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The Second Law and Rivalrous Digital Information (Or Maxwell's Demon in an Information Age)

By Ray Corrigan


Over thirty years ago Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, in an extraordinary book The Entropy Law and the Economic Process opened up a whole new branch of environmental economics, exploring the impact of a fundamental, though not widely known, law of nature, the second law of thermodynamics, on the economic process. The 2nd law of thermodynamics basically says that when energy gets transformed some of it always gets wasted. No matter how efficient we make any machine it will always waste energy to some degree.\ud \ud This has implications for the knowledge society. There is a widespread belief that once information is digitised it can be copied and distributed at zero marginal cost but digital information fundamentally depends on access to a source of energy. And it turns out that large data centres and servers use up a lot of energy. The big technology companies' energy bills can run into hundreds of millions of dollars. In a world facing an energy crisis that means digital information is a little more rivalrous than we originally thought..

Year: 2006
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Provided by: Open Research Online

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