Thursday, September 3, 2015

biological High Flyer stock or Diversified Portfolio ?

If there was one creature that got more dismissive pats on the head over the years than any dog or cat, it was little old ladies with dogs and cats.

For centuries, male scientists ignored claims by LOLs (little old ladies) that cats and dogs had personalities and each dog and cat had distinct personalities.

Ignored almost as much as these male scientists had been ignoring their own children's personalities.

All our children are distinctly different, said their much more observant mothers.

(Ever wonder how so many men, who can't see beyond their own nose at home, ending up directing the whole world based on - wait for it ! - their deep observations into Nature ?)

Scientists today (maybe because more scientists are women and mothers, who knows ?) are much more willing to accede that animals have personalities and individual animals all have different ones.

So perhaps now, we humans are finally reduced to differing from our fellow beings only in that we seem to worry much more about the future than they do.

Worrying about futures, really.

What will happen to me, my parents, my grandchildren, my hometown, my religion, my ethnic group, my language group, my world.

We only get to sleep at night when we finally settle in on a plan that is very much like our own retirement investment plan - because both plans in the end reflect our basic personality, as found on a wide continuum of variety.

The financial advisor basically asks us to decide if we want our pension plan to focus on a few (high yielding) high flyer stocks or should we hedge our bets and diversify our holdings over a wide variety of (lower yielding) stocks.

Similar is our own internal mental choice in deciding how best we humans should plan for an uncertain future.

Hubristic Reductionism

Some of us may be so confident in the ability of the human will to overcome great physical odds that we even quibble about the future being seen as 'uncertain'.

We feel confident we can predict the future's winners and losers now, confident we can discard the losers, certain we know the winners best suited to our efforts to make the future as happy as possible.

We are from the old school, the school of Progress and Modernity, when great effort went into dividing the world world into two mutually exclusive boxes : the useful and the useless.

We are Penicillin's Howard Florey.

We eagerly gathered up the fastest growing plant types that gave us the sweetest fruit and binned all the smaller, slower maturing, less tasty "heirloom" species --- we want to 'reduce' biodiversity to a few certain winners.

We did similarly with humans, attempting to greatly 'reduce' the gene pool and focus on a few best human types, by both positive and negative eugenics.

Progress and Modernity were indeed the Era of Reductionism, in the widest possible meaning of that term.

The Precautionary Principle

Others of us were much more cautious and skeptic by nature. We took a jaundiced view of the abilities of the human will, as evidenced by history.

And we remained unconvinced that the past, present and future were as unchanging as Sir Charles Lyell and his fans among the scientific elite always claimed.

We were content merely to survive, not to fly high in success and possibly later crash and burn on the ground, to adapt the concepts of Margaret Atwood first used by her to contrast Canadians to Americans.

We could only sleep at night if we had not just a Plan B, but a Plan C,D,E,F and onward.

The more diversified our portfolio the better --- the more biodiversity in nature and human society, the better.

We didn't think we should discard heirloom varieties of tomatoes, or mentally and physically challenged humans, or aboriginals, Jews and Negroes, or bacteria and fungus.

We are Penicillin's Henry Dawson...

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