Big Sustainability

Unified Science


First published on January 27, 2019


A major goal of Big Sustainability is to develop a unified science. A unified science would will offer several major benefits.

  1. It would allow a wide range of phenomena to be studied and understood using the same principles.
  2. It will allow experts from different fields to  communicate more effectively with each other. This would make it easier to understand and analyze the big picture.
  3. It will better enable systematic thinking by capturing more parts of the system and understanding how they relate to each other, identifying interdependencies.
  4. as well as to develop comprehensive expressions for the state of the entire system, allowing of more effective global optimization.

The beginnings of a unified science are discussed here. There are several concepts that are interrelated and have broad applications.


An important characteristic of unified science are unifying principles and terminology. Such should be broad enough to encompass many phenomena and disciplines, but sufficiently precise to allow measurement. Terminology is a special challenge, since each field has its own particular terms. Ironically, many fields use the same terms as other fields, but with different and even incompatible meanings.

Another important characteristic is to be able to relate various terms and principles to each other. Likewise, it should allow describing the impact of various components of a system on each other.

Terminology and Principles

The following terms are proposed for a unified science. They are defined independently of their use in other fields. (These terms and their definitions are experimental, are still being developed and may change.

  • A systemis a collection of interrelated elements.
  • potential is the possibility to achieve. In economics, the consumption of potential is called revenue.
  • Achievement is progress towards some goal of an individual or system. In physics, achievement can be called work. In economics, achievement can be called production or profit.
  • A tendencyis something that increases the likelihood of an event. Tendency is a broader term than the physical concept of force. All forces are tendencies, not all tendencies are forces. A potential is ultimately dependent upon a tendency.
  • An engine represents a means to transform potential into achievement.
  • Efficiency is the proportion of consumption that becomes transformed into production (achievement).
  • Waste is the proportion of potential consumed that does not become transformed into achievement.
  • Equilibrium is the eventual end state of any isolated system, when all the potential has been achieved. The goal of an isolated system is achievement.
  • flow is the progression or transfer of quantities within or to the outside of a system.
  • Dynamic equilibrium is when consumption is balanced with the relevant flow.
  • A processis a set of steps during a transformation.
  • “Momentum” is the resistance of a process to change. Momentum in the physical sense is due to the mass and velocity of an object. The “momentum” of a social process might be due to the size of a population and their physical needs such as for food. “Momentum” is akin to inertia, where inertia is the weighting component of momentum.

These concepts can be used to express and analyze a broad range of situations. Let us attempt to interrelate some of the terms.

Imagine a potential. An engine transforms that potential into achievement. If the potential is nonrenewable, once all of the potential has been achieved, the system will have reached equilibrium.


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