Relating energy use to economic complexity
Bond, Stephen Richard
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Energy is a fundamental requirement for the development of any complex human system. One prevalent view suggests that societal development is a direct result of increased energy use, such that progress occurs mainly during times when a surplus of energy is available. Alternately, anthropologist Joseph Tainter posits that human systems increase in complexity as a means of solving social problems, which requires additional energy use. Tainter's theory, since it implies compulsory increases in resource use, has significant implications for long-term economic sustainability. This thesis is an attempt to provide support, or show a lack thereof, for Tainter's theory. To accomplish this, the concept of entropy, in the context of information theory, is used as an indicator of economic complexity. Economic input-output tables for 40 countries from the World Input Output Database are used to calculate these metrics, on an annual basis between 1995 and 2011. Several model boundaries, on both the global and country scales, are used to select the data for these calculations. The results are compared to energy consumption and production data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This thesis presents the results of this comparison in the context of quantifying Tainter's theory of the linkage between energy and complexity.