Axiom Decay is a unique threat to cybernetic and fully infomorphic civilizations, especially those recently emerged from a protoinfomorphic stage. It describes a series of breakdowns in a society’s ability to come to a coherent and agreed-upon model of the universe that serves as a baseline for individuals to communicate with each other.
The first stage of Axiom Decay usually begins in academic institutions, and frequently appears even in entirely biological societies. It starts with the emergence of several competing schools of thought about the nature of the universe. As most societies develop, they progress outward from their intrinsic scale. For instance, multicellular biological life usually concerns itself with objects on the 10^-5 to 10^3 meter scale , depending on the physical size of the average member of that lifeform. From there, their understanding extends to larger objects (astrophysics, cosmology), and smaller objects (chemistry, subatomic physics.) Eventually, though, they reach the boundaries of the universe that don’t have objective answers. Quantum behaviors, dark energy flow, and interpreting the universe beyond the cosmic event horizon all lend themselves to a literally infinite number of mutually exclusive models (per the Theory of Physical Undecidability.) Axiom decay is normally avoided by a civilization eventually adopting one to use, which most tribally-inclined societies do naturally.
Stage two is the first truly pathological stage of axiom decay, and begins when individuals within a society begin to adopt their own models of how the universe works. Usually these begin as disagreements in the nature of quantum statistical behavior. While in principle this can happen in any society, in practice only cybernetic or infomorphic societies will allow individual with sufficient excess computational capacity for a large fraction of them to develop their own theories about the nature of the universe. In more aggressive societies, Stage 2 is enough to trigger a major societal upset that may resolve the disorder; one group within a society that has sufficiently compatible models may seek to convert or eliminate members with conflicting theories. Usually this causes a massive conflict throughout the society that results in it standardizing on one model. In more peaceful societies, though, the condition can be allow to progress.
Stage three is defined as when differences in abstract theories held by different members of society end up affecting decisions on a day-to-day basis. Because the core issues in contention are largely philosophical, their implications tend to push into the philosophies of the people involved. Individuals who adopt purely deterministic models can fall into a deep depression or experience an extreme lack of inhibition. Those with models that suggest multiverses exist might spend enormous amounts of effort and energy trying to communicate with those other universes. Those who believe the universe will end in an entropic death might seek ways to halt the spread of entropy. It should be obvious how individuals pursuing these objectives might be a danger to themselves and those around them, but some societies see a sudden renaissance at this stage. The Transition Protectorate, for example, saw an amazing explosion in technological development during Stage 3 of their Axiom Decay, eventually leading it to being cut short by their development of true AI. If the decay is allowed to continue without anything stopping it, though, it will eventually progress to the final stage.
Stage 4 represents a complete breakdown of a society. In this stage, individuals and groups have such divergent views on the fundamentals of the universe’s workings that they are unable to engage in cooperative behavior. For species in which individuals are self-sufficient, this can lead to a dispersion of the society. If a social species reaches this stage, though, it almost always leads to its collapse. In any event, it is almost always fatal to a society, whether by ecological collapse due to competing policies, wars between competing philosophies, or a simple lack of resources to support so many non-cooperating factions.
In the Bottlenose Nebula
In addition to the aforementioned Transition Protectorate, there have been a number of other species who have grapples with Axiom Decay in the Bottlenose Nebula. The vast majority have dealt with it successfully in Stage 1. Some species have suffered and recovered from it multiple times. Axiom decay has also been suggested as a cause for many of the species that have mysteriously gone extinct at some point in the Bottlenose Nebula (the Nerenith, the M-Ph’s progenitor culture, and others) although providing so would be almost impossible.