Thursday, September 3, 2015

Eggs in a basket : too many or too few?

On a continuum of human personality types, there will always be those of us who uncomfortable about the numbers of eggs in the basket - even there are just two eggs, one black and one white, they'd still like them in separate, non touching, baskets.

And there will be others, like Martin Henry Dawson, who feel you can never have too many different eggs in the basket - never have too much diversity in your portfolio or too much biodiversity or too big a gene pool.

But what these varying opinions really reflect, in my opinion, is something that might come as a surprise to most of us.

They reflect different confidence levels in the human ability to safely predict and prepare for the future.

The first group is only comfortable if the complexity of the future is reduced to a few firm categories of 100% bad and 100% good.

It does not really matter if the future can be so reduced - it only matters if we can imagine that it can be so reduced.

Thanks to a bit of "pop" Reductionism, the problem is solved - at least in their own mind - they then relax.

They feel a few basic categories of good and bad can be easily controlled and that being so, we can face the future upbeat and optimistic.

(There might be baneful climate change in the future, but even if so, we can easily solve it with a few high tech schemes.)

The second group is cautious (think the Precautionary Principle) about most things - particularly human claims that smell of hubris.

They see a future so complex and unpredictable and the human capability to accurately predict and control as being so limited than they feel we need friends to get by.

Lots of friends.

So we need to retain all the species and varieties of species in the world, we need all the mis-shaped and disliked bits and bob of human society.

One can never have too many friends.

Or the unlikely but useful tools they might possess.

Think of that much loathed common household pest, penicillium slime all over our fruit and our basement walls.

And of the penicillin it produced....

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