Entropology not Anthropology

Weekly I/O#79


Entropology, not anthropology, should be the word for the discipline that devotes itself to the study of this process of disintegration in its most highly evolved forms.

Book: Tristes Tropiques

I found these lines from the French anthropologist and ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss beautiful and intriguing.

“From the day when he first learned how to breathe and how to keep himself alive, through the discovery of fire and right up to the invention of the atomic and thermonuclear devices of the present day, Man has never -- save only when he reproduces himself -- done other than cheerfully dismantle million upon million of structures and reduce their elements to a state in which they can no longer be reintegrated.

No doubt he has built cities and brought the soil to fruition; but if we examine these activities closely we shall find that they also are inertia producing machines, whose scale and speed of action are infinitely greater than the amount of organization implied in them. As for the creations of the human mind, they are meaningful only in relation to that mind and will fall into nothingness as soon as it ceases to exist.

Taken as a whole, therefore, civilization can be described as a prodigiously complicated mechanism: tempting as it would be to regard it as our universe's best hope of survival, its true function is to produce what physicists call entropy: inertia, that is to say.

Every scrap of conversation, every line set up in type, establishes a communication between two interlocutors, levelling what had previously existed on two different planes and had had, for that reason, a greater degree of organization.

'Entropology', not anthropology, should be the word for the discipline that devotes itself to the study of this process of disintegration in its most highly evolved forms.”


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