Thermodynamics for Our Society


This article is just food for thought. No guarantee whatsoever.

Can we apply these methods to social communities?

A community consists a lot of human beings. We could categorize human beings into different types based on the focus we have. Then we have transformed the community into a system whose property is determined by the types of human beings, the population of each type, and the interactions.

Why are we even doing this? Will this provide new insights to our understanding of communities? Is is a gimmick?

One of the application of thermodynamics is to calculate the phase transitions of a group of people.

We do see different behaviors for similar groups of people in our society. Before we really move on to a thermodynamical theory for our society, we have to answer the following questions clearly.

  1. Can we define phase transitions for a community? To answer this, we have to define some macroscopic observables that make sense.
  2. Are the abrupt changes in our society related to phase transitions? If so, can we make a phase diagram and explain it?
  3. Can we come up with a microscopic model like statistical mechanics for our society? If so, is it consistent with our thermodynamical theory?

There are indeed many research papers about the thermodynamics and statistical physics of social dynamics. However, we probably should be really skeptical when reading them.

These questions aside, we could have a look at public opinion as an demonstration of how we may integrate our ideas of thermodynamics and statistical physics into social science.

Suppose there exists bipolar opinions on individuals, \(\mathbf s_i\), and a external force from a public opinion manipulation system of the institute, \(\mathbf S\). Then this could be modeled using the Ising model. Then we could infer from the setup that we could have domains which are like communities, as well as phase transitions under certain conditions, etc. In fact, there are many papers about public opinion dynamics and Ising model.

There are other non-physics problems that could be associated with statistical physics and thermodynamics, such as the Schelling’s model in Phase Transitions.

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