Fundamental Law of the Universe

The Fundamental Law of the Universe: If you are not actively trying to maximize your future presence, you will be displaced in the long run by something that is.

This is essentially the generalization of the concept of evolution to its broadest sense, and applies not just to the passing on of genes, but everything in existence, from rocks to trees to people in organizations, organizations themselves, the societies they live in, the ideas and culture of those societies, and so on. It is the first perspective through which you should view any system.

It is why we measure GDP and not Gross National Happiness: the country (or economic system) that grows the fastest will, one way or another, in the long run, displace those that grow slower. Growing faster may involve happy people or it may not, the fundamental law of the universe doesn't care, unfortunately – those systems that maximize GDP will displace those maximizing happiness. (Although, it does seem like human happiness is part of the winning strategy for the moment – we should be thankful to live in such a time!)

If you want to predict how actors in a certain system will behave over the long run, you just need to imagine what behaviors would maximize their future presence in that system. These will be the behaviors you are likely to observe if you look closely enough, although they may be hidden.

If you accept the law as true, it leads to some extreme conclusions, the first of which is that the most effective process at spreading itself will eventually consume the entire universe, if given enough time. This seems plausible, in the same way that life on earth has slowly been consuming more and more of earth (humans being the current acceleration of this trend).

Also, that the earth, at some point in the future, will be ruled by one country / entity. And that one organism of the earth life-process itself will come to dominant / control all others (humans, again, the likely culprit).

Whether you believe this law is true or not comes down to this: Are there equilibria, in a chaotic enough world like ours, where multiple entities can compete sustainably in the long run? It seems unlikely – stable competitive equilibria are very hard to set up – one side eventually wins, or “breaks the rules”.

The exceptions to this law seem to come when a winning meta-process enforces rules that enable a stable competitive equilibrium in a sub-process – like a nation state enforcing antitrust law in business. Without antitrust, we would also expect one corporation, the most effective at growing itself, to come to dominate all others over time. The same applies to cells inside an animal, cancer being an example where the meta-process fails to regulate the sub-process properly.

It is important to keep this law in mind when trying to improve society – a lot of well-intentioned efforts ignore this law and end up failing to make a lasting impact. To effect sustaining, long-term change you must respect, if not embrace, the fundamental law of the universe.