The Three Gates of the Enemy

In several martial arts styles, there is an attempt to isolate ranges or locales of fighting. In the Chinese arts, like Ving Tsun, Jeet Kune Do, and Bajiquan, these are referred to as gates. Generally, the gates refer to the fist, the elbow and the shoulders, at least in these arts. The theory goes that to the body you must at least be able to reach the shoulder, to reach the shoulder you must at least be able to reach the elbow, and to reach the elbow you must at least be able to reach the fist. In other styles, these are referred to as ranges – see Muay Thai, MMA, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, etc. Most styles have some understanding of ranges, though they may disagree as to what they are, where they occur, when they occur, and how to tactically address these ranges.

A common stereotype is the wise master who through years of fighting has come to realize certain truths about life and him- or herself and thereby has reached some form of self-actualization. I don’t fully buy every belief my Senseis and Sifus and Coaches have espoused, but I do see some truth in television.

I think if you spend a lot of time doing anything, you tend to view the rest of the world through that lens and draw analogies to what you know well. This is what I believe happens to those who spend years practicing a martial art – they view the world through the lens of their marital art and draw analogies between real-world phenomenon and their art.

With this in mind, an interesting thought experiment is how do we generalize the phases/ranges of battle idea to the real world? I propose the following; the three gates of all worldly endeavors fall into information, exchange, and energy.

When I was taking differential equations, my professor held up an article from a big journal that was entitled “Is Thermodynamics the Theory of Everything?” or something similarly provocative. Thermodynamics, if you are not familiar, is classically the study of the relationship between heat and energy and useful work. Originally, this was more concerned with the efficiency of steam engines and operating temperatures for Sterling engines and things like that. But it has blossomed into a deep area of study of energy itself, which as I posited, might be such a deep topic because it is one of the three parameters that truly governs our existing societal structure.

In order for anything to work it needs power. Energy extends into our civilization in the form of fossil fuels (duh), agriculture (chemically stored solar energy), and almost every form of manufacturing – the societal extension of useful work as it’s literally what drives energy use. But power is seen more immediately and intermediately in most of the technology you see around you. Even something that isn’t battery operated, like a hammer, was crafted with some energy use. Energy makes things happen.

Information is related to energy because the same mathematical structure that defines the diffusion of energy (entropy) exists for information. Information, in a physics sense, is a physical quantity. Of course, this physical quantity does have similar characteristics to information as we use it in a colloquial sense. In our everyday world, information is needed in megastructures like the internet, supply chains (who, what, when, where, why and how do we get stuff to be useful), and the media while on a smaller scale defining most fields in cognitive sciences (psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, etc.) Information sciences are relatively new because they really haven’t been as obvious and explicitly discussed until these institutions mentioned above (primarily the internet, let’s be real) have really come into their own.

And then exchange. Money is probably the most successful form, but what I really mean is that there needs to be an exchange mechanism. Recall, the four basic functions of money are a medium of exchange, a unit of account, a store of value, and standard of deferred payment.

Energy is quantized, so that can be used as a unit of account (and it is in calculations),

Information is defined in part by its storage, so that accounts for the store of value bit.

Standard of deferred payment bit really means “Can I pay you back in this?” and from a practical point of view if that thing which you are trying to settle a debt with me is valuable and can retain its value, like either energy or information, it counts as a standard of deferred payment.

So what differentiates money from information or energy? It’s liquidity. The fact that it is a medium of exchange. This is what makes exchange so powerful, the fact that it can interface with anything. If Maxwell’s Demon existed, it would be the perfect currency.

And I realize that all of this is very broad and abstract, but if you spend some time looking at physical systems through this lens you’ll see that it has some merit. After all, that’s why some scientists believed that we’ve really had the theory of everything this entire time.

And bear in mind that most of our physical systems are prerequisites for social systems like government and healthcare and education. We already know this to some extent – most wars are resource wars, countries like Great Britain, China, Russia and the US rose to prominence only after exploitation of highly energy dense fossil fuels, mis-/disinformation techniques leverage nations to win without striking. This is broad, but the thought is simple. Start with the most fundamental, basic physics parameters we know right now and observe the systems around them.

So what do I mean by the three gates of the enemy? I think our deepest enemy is unsustainability. I would like for the human race and life itself to continue to exist, but that cannot be done with self-inflicted existential threats. The three physics parameters are caught in a reinforcing feedback loop that seem to be driving humanity in an unsustainable way. Information is distorted into propaganda and unreliable media to obscure existential issues, financial exchange has been formed into a corrupt schema of economics that centralizes liquidity making it susceptible to failure, and energy without limit (violation of the first law of thermodynamics) and without consequence or forethought (violation of the second law) will inevitably lead to collapse.

This is the enemy.

The enemy has reveal himself, and it is us.

How do we attack the enemy? I have a few ideas, but none that I would say are silver bullet ideas. It would require a massive shift in thinking, something akin to the willpower mustered in World War II. I’m always willing to admit I am wrong and always open to other ideas, mostly because I think this is too important an issue to not take seriously. I don’t care who fixes the problem, as long as it gets fixed. But here are some ideas that make get the juices flowing:

  1. Information
    1. A New Education model – I have speculated on some ideas, like commission-based teaching as well as a change of subjects and method of instructions but in the end education is a doomed model in my opinion. I will possibly go over it in the future, but suffice it to say that formal education is a recent phenomenon and maybe not the most optimized solution.
    2. Rashomon/Information markets – I’ve talked about this before. Really, it’s just running the link between money and information in reverse. Instead of using information to make an investment, use investments to determine the quality of information, hopefully in real-time.
  2. Exchange
    1. Social Economy – Again, an old hat for some readers (the two of you that are out there). Create an institutional system to allow other means of human incentive beyond greed to establish themselves in the marketplace.
    2. Upend the petro-dollar – Use new disruptive technologies to replace the unsustainable paradigm at the heart of the world economy, the petrodollar, with one based of a more sustainable one, an eco-dollar.
  3. Energy
    1. Vertical Farming – tighten the supply chain to create a more efficient, more dynamic agricultural supply chain with a new, hyper productive technology.
    2. Ecosystem as infrastructure – view our ecosystems as infrastructure and invest as aggressively to maintain the integrity of our ecosystems as we purport to do with our existing infrastructure. Terra-form our surroundings to be supportive not just us, but all life and increase biodiversity.

These are just ideas, most with several smaller steps that are needed to fully come to fruition. But I do believe that these ideas, in some form or shape, need to be implemented in order to shift us off this path of unsustainability. I hope….

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