Oct

7

Utopia is Here, from Riz Din

October 7, 2008 |

utopiaLast night, I was watching an episode of Tribe with Bruce Parry where he's helping a local tribesman to hunt for a Cayman alligator. Parry comments that the Cayman has barely evolved since the time of the dinosaurs. In one sense I thought, yes, it is the perfect creature for its environment, but then I reasoned that the only reason it hasn't evolved is that it's environment hasn't changed to necessitate such a change. In one sense, the alligator is frozen in time because it's environment is broadly frozen in time. Likewise for humans. Jones' idea that 'a grand averaging is slowing evolution's power' makes sense, but there is no reason to think the rate of evolution will not change as the world changes, and we can be sure that the world will one day experience massive change just as it has in the past.

His final semi-positive comment is that 'Health, birth control and the healing power of lust all conspire to tell us that, at least in the developed world, and at least for the time being, evolution is over. So, if you are worried about what Utopia is going to be like, cheer up– you are living in it now.' From one perspective, I disagree wholesale with this comment, but it's more of an issue of definition. Now that we are delving deep into evolutionary mechanics with the tools of genetic research we are already able to tweak the genome in such ways that chosen traits and improvements are passed on to future generations. It may not happen in our lifetimes, but I reckon that we'll soon be juicing up evolution and better tailoring the human to it's environment better than ever before.

Relating the rate of evolutionary change to what is happening in the markets, I am led to wonder whether those living fossil creatures that have remained unchanged over the millennia are less able to change to changing circumstances. In trading, there are operators who become hard wired to old regimes. And so it is for banks and other institutions, where a successful model embeds itself ever deeper in to the biology of the company, making it more susceptible to a sudden change. Also, just as bacteria evolve at a much faster rate than larger creatures, the same seems to hold true of companies.

John White remarks:

EarlyEvolution is not a force unto itself. It is the description of the result of natural selection. Organisms that have genetically unique adaptations/mutations that provide an edge in reproducing have a higher probability of passing that adaptation/mutation along to their offspring. Humans' unique adaptation is our brain. Our highly sophisticated brain gives us the capacity for reason, and specifically, the capacity to test. The technological advances that have been produced by the scientific method have mitigated our environment’s impact on our ability to survive, reproduce, and raise viable offspring. While physical attributes will always play a part, the effects of natural selection on humans will be seen more and more in our intellectual abilities as time progresses. The corollary for business is that while balance sheets will always play their part, management and culture will become increasingly important. The question for the spec is how to measure that.


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