely gets discussed in these cause-and-effect discussions are the underlying mechanisms which caused things like family formation and monogamy to take off in the first place.
It seemed to Uncle Sig that our transition out of hunting and gathering, and into urban society, necessitated the transition out of a cuck/playa lifestyle and into a more and more monogamous one. (1) As human beings were forced to self-organize and civilize, their culture developed accordingly, with increasingly brutal punishments for adultery, that probably culminated in Ancient Rome, where Cato reports that the statutory and customary punishment for cheating on one’s spouse was death, with the aggrieved party having the right to execute sentence. (2)
One corollary of Freud’s thesis was, broadly, that monogamy began with people noticing that incest caused birth defects, which initially led to exogamy. Monogamy was a consequence, since it’s easier (particularly for ancient people, who lacked written records) to be sure that he wasn’t marrying his halfsister-cum-cousin-cum-auntie if the number of wives were limited. It’s interesting to note that the consequences of abandoning the wisdom of the preliterates is easily recognizable, even contemporarily. (3)
Since Rome, we have become ever more tolerant of all manner of deviant behavior, down to the present age, where nearly everything goes with few restrictions. Yet, the standard of living in our civilization has not declined. How is this possible? It seems to me that technology is the culprit.
The extended-family unit, composed of monogamous couples living in close proximity to parents and grandparents, was once the norm. It is not by accident that this was the most energy efficient machine that human beings had found to propagate their genes and their culture through time. At about the time of the industrial revolution, “rakes” became tolerated. In other words, at the same time that industrial machines began to do some of the work that the monogamous-human-family machine had done previously, a few men began to revert to the prehistoric norm of cuck/playa.
At first, of course, it was only the wealthiest men who could do such a thing. Karl Marx described bourgeois (ruling class) marriage as a “system of wives in common” (4) and called for its abolition. Today, with the help of algorithms-as-matchmakers, any married man can log on to snatch dot com and find himself a ho’ to cheat with.
As technology has provided humans with an easier and easier individual life, it has also constructed a simulacrum of liberation, in which every human being feels free to debase himself in any number of diseased ways, with whoever he finds expedient. The only people condemned in this new system are those with a healthy dose of residual morality. In their favor, they’re living the most efficient lives. When the tide turns, the petroleum runs out, the ice caps melt and the machines become cognizant… the survivors will largely be found among them.
- Freud, Sigmund. Totem and Taboo. Trans. AA Brill. Toronto: Dover, 2012. pp. 18-19
- Dixon, Suzanne. The Roman Family. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP. p. 242
- “Birth Defects Plague Children in FLDS towns” at Deseret News (link)
- Marx, Karl and Friedrich Engels. The Manifesto of The Communist Party. Ch. 2. (link)