The Wrong Dominates

The Idea

Contributed by @philhagspiel |  Edited and curated by @philhagspiel

Disorder increases over time.

It is more likely that things go wrong than right.

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World View

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Mental Models

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Taking Action

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The Second Law Of Thermodynamics (coming from physics) states that there is a natural tendency of any isolated system to degenerate into a more disordered state.

In simple terms, this means that things naturally tend towards decay and chaos (from a macro perspective). The reason is that from all possible configurations of elements in a system, the number of configurations that create a chaotic state is a lot larger than the number of configurations that create an ordered state. When things are left alone (i.e. no energy is used to make them orderly), they tend to become more chaotic.

While this has many implications in science, especially physics, it is a principle that helps us understand many fundamental realities and dynamics of everyday life.

For example, if you have a jigsaw puzzle, there is only one configuration in which you can solve it, regardless of how many pieces there are. But there are millions of wrong ways to arrange all pieces — even if there are only 10 pieces (try this out for yourself here.)

Likewise, while there are many different ways in which things in your life can go right (privately and professionally), there are almost infinitely more ways in which they can go wrong (we all know this).

The main implication of this fundamental feature of reality is that we have to make an effort to put things into place and to create structure and order — if left to chance, things will likely go wrong in some way.

“It is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited (...) and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way.”

— Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics (Book 2)

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

— Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina

Explore

➞ Without evoking physics, the Anna Karenina Principle explains why things often go wrong in the reality of our everyday life. Get a quick understanding of it with this Wikipedia article.

➞ Video deep dives into the fascinating but complex reality of entropy and its implications can be found here, here and here.

➞ Explore this for a deep dive into the Second Law of Thermodynamics from a physics perspective and how it relates to systems of chemistry and biology as well as to the nature of time.

Resources

If this idea resonates with you, some of these resources might add value to your life.

LinkNAMEFormatAuthor
A Short History Of Nearly Everything
Book
Bill Bryson
Scale
Book
Geoffrey West
Antifragility
Book
Nassim Taleb
Fooled By Randomness
Book
Nassim Taleb
Six Not-So-Easy Pieces
Book
Richard Feynman
Six Easy Pieces
Book
Richard Feynman
A Brief History Of Time
Book
Stephen Hawking
Lesswrong
Blog
Edge.org
Blog
Lex Fridman Podcast
Podcast
Lex Fridman
Startalk
Podcast
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Mindscape
Podcast
Sean Carroll
Science Weekly
Podcast
Hidden Brain
Podcast
Invisibilia
Podcast
Closer to Truth
YouTube Channel
Crash Course: Statistics
YouTube Channel
Zach Star
YouTube Channel
3Blue1Brown
YouTube Channel
Quanta Magazine
YouTube Channel
Physics Videos by Eugene Khutoryansky
YouTube Channel
Up and Atom
YouTube Channel
Verge Science
YouTube Channel
PBS Space Time
YouTube Channel
Arvin Ash
YouTube Channel
SciShow Space
YouTube Channel
Physics Girl
YouTube Channel
Crash Course
YouTube Channel
Minutephysics
YouTube Channel
Brilliant.org
Courses
Udemy
Courses
Khan Academy
Courses
Wondrium
Streaming Platform