“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”— W. Edwards Deming
“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”— Carl Sagan
“It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.”— Arthur C. Clarke
“The human race’s prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenceless against tigers than they are today when we have become defenceless against ourselves.”— Arnold J. Toynbee
“There are two problems for our species’ survival – nuclear war and environmental catastrophe – and we’re hurtling towards them. Knowingly.”— Noam Chomsky
“As Darwin himself was at pains to point out, natural selection is all about differential survival within species, not between them.”— Richard Dawkins
“A declining institution often experiences survival of the unfittest.”— John McCarthy
“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”— Bruce Lee
“If the mortality rate seems high we must realize that Nature is a ruthless teacher. There are no second chances in Mother Nature’s Survival Course.”— William S. Burroughs
“Evolution favors the survival of the wisest.”— Jonas Salk
Charles Darwin wrote about “survival of the fittest”, but within a specific context. He later emphasized “most adaptable”. Jonas Salk added “survival of the wisest”. Survival is of concern to most of us, especially today, but what is the real formula: fittest, most adaptable, or wisest? These are all quite different. Choosing the right one is truly important, but do you know why?
The first question that comes to mind here is: why does it matter? If this is a species issue, and not an individual issue, then probably nothing I can do that will make the slightest bit of difference to our human species survival chances. But suppose it does apply to individuals. Is there any way to figure out whether it does apply, and in what manner?
Turns out that it does apply to individuals, but even more so to groups of individuals such as businesses and organizations. Particularly smaller ones. For these, this is truly a survival issue at several levels.
First task is to unpack Darwin’s statements on “fittest”
Darwin began by defining “fitness” as the degree of match to the demands of a local environment and evidenced by reproductive success. From Wikipedia:
“’Survival of the fittest’ is a phrase that originated from Darwinian evolutionary theory as a way of describing the mechanism of natural selection. The biological concept of fitness is defined as reproductive success. In Darwinian terms, the phrase is best understood as ‘Survival of the form that will leave the most copies of itself in successive generations.’”
“Herbert Spencer first used the phrase, after reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, in his Principles of Biology (1864), in which he drew parallels between his own economic theories and Darwin’s biological ones: ‘This survival of the fittest, which I have here sought to express in mechanical terms, is that which Mr. Darwin has called ‘natural selection’, or the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.’”
“Darwin responded positively to Alfred Russel Wallace’s suggestion of using Spencer’s new phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ as an alternative to ‘natural selection’, and adopted the phrase in The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication published in 1868. In On the Origin of Species, he introduced the phrase in the fifth edition published in 1869, intending it to mean ‘better designed for an immediate, local environment.”
“This preservation of favorable variations and the destruction of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection, or the Survival of the Fittest. Variations neither useful nor injurious would not be affected by natural selection and would be left a fluctuating element.
— Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: Or, The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1869)”
By definition, if something “reproduces successfully”, it exhibits fitness. Not helpful for a something that exists below the species level. So, onward …
Most adaptable or quickest to adapt
Here is where Darwin seems to have come out, and where I think that he is absolutely on target. In his own words:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change, that lives within the means available and works co-operatively against common threats.”
— Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species (1859)
“It is not the biggest, the brightest or the best that will survive, but those who adapt the quickest.”
— Charles Darwin
“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise [emphasis added] most effectively have prevailed.”
— Charles Darwin
Most adaptable is what helps most to assure survival, along with being quick enough in the process to get ahead of changes in the environment. Personal and group environments change continuously and unpredictably. Success requires being able to change appropriately and apace.
Not the “wisest” or “most intelligent” either
With apologies to Jonas Salk MD who was certainly both extremely wise and intelligent, these are not survival capabilities in my experience. They are more likely to be a hindrance. Why?
Overconfidence mostly. They know so much and are so sure about their knowledge that adapting – changing – is often extremely difficult. This is a kind of rigidity that is virtually the opposite of adaptable.
Adaptable folk are far more questioning and open. They know that they mostly don’t know, and so are much more willing to adapt when necessary. And quickly. These are Darwin’s main survivors.
Being intelligent does not imply being wise in general. And being wise does not require intelligence. I have known quite a few very intelligent people, even brilliant, who fell far short of being wise in the sense of knowing and understanding. At least in my view. Similarly, I have known a good number of what I would call “simple” folk who would not impress anyone with their intellect, but who regularly demonstrated real wisdom and “smarts”.
Most-adaptable wins in survival, but what is “adaptable” in practice?
For nearly all individuals, groups, businesses, and organizations, their environment changes constantly and often unpredictably. In the extreme, we face unforeseen black swan events and situations that are unpredictable in nature, magnitude, and timing. COVID was a very recent example of such a critter, one that affected most of the people on our small planet.
Adapting successfully to “change”, which is said to be the only constant (by ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus), is often a major challenge. One common problem is that a big change can occur very quickly – before we know much of anything about it. Again, our COVID experience was a recent and painful example.
This suggests that we learn about our adaptability only in retrospect, after some big change has occurred and we have survived. Such big changes then serve as tests, in which failure is indicated by our non-survival. Not very helpful, yes?
What we want to do is to find ways to improve our adaptability pre-tests, so that our survival likelihood can grow – steadily. Just how might one go about this in practice?
It does not seem practical to set about improving our adaptability if we don’t know what we might be called upon to adapt to. We can’t just start acting without knowing what we are going to face.
This is most inconvenient. We can’t set about improving our ability so as to adapt to everything and anything that might possibly happen. We need some way to focus our efforts productively.
Constant change in our world provides the necessary focus
Things are happening daily that stress us and our groups, businesses and organizations. It is called “life”. How well we respond to these ongoing life stresses can provide us with a rough metric of our “adaptability” in practice.
If our responses are not effective enough, we will fail, or at best become something of the walking dead. Such outcomes do not provide any clear way to improve before we fail or join the walking dead. That is, we have no way to learn and then act upon what we learn, so as to respond in some manner “more effectively”.
I wonder if a useful analogy here might be as a player in professional sports. The series of games in a season presents a series of performance challenges, as does each game. Players have no idea ahead of time what the exact nature of these challenges might be, except as based on their experience in past games and what their coaches (experts) can provide as guidance.
Our game challenges in reality are simply what we face each day. These are helpfully provided by the world doing its thing, as it always has. Our job as a player then is to learn from each play and to devise better ways of responding. Each play is a learning experience – but only if we actively use it as such.
We go through life by reacting and responding as best we can. We learn in some cases, but there is often no well-designed method for such learning, or for the development and testing of hopefully better responses. We often do not close the loop on this learning process.
A learning process focused on survival challenges
What we need then is a learning process – not a standard planning process – that is focused specifically on identified survival challenges. As you probably know, learning processes are very different from planning processes. The process in the former is to: hypothesize, formulate small-step actions, execute, and assess to learn. And repeat as necessary (nearly always). Planning processes typically omit or minimize post-execution learning.
Develop hypothesis. This step requires a careful examination of the target challenge, an effort to understand what is actually taking place and where it might be headed, and to summarize these into a working hypothesis. The hypothesis would cover the challenge and its likely path going forward. It would address specifically the manner in which the group involved may be affected survival-wise.
Plan small-step actions. This step develops some small action steps that seem to be reasonable in dealing with the challenge as hypothesized. Steps would be designed so as both to learn as much as possible about reality vs. the hypothesis, and to get an early sense for the effectiveness of actions involved. Learning as well as addressing the underlying challenge are goals here.
Execute actions stepwise. This is stepwise execution of each action step in the learning-addressing-adapting process. At each step, feedback on results and anything else that may fall out from the actions would be evaluated prior to executing the next action step. In practice, this may often involve revisiting the hypothesis – your understanding of the survival challenge – and making any necessary adjustments.
Assess step results. This step in the overall process loop would involve a determination of what happened vs. what was expected. It would also involve a decision on whether to repeat the process, and if so, how to improve the understanding of what reality is up to and how reality may be responding to what has been done.
Learn and adjust. Reality may be making changes unpredictably – in nature, magnitude, and timing – that potentially makes this an ongoing learning process. Your actions as the process unfolds will in effect be your adaptation process.
This suggested learning process has five steps. The number five may be significant since it is often associated with freedom, curiosity, and change. I read somewhere that five is a powerful number symbolizing progress, adaptability, and spiritual awakening. If at all true, very appropriate for purposes here.
In any case, it might be worth looking at some real-world examples to make this learning process concept more concrete and potentially useful. Keep in mind that we want to focus on likely, real, survival challenges.
Real world entity survival challenges – today
The “entity” as used here is a group of some kind that might include businesses and organizations as well as more informal virtual communities. It would not extend to nations or other large public institutions and structures.
What are our real survival challenges today, you might ask? Lots of turmoil everywhere, as usual, but nothing that obviously qualifies as a survival-level threat to most entities. Business as usual, otherwise known as life.
Even COVID-19 was survived by most everyone, if you don’t count a few million small businesses and organizations. It seems that they didn’t handle very well the lockdowns, supply chain disruptions, and other such inconveniences. Entities that count have largely survived. But what if your “entity” in practice does not count, as defined by the-powers-that-be-and-wannabe?
We are, despite media reports and the opinions of any number of experts and officials, experiencing quite a number of survival challenges today. By “we” is meant those of us who are not among the-powers-that-be-and-wannabe, the “elites”. In reality, this “we” is a majority in most countries.
This means that “we” pretty much have to look out for ourselves. “We” being largely beneath the notice of the elites who increasingly run things in the world. In truth, this is perhaps how it has always been, and will always be. Big rules. Just ask the dinosaurs.
Okay then, back to figuring out how us non-elite, we-folks and our beneath-notice entities might focus sharply and effectively on Darwin’s adaptability guidance. This, with apologies for the unavoidable digression and mutterings, involves a special kind of learning process carried out within a specific survival context.
Note that the alternative to a learning process is learning-the-hard-way, which is taught by events and experience. Except that failure to learn in a survival context is often non-survival of the entity. See William S. Burroughs quote above.
FYI: I am an engineer and systems guy. I have dealt with facts, often unpleasant and inconvenient, all my professional life. Guys like me can’t ignore reality. Reality is where we live. The process outlined below is how I think.
How might this work in practice? Can we use today’s real survival contexts? When should we start? Answers: See examples below; yes; yesterday.
Example 1. Lockdowns based on climate change and pandemic 2.0
My take on the COVID lockdowns is that they were a (highly successful) dry run for a second global lockdown. What comes next is the real thing: Global lockdown as a response to climate change and a pandemic 2.0. Whether either of these is real is of no consequence. What is real is the coming lockdown and its consequences.
Can your entity – group, business, or organization – survive such a lockdown? This is truly a survival context, whether or not based on anything real. The lockdown itself will be the reality.
Now we can address a real survival context. What might such a lockdown for whatever reasons do to your entity?
Hypothesis. Lockdown coming within months. No escape. Workers and others localized, with interactions largely confined to Zoom and kin. Shopping shifted to delivery only where practical. Probably not going away anytime soon. Minimal in-person interactions and efforts. Much else is restricted.
Small-step actions. Many entities have already had a taste of this situation and have developed various ways to adapt. The COVID lockdowns, however, have largely gone away, so has business returned to “normal”? Not a chance. Normal is gone forever. So, whatever it is that your entity does has to be recast in the context of a long-term social lockdown. Some may call this martial law, if you can imagine such a thing. Can your entity survive under these kinds of lockdown restrictions? Now is the time to formulate and test – in small steps that involve minimal resources and that can be unwound without much disruptions.
Execute small-step actions. This is where it gets truly real. Which parts of your entity’s activities would be stopped completely, and which might continue, if any? You might want to develop a list of these and their vulnerabilities. You also need to develop or build up essential activities that seem most likely to continue. And ways to move more activities to the web. Can you test any of your activities to see what parts can be adjusted to ways that adapt to a locked-down world? This will be a good time to try out anything that seems essential enough to be “allowed” to continue despite lockdowns.
Assess step results. This takes place at each action step, not at the end. We tried something at modest levels: did it work? If yes, should we move to the next action step? If not, can we adjust our action plans to accommodate what caused our initial plan failure? If not, what can we do as an alternative? The idea is to try out – in actual practice and on a small scale – changes that you might encounter in an extended lockdown.
Learn and adjust. This is where you begin to separate instinctive reactions from creative adaptations. Is your entity largely face-to-face or location based? What might it take to shift your activities to online interactions and minimal product transfers? How does your value offering stand up in such an environment? If you don’t know, your survival chances may be very low.
These ideas are of course simple illustrations at a very general level of what you might want to try out as part of your own lockdown learning process.
Don’t believe that lockdowns 2.0 are on the way? From Our Greater Destiny Blog, we have the real lockdown 2.0 story: “WEF’s Nicole Schwab admits covid tyranny was a precursor to coming climate lockdowns”:
“Nicole Schwab, daughter of WEF founder, Klaus Schwab: ‘Covid’ has demonstrated that rapid and extreme changes to the fabric of society can be implemented when people perceive an immediate sense of emergency—a mechanism that can be applied to the ‘climate crisis’ in order to accelerate the WEF’s ‘Great Reset’ agenda. COVID-19 can be seen as an opportunity to accelerate the Green Transition we desperately need.”
Example 2. Financial collapse involving the dollar and CBDCs
I read a great deal these days about the coming collapse of the dollar for all kinds of reasons. Gold-mongers are having a field day, but they are building false hopes, as the prior post argued. A couple of examples from the hundreds out there:
King World News lays out the coming global financial collapse scenario, albeit with the usual gold pitch: “Greyerz – THIS IS IT! The Global Financial System Has Started To Collapse”:
“Today the man who has become legendary for his predictions on QE and historic moves in currencies and metals warned King World News that people better have an escape plan because the global financial system has started to collapse.”
“Egon von Greyerz, Founder and Managing Parter of Matterhorn Asset Management: Anyone who doesn’t see what is happening will soon lose a major part of their assets either through bank failure, currency debasement or the collapse of all bubble assets like stocks, property and bonds by 75-100%.”
“The solidity of the banking system is based on confidence. With the fractional banking system, highly leveraged banks only have a fraction of the money available if all depositors ask for their money back. So when confidence evaporates, so do the balance sheets of the banks and depositors realize that the whole system is just a black hole. And this is exactly what is about to happen.”
Belle Carter via Natural News provides a decent picture of what is happening on the CBDC front: “David DuByne: US gov’t accelerated collapse of financial institutions to introduce CBDCs”:
“’Adapt 2030’ host David DuByne has denounced the U.S. government for pushing central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) that it previously deemed ‘unthinkable.’ During the April 14 edition of his program on Brighteon.TV, he slammed Washington for accelerating the collapse of financial institutions to introduce CBDCs.
“’This is a track-and-trace digital ID that puts a social credit score in play. Now, why would they do that? Well, they need to track you and your resources and the destruction that’s going to accompany these natural as well as man-made economic collapses. They’re going to want to know who’s alive at the end of it,’ DuByne said.”
“In particular, he zoomed in on the Improving Digital Identity Act that the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed in an 11-1 vote. If it becomes law, an interagency task force to support ‘reliable, interoperable digital identity verification in the public and private sectors’ may be established.”
“’I cannot believe with a straight face that those in our elected bodies had voted to track every American via the passing of the digital identity bill’, DuByne commented. ‘Now it is going to head off to the Senate, it’s going to go through the floor.’”
“The ‘Adapt 2030’ host also mentioned that the Digital Currency Monetary Authority (DCMA) unveiled the concept of the universal monetary unit (UMU). The UMU is essentially an international version of a CBDC that can be used for transactions in any nation recognizing it.”
As with the lockdown survival context example above, it doesn’t really matter in general what is going on in the grand scheme of things. Assuming that anyone knows. What matters is the consequent survival context for our particular entities.
Hypothesis. World debt, and especially U.S. debt, is astronomical and unsustainable. Borrowing will become virtually impossible. This means being able to operate almost entirely on operating cash flow. Investments may become worthless. CBDCs will replace paper money and cryptos. Many suppliers of almost everything will crash and burn. Agility in responding will be critical for survival.
Small-step actions. I see this as requiring an obsessive focus on debt reduction and on operating within a turbulent cash flow environment. Second priority is on having multiple sources for all critical production and operating supplies. Third priority would be on computing and communications systems that are made highly redundant.
Execute small-step actions. The three focal points suggested above can likely be tackled in small ways almost immediately. Your entity should have been addressing these points since 2020 as a major ongoing COVID response. The only change needed here might be to break anything major into small steps so as to remain agile and adaptable.
Assess step results. Again, agility and adaptability require that this be carried out frequently so as to allow both for learning and for quick course corrections. Small steps are vital here.
Learn and adjust. This step should be built into your management and operating processes as quickly as possible. Minimize learning the hard way wherever possible.
Last but not least of my survival context examples is what seems to be the major driver behind much or even all of what is happening out there today.
Example 3. One world government
Self-appointed great-folks have been empire-building at least forever. It’s just what they do. Empires in past included everyone who counts and who needed to be counted, typically far less than the total population involved. Today, with modern communications and weapons, a truly global empire has become feasible. Even better, it is not just underway, but is already largely completed.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is leading the globalist charge. The rapidly shrinking “West” led by the U.S., UK, EU, and kin is seeking to retain its current position as global hegemon. Opposing these is an emerging Eurasian and Global South block led in a (so far) multipolar manner by Russia and China. The emerging mess is eerily reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 great powers triad of Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia.
In any case, the virtual certainty in all of this is that almost all countries are going soon to be under one of the current big players globally. The WEF seems to be in front at the moment, but the BRICS+ (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, and assorted others) countries are moving strongly into contention. What might this mean for our hypothetical entity located in the U.S.?
Hypothesis. Our local world under a single ruling government, with the subjection and absorption of nation states, seems most likely. Call it the “West” even if it isn’t such by geography. The important feature is a single dominator, like Rome in its good old days. Like Rome, our local empire is likely to begin disintegration almost immediately as the gaggle of ruthless, self-obsessed, mostly incompetent leaders do their inevitable self-destruct thing. Chaos indefinitely seems likely. Meanwhile, we’ll have almost complete surveillance via digital IDs, and almost complete control via CBDCs (our new money). Pieces falling nicely into place, very quickly.
Small-step actions. The entity’s world will become rigidly constrained and inflexible in many respects. Chaos will keep this pot at full boil for some time. This means that our entity will want to become as agile and adaptable as possible. Actions will have to be small-steps because of rapid, unpredictable changes in the local chaos. Progress toward effective agility and adaptability will need to be assessed very frequently.
Execute small-step actions. Major projects and activities will be broken into and executed as small steps, with no vital extended commitments. Changes in both direction and detail will become routine because the operating environment remains mostly chaotic.
Assess step results. With the survival context changing rapidly and unpredictably, relatively brief action steps will have to be adjusted frequently. Getting this part right will be strong evidence of both agility and adaptability. And survival.
Learn and adjust. The primary learning will likely be in terms of what works best in a chaotic environment. It will lead to the entity itself becoming inherently agile and adaptable. The trick here is likely to be figuring out what caused good outcomes and what caused bad outcomes. Major challenge for leaders.
Darwin seems to have been right on target with his “most adaptable” being most likely to survive. Like it or not, we are today right in the middle of several (or more) real, major survival contexts. Our ability to survive is being challenged almost daily as great forces and ambitions battle for dominance. We don’t have to invent survival contexts to work with. Human nature is doing that job very effectively. Our part in this whole situation is to find ways to be among the most adaptable. The learning process outlined above is one approach.
- Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), of whom you may have heard a great deal in recent years from such folks as Elon Musk, was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist. Among his prognostications is this most troubling one:
“The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established. In past ages, the law governing the survival of the fittest roughly weeded out the less desirable strains. Then man’s new sense of pity began to interfere with the ruthless workings of nature. As a result, we continue to keep alive and to breed the unfit.”
- From Fabian Ommar via The Organic Prepper, we see much of the survival contexts being rolled out globally, and in particular, in Brazil: “And Just Like That, The Brazilian Central Bank Goes LIVE with a CBDC”:
“It’s official: the Brazilian Central Bank has announced the introduction of its CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency). It’s called DREX, the acronym for Digital Real Electronic X (real is Brazil’s currency), and the finished logo reveals the project is, in fact, quite advanced. Here’s the meat of the Central Bank’s press release:”
“’DREX is coming to facilitate the life of Brazilians. With a new face, our Central Bank Digital Currency project – created and operated by the Brazilian Central Bank – has its own name. Previously called Real Digital, it will provide a safe and regulated environment for new businesses and more democratic access to the benefits of digitalizing the economy for citizens and entrepreneurs.’”
“’The brand, developed by the Central Bank, the combination of letters creates a word with strong and modern sonority; D and R allude to Real Digital; E comes from electronic, and the X gives the idea of modernity and connection, or the use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) adopted by DREX, giving continuity to the family of Central bank solutions created by the Pix [Brazil’s direct electronic instant payment system, like FedNow in the U.S.]’”