Nature’s many complex systems—physical, biological, and cultural—are islands of low-entropy order within increasingly disordered seas of surrounding, high-entropy chaos. Energy is a principal facilitator of the rising complexity of all such systems in the expanding Universe, including galaxies, stars, planets, life, society, and machines. A large amount of empirical evidence—relating neither entropy nor information, rather energy—suggests that an underlying simplicity guides the emergence and growth of complexity among many known, highly varied systems in the 14-billion-year-old Universe, from big bang to humankind. Energy flows are as centrally important to life and society as they are to stars and galaxies. In particular, the quantity energy rate density—the rate of energy flow per unit mass—can be used to explicate in a consistent, uniform, and unifying way a huge collection of diverse complex systems observed throughout Nature. Operationally, those systems able to utilize optimal amounts of energy tend to survive and those that cannot are non-randomly eliminated.
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