Global urbanization: The dangerous delusion of economics

In recent debates about reforming capitalism, we observe a problematic tension between the social and the ecological. There are growing concerns about the social consequences of capitalism, which eerily remind me of Karl Polanyi’s political analysis of the ‘Great Transformation’: These social conundrums are increasingly driving the rise of populism worldwide. Many commentators explain them …

Money and the technosphere

Fifteen years ago, the late and renowned Swiss economist Hans Christoph Binswanger published a book that deeply influenced my own work in economics: The Growth Spiral: Money, Energy, and Imagination in the Dynamics of the Market Process In a nutshell, he argued that the monetary economy is inherently expansive, and that this drives the relentless …

In a Climate-neutral Solar Economy, Would the Technosphere Outcompete the Biosphere? A Provocation.

In his recent post, Axel Kleidon offered a grand view on the thermodynamics of the Earth system that includes the human domain. His fundamental point is that the human economy follows the same systemic dynamics as the Earth system, i.e. Lotka’s Maximum Power principle. That means, it manifests an inherent physical trend towards maximizing energy …

A Unified Evolutionary Approach to the Biosphere and the Technosphere?

In current debates about the technosphere, human agency is often taken as a given: Humans are conceived as creators of the technosphere. Anthropocentrism seems also implicit in the term ‘anthropocene’, as many critics point out. One reason for this human-centred approach is that the evolutionary framework for analysing the technosphere is not well developed. Some …

Solving the Puzzle of Emergent Order: The Case for Maximum Entropy Thinking

In Andrew Jarvis’ previous post I read that on the one hand we might just observe evolutions that are “most likely”, and on the other hand that the economy is a “low-probability” structure. How can a low-probability structure be most likely? This apparent contradiction applies for all living systems. The Maximum Entropy approach to evolution …

The Challenge: Agency in the Technosphere

For some scholars, the technosphere should be approached as a physical phenomenon in the first place. For example, geologists would measure it in terms of artefacts that accumulate in layers of sediments, such as plastics, or Earth system scientists would approach it as the artefacts that make up the infrastructure of human societies, buildings, roads, …