Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Conflicting impressions

I have a lot of trouble matching up my sensibilities to the world. I can end up in an all-nighter arguing about the best way to manipulate your resources within the UK, so as to be able to retire to a country cottage with roses around the door - (I doubt it is easy, or even possible for me) - and at the same time defending what I might do if I ever get to be 'old' without a 'pension' - and then I go read a book like "A Mathematician Plays the Market" (which shows a rational maths person getting drawn into the feeding frenzy and irrational beliefs about easy money) - and finally open my email from the Open Democracy site about the appalling plight of people in Falluja - right this moment in present time - which makes even a dribbling retirement in a bed-sit on an inadequate pension sound like luxury. Because we are not living in a war zone.

To tell people they shouldn't make plans because the world is a random and terrible place, that humans are unpredictable and (often) untrustworthy is seen as talking down the future - as though just trying to be accurate creates a negative self-fulfilling prophecy...

There's a grain of truth in it, of course, but as our modern market is all about confidence and faith I suppose people really do believe they can 'wish' it into an upward spiralling self-fulfilling prophecy. That's the wonderful illusion for the innumerate that is the basis of chain letters, pyramid schemes, Ponzi schemes

PS (added later): the cover story for New Scientist this week turns out to be about how the human belief factor is more important in the stock market than rational decision making.... spooky.

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