In pursuing my goals I encountered realities, often in the form of problems, and I had to make decisions. I found that if I accepted the realities rather than wished that they didn’t exist and if I learned how to work with them rather than fight them, I could figure out how to get to my goals. It might take repeated tries, and seeking the input of others, but I could eventually get there. As a result, I have become someone who believes that we need to deeply understand, accept, and work with reality in order to get what we want out of life. Whether it is knowing how peoplereallythink and behave when dealing with them, or how thingsreallywork on a material level—so that if we do X then Y will happen—understanding reality gives us the power to get what we want out of life, or at least to dramatically improve our odds of success. In other words, I have become a “hyperrealist.”


When I say I’m a hyperrealist, people sometimes think I don’t believe in making dreams happen. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I believe that without pursuing dreams, life is mundane. I am just saying that I believe hyperrealism is the best way to choose and achieve one’s dreams. The people who really change the world are the ones who see what’s possible and figure out how to make that happen. I believe that dreamers who simply imagine things that would be nice but are not possible don’t sufficiently appreciate the laws of the universe to understand the true implications of their desires, much less how to achieve them


Let me explain what I mean.


I believe there are an infinite number of laws of the universe and that all progress or dreams achieved come from operating in a way that’s consistent with them. These laws and the principles of how to operate in harmony with them have always existed. We were given these laws by nature. Man didn’t and can’t make them up. He can only hope to understand them and use them to get what he wants. For example, the ability to fly or to send cellular phone signals imperceptibly and instantaneously around the world or any other new and beneficial developments resulted from understanding and using previously existing laws of the universe. These inventions did not come from people who were not well-grounded in reality. 17The same is true for economic, political, and social systems that work. Success is achieved by people who deeply understand reality and know how to use it to get what they want. The converse is also true: idealists who are not well-grounded in reality create problems, not progress. For example, communism was a system created by people with good intentions who failed to recognize that their idealistic system was inconsistent with human nature. As a result, they caused more harm than good.


I recognize that sometimes a discovery is made by accident, but the discovery is of some basic underlying principle that creates understanding of a cause-effect relationship that leads to a desired result.


This brings me to my most fundamental principle:


Truth — more precisely, an accurate understanding of reality — is the essential foundation for producing good outcomes.

真相 —— 具体来说,就是精准理解现实 —— 这是达成良好结果的最重要根基。

While I spend the most time studying how the realities that affect me most work—i.e., those that drive the markets and the people I deal with—I also love to study nature to try to figure out how it works because, to me, nature is both beautiful and practical.


Its perfection and brilliance staggers me. When I think about all the flying machines, swimming machines, and billions of other systems that nature created, from the microscopic level to the cosmic level, and how they interact with one another to make a workable whole that evolves through time and through multi-dimensions, my breath is taken away. It seems to me that, in relation to nature, man has the intelligence of a mold growing on an apple—man can’t even make a mosquito, let alone scratch the surface of understanding the universe.


Though how nature works is way beyond man’s ability to comprehend, I have found that observing how nature works offers innumerable lessons that can help us understand the realities that affect us. That is because, though man is unique, he is part of nature and subject to most of the same laws of nature that affect other species.


For example, I have found that by looking at what is rewarded and punished, and why, universally—i.e., in nature as well as in humanity—I have been able to learn more about what is “good” and “bad” than by listening to most people’s views about good and bad. It seems to me that what most people call “good” and “bad” typically reflects their particular group’s preferences: the Taliban’s definitions are different than Americans’, which are different than others’—and within each group there are differences and they are intended to paint a picture of the world the way they’d like it to be rather than the way it really is. So there are many different takes on what is good and bad that each group uses to call others “bad” and themselves “good,” some of which are practical and others of which are impractical. Yet all of them, and everything else, are subject to the same laws of nature–i.e., I believe that we all get rewarded and punished according to whether we operate in harmony or in conflict with nature’s laws, and that all societies will succeed or fail in the degrees that they operate consistently with these laws.


This perspective gives me a non-traditional sense of good and bad: “good,” to me, means operating consistently with the natural laws, while “bad” means operating inconsistently with these laws. In other words, for something to be “good” it must be grounded in reality. And if something is in conflict with reality—for example, if morality is in conflict with reality—it is “bad,” i.e., it will not produce good outcomes.


In other words, I believe that understanding what is good is obtained by looking at the way the world works and figuring out how to operate in harmony with it to help it (and yourself) evolve. But it is not obvious, and it is sometimes difficult to accept.


For example, when a pack of hyenas takes down a young wildebeest, is this good or bad? At face value, this seems terrible; the poor wildebeest suffers and dies. Some people might even say that the hyenas are evil. Yet this type of apparently evil behavior exists throughout nature through all species and was created by nature, which is much smarter than I am, so before I jump to pronouncing it evil, I need to try to see if it might be good. When I think about it, like death itself, this behavior is integral to the enormously complex and efficient system that has worked for as long as there has been life. And when I think of the second- and third- order consequences, it becomes obvious that this behavior is good for both the hyenas, who are operating in their self-interest, and in the interests of the greater system, which includes the wildebeest, because killing and eating the wildebeest fosters evolution, i.e., the natural process of improvement. In fact, if I changed anything about the way that dynamic works, the overall outcome would be worse.


I believe that evolution, which is the natural movement toward better adaptation, is the greatest single force in the universe, and that it is good.Itaffects the changes of everything from all speciesto the entire solar system. It is good because evolution is the process of adaptation that leads to improvement. So, based on how I observe both nature and humanity working, I believe that what is bad and most punished are those things that don’t work because they are at odds with the laws of the universe and they impede evolution.


In fact, it appears to me that everything other than evolution eventually disintegrates and that we all are, and everything else is, vehicles for evolution.


I believe that the desire to evolve, i.e., to get better, is probably humanity’s most pervasive driving force.Enjoying your job, a craft, or your favorite sport comes from the innate satisfaction of getting better.Though most people typically think that they are striving to get things (e.g., toys, better houses, money, status, etc.) that will make them happy, that is not usually the case. Instead, when we get the things we are striving for, we rarely remain satisfied.It is natural for us to seek other things or to seek to make the things we have better. In the process of this seeking, we continue to evolve and we contribute to the evolution of all that we have contact with. The things we are striving for are just the bait to get us to chase after them in order to make us evolve, and it is the evolution and not the reward itself that matters to us and those around us.


Of course, we are often satisfied with the same things – relationships, careers, etc.—but when that is the case, it is typically because we are getting new enjoyments from the new dimensions of these things.


It is natural that it should be this way—i.e., that our lives are not satisfied by obtaining our goals rather than by striving for them—because of the law of diminishing returns.For example, suppose making a lot of money is your goal and suppose you make enough so that making more has no marginal utility. Then it would be foolish to continue to have making money be your goal. People who acquire things beyond their usefulness not only will derive little or no marginal gains from these acquisitions, but they also will experience negative consequences, as with any form of gluttony. So, because of the law of diminishing returns, it is only natural that seeking something new, or seeking new depths of something old, is required to bring us satisfaction.


The marginal benefits of moving from a shortage to an abundance of anything decline.


In other words, the sequence of 1) seeking new things (goals); 2) working and learning in the process of pursuing these goals; 3) obtaining these goals; and 4) then doing this over and over again is thepersonal evolutionary processthat fulfills most of us and moves society forward.


I believe that pursuing self-interest in harmony with the laws of the universe and contributing toevolution is universally rewarded, and what I call “good.” Look at all species in action: they areconstantly pursuing their own interests and helping evolution in a symbiotic way, with most of them not even knowing that their self-serving behaviors are contributing to evolution. Like the hyenas attacking the wildebeest, successful people might not even know if or how their pursuit of self-interest helps evolution, but it typically does.


When pursuing self-interest is in conflict with evolution, it is typically punished.


Self-interest and society’s interests are generally symbiotic: more than anything else, it is pursuit of self-interest that motivates people to push themselves to do the difficult things that benefit them and that contribute to society. In return, society rewards those who give it what it wants. That is why how much money people have earned is a rough measure of how much they gave society what it wanted—NOT how much they desired to make money. Look at what caused people to make a lot of money and you will see that usually it is in proportion to their production of what the society wanted and largely unrelated to their desire to make money. There are many people who have made a lot of money who never made making a lot of money their primary goal. Instead, they simply engaged in the work that they were doing, produced what society wanted, and got rich doing it. And there are many people who really wanted to make a lot of money but never produced what the society wanted and they didn’t make a lot of money. In other words, there is an excellent correlation between giving society what it wants and making money, and almost no correlation between the desire to make money and how much money one makes. I know that this is true for me—i.e., I never worked to make a lot of money, and if I had I would have stopped ages ago because of the law of diminishing returns. I know that the same is true for all the successful, healthy (i.e., non-obsessed) people I know.


Of course, there are many people who give society what it wants but are paid poorly. This is explained by the law of supply and demand.


I do know some successful people who are obsessed with making money despite making money having little or no marginal benefit for them.


This process of productive adaptation—i.e., the process of seeking, obtaining, and pursuing new goals— does not just pertain to how individuals and society move forward. It is equally relevant when dealing with setbacks, which are inevitable. That is why many people who have had setbacks that seemed devastating at the time ended up as happy as (or even happier than) they were before, once they successfully adapted to them. The faster that one appropriately adapts, the better. As Darwin described, adaptation—i.e., adjusting appropriately to changes in one’s circumstances—is a big part of the evolutionary process, and it is rewarded. That is why some of the most successful people are typically those who see the changing landscape and identify how to best adapt to it.


Darwin is reported to have said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”


Your ability to see the changing landscape and adapt is more a function of your perceptive and reasoning abilities than your ability to learn and process quickly.


So,it seems to me that desires to evolve are universal and so are symbiotic relationships that lead to the evolution of the whole to occur via the pursuit of individuals’ self-interests. However, what differentiates man from other species is man’s greater ability to learn. Because we can learn, we can evolve more and faster than other species.


I also believe that all things in nature have innate attributes that are both good and bad, with their goodness and their badness depending on what they are used for. For example, the thorns on a rose bush, the stinger on a bee, the aggressiveness of a lion, the timidity of a gazelle are all both good and bad, depending on their applications. Over time, nature evolves toward the right balance through the process of natural selection—e.g., an overly aggressive animal will die prematurely, as will an overly timid animal. However, because man has the ability to look at himself and direct his own change, individuals have the capacity to evolve.


Most of us are born with attributes that both help us and hurt us, depending on their applications, and the more extreme the attribute, the more extreme the potential good and bad outcomes these attributes are likely to produce. For example, highly creative, goal- oriented people who are good at imagining the big picture often can easily get tripped up on the details of daily life, while highly pragmatic, task-oriented people who are great with the details might not be creative. That is because the ways their minds work make it difficult for them to see both ways of thinking. In nature everything was made for a purpose, and so too were these different ways of thinking. They just have different purposes. It is extremely important to one’s happiness and success to know oneself—most importantly to understand one’s own values and abilities—and then to find the right fits. We all have things that we value that we want and we all have strengths and weaknesses that affect our paths for getting them.The most important quality that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is our capacity to learn and adapt to these things.


Unlike any other species, man is capable of reflecting on himself and the things around him to learn and adapt in order to improve. He has this capability because, in the evolution of species man’s brain developed a part that no other species has—the prefrontal cortex. It is the part of the human brain that gives us the ability to reflect and conduct other cognitive thinking. Because of this, people who can objectively reflect on themselves and others —most importantly on their weaknesses are—can figure out how to get around these weaknesses, can evolve fastest and come closer to realizing their potentials than those who can’t.


However, typically defensive, emotional reactions—i.e., ego barriers—stand in the way of this progress. These reactions take place in the part of the brain called the amygdala. As a result of them, most people don’t like reflecting on their weaknesses even though recognizing them is an essential step toward preventing them from causing them problems. Most people especially dislike others exploring their weaknesses because it makes them feel attacked, which produces fight or flight reactions; however, having others help one find one’s weaknesses is essential because it’s very difficult to identify one’s own. Most people don’t like helping others explore their weaknesses, even though they are willing to talk about them behind their backs. For these reasons most people don’t do a good job of understanding themselves and adapting in order to get what they want most out of life. In my opinion, that is the biggest single problem of mankind because it, more than anything else, impedes people’s abilities to address all other problems and it is probably the greatest source of pain for most people.


Some people get over the ego barrier and others don’t. Which path they choose, more than anything else, determines how good their outcomes are. Aristotle defined tragedy as a bad outcome for a person because of a fatal flaw that he can’t get around. So it is tragic when people let ego barriers lead them to experience bad outcomes.


以上是桥水基因董事长的进化论,感谢译者:刘念 张帆。