Entropy and wealth

D. Koutsoyiannis, and G.-F. Sargentis, Entropy and wealth, Entropy, 23 (10), 1356, doi:10.3390/e23101356, 2021.



While entropy was introduced in the second half of the 19th century in the international vocabulary as a scientific term, in the 20th century it became common in colloquial use. Popular imagination has loaded “entropy” with almost every negative quality in the universe, in life and in society, with a dominant meaning of disorder and disorganization. Exploring the history of the term and many different approaches to it, we show that entropy has a universal stochastic definition, which is not disorder. Hence, we contend that entropy should be used as a mathematical (stochastic) concept as rigorously as possible, free of metaphoric meanings. The accompanying principle of maximum entropy, which lies behind the Second Law, gives explanatory and inferential power to the concept, and promotes entropy as the mother of creativity and evolution. As the social sciences are often contaminated by subjectivity and ideological influences, we try to explore whether maximum entropy, applied to the distribution of a wealth-related variable, namely annual income, can give an objective description. Using publicly available income data, we show that income distribution is consistent with the principle of maximum entropy. The increase in entropy is associated to increases in society’s wealth, yet a standardized form of entropy can be used to quantify inequality. Historically, technology has played a major role in the development of and increase in the entropy of income. Such findings are contrary to the theory of ecological economics and other theories that use the term entropy in a Malthusian perspective.

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Our works referenced by this work:

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11. D. Koutsoyiannis, Stochastics of Hydroclimatic Extremes - A Cool Look at Risk, Edition 2, ISBN: 978-618-85370-0-2, 346 pages, doi:10.57713/kallipos-1, Kallipos Open Academic Editions, Athens, 2022.

Tagged under: Course bibliography: Stochastic methods, Entropy