Musings Report #25 06-16-12 A Darwinian Winnowing of Assumptions
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A Darwinian Winnowing of Assumptions
Before we start today's topic, I want to reiterate the freedom and fun I reap from writing the Musings Reports. The limited audience allows me to explore ideas in a forgiving environment, and work through ideas from my notebooks. I have even toyed with the idea of limiting the Musings list, as building a large audience defeats the benefits I receive from addressing the more intimate circle of key supporters.
Our launch-point is Darwin's quote: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most adaptable to change."
The human mind gets tired of ambiguity and uncertainty, and so it soon latches on to some position that "makes sense" of a chaotic world. Once we become attached to this concept/idea/ideology/faith, it is very difficult to amend it or switch positions.
We are thus prone to "confirmation bias," seeking evidence that supports our position and ignoring or dismissing evidence to the contrary. Our positions tend to become quasi-religious, cargo-cult-like structures, and any challenge is rejected with hostility and defensiveness. Since my only "talent" appears to be undermining Status Quo belief systems, I encounter a lot of this defensive, hostile ire.
This clinging to positions makes sense in terms of natural selection, as changing our assumptions requires a lot of energy and time--so it better be worth it in the sense that it improves our survivability/return on invested time and capital.
I have ruffled innumerable feathers over the past year by suggesting the U.S. dollar (USD) will rise rather than collapse, and more recently I have annoyed great swaths of various cargo-cults by suggesting that foreign capital will increasingly seek a safe-haven home in the U.S. Many people are so committed to the position that the U.S. dollar "should" decline and collapse, and that America is "just as bad off" as the other major trading powers, that they are angered by any contrarian evidence.
A lot of people have an emotional stake in the collapse of the USD and the decline of America, just as many more have an emotional and financial stake in the continuity of the (unsustainable) Status Quo. Writing thousands of blog entries and reading thousands of emails from smart people has eroded my attachment to any "one size fits all" position. If the evidence changes, I am ready to align my position with the data and dynamics.
Take Peak Oil. Though the evidence that oil production is no longer rising is persuasive, the rise of natural gas via new (and often controversial) technologies has fundamentally altered the global energy picture. This is not a hard-and-fast view, but I suspect energy will get a lot cheaper (priced in USD) as recession-depleted demand falls faster than supply. I have referred to this as the "oil head-fake". Energy prices plummeted briefly in late 2008; the next downtrend will likely last much longer.
I am also beginning to think the problem won't be too little energy, but too little income to buy energy.
I also see evidence that global capital is flowing to the U.S., a dynamic with profound implications. As one analyst observed, "It's almost like a reindustrialization of the U.S., with the help of foreign money." This from the Wall Street Journal story, Foreign Investment Surges. The U.S. attracted foreign investment $234 billion last year, more than twice the sum that went to China ($116 billion).
This global capital flow into the U.S. will have many consequences, starting with a stronger dollar.
Ideas and assumptions that no longer align with reality (if they ever did) will fail and be winnowed from the "gene pool" of ideas and assumptions.
From Left Field
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST? "Under the UK austerity measures of the past 18 months I have watched the welfare state crumble..." The answer is community and right-sizing jobs to the abilities of each person, not Central State welfare. (via Joel M.)
Amusing commercial: "Push to add drama." A sleepy square in Belgium gets the Hollywood-TV treatment. Shoot-em-ups in the U.S. are generally not play-acted....
I think this quote pertains to "open" societies ruled by vested interests:
"In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is getting caught."
Thanks for reading--