Thursday, November 05, 2009

Big Dogs and Little Bones

'The Future and its Enemies' is a (so far) very interesting book by Virginia Postrel.

It is a discussion around two different approaches to dealing with the uncertainties of the world. The one is Stasist and the other is Dynamist.
'They clash over the nature of progress and over its desirability: Does it require a plan to reach a specified goal? Or is it an unbounded process of exploration and discovery?... Stasists and Dynamists disagree about the limits and use of knowledge. Stasists demand that knowledge be articulated and easily share. Dynamists, by contrast appreciate dispersed, often tacit knowledge. They recognize the limts of human minds even as they celebrate learning.'
There are several ideas in here that may lead to several posts, but one that has jumped out at me has been the uneasy letting go of the idea that a benign dictatorship, or a degree of central planning can actually be very good and more efficient than the invisible hand of a free market.

I have become increasingly more of a free market, small government believer over the years but have always thought that some degree of central planning would actually be better if and only if you had wise, thoughtful, benevolent leaders with great integrity.

I am starting to think that this is perhaps rubbish. The world develops so fast that it is impossible for a small group of decision makers at the top to make big decisions without anything but the big picture in mind. It is not possible for the deeply soaked understanding that comes from immersing yourself in the detail to filter up to the 'big dogs', and it is not possible for the 'big dogs' to understand the detail at the level of the little dogs. The world is just too complex.

I have always thought... and still do, that really understanding the big picture is key to being really effective. Maybe really understanding a particular area, and trusting that others will understand others is more effective?

The dynamist philosophy is far scarier than the stasist one. Much like stepping away from any dogma you have, accepting your ignorance and being prepared to challenge everything you believe.

I would say it is a brave new world, but I suppose that has always been the case.
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