061204 – Monday – Soros

I’ve been reading The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror by George Soros. I like his ideas a lot.

He focuses particularly on the fallibility that necessarily arises because we humans are part of what we’re trying to understand as in when we focus on something like economics or sociology.

He claims to have made his vast fortune by recognizing the disjoint that usually occurs when people reason out what they think should happen in a given situation (like the stock market) but forget to include themselves into their calculations. He says that these ‘disjoints’ are usually recognizable to the trained eye as what we call, after-the-fact, bubbles or over-exuberance in the market. By recognizing these disjoints between our predictions and the actual reality, he’s managed to position his money in the optimum place several times in contradiction to all market wisdom and made a fortune doing it.

Soros is more than just a financier, however. He has a deep passion for truth and for improving the world and he has the resources to be able to try to do something about the state of the world. He has, over the years, established a number of foundations to try to influence national and world affairs according to his theories.

His most interesting ideas, for me, are those he has about human societies. He advocates what he calls, Open Society. In fact, he’s created the Open Society Foundation to help promote and support Open Societies world wide. It is interesting and idealistic stuff and I encourage you to follow the links I’ve provided to learn more.

But, what I’m currently thinking about is how and why Soros came up with the formulations he uses. His background is as a financier. The mental tools he’s developed over the years are those that enabled him to succeed in the markets. It is natural that he should take the tools that worked for him there and extend them into other areas like how human govern themselves.

I, on the other hand, have a deep background in the natural and biological sciences and have also spent much of my adult life deep in the mysteries of computer systems and systems thinking. So, when I approach new fields, like how humans govern themselves, I too tend to bring the tools that have served me well and try to apply them.

A very bright fellow named Samuel Hahn, once said, “Anything you can do, I can do META.” One way to look at his statement is to think that it refers to the fact that once you have two or more of something, like theories, you can compare their relative merits against each other in a meta-analysis to gain insights at a higher level.

This is a deep system thought and as such, it can bootstrap you up to new ways of looking at things. I think that it is a great failing in our educational systems that we do not teach early on the utility of reflexive recourse to meta thinking as a way to penetrate to the deeper essences or higher views of whatever is being considered.

Soros’ thinking derives from his field of expertise and while it is applied with as much integrity and compassion as anyone could wish for, I think it lacks for never having questioned if there were not other deeper ways of looking at the same questions. We are, after all, evolved biological entities. All that we’ve created in terms of markets, societies, laws, governments and culture, have been built upon the bedrock of our essential biological natures.

I’ve found myself for a long time pursuing this meta thread in everything. Attempting to deconstruct the premises at the local level into the premises that underly them at a deeper level.

I’ve convinced myself that our biology underlies most of what we do regardless of what we think the reasons for our actions are. How many times have all of us done something rather stupid and then tried (perhaps unsuccessfully) to convince ourselves that ‘we really meant to do that’. That box of cookies, that surprise pregnancy, that overdrawn credit card?

So, when we go looking for the reasons why we do things, I’m convinced that our biology is the deepest well spring we can draw from in our attempts at self understanding. And, as you may have seen before on this site, our inherent Biological Imperatives are the deepest drivers of our behavior in my opinion. Soros does an excellent job of explaining what we do but he’s light on the deep whys and without a deep understanding of the whys, it will be difficult to try to effect changes in our aggregate behaviors of the type we need to adopt if we hope to avoid the consequences of the Perfect Storm.

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