Shiny models versus human nature

It’s been one of those weeks – three days with meetings from morning to night. So I’m only half way through¬†[amazon_link id=”0241003636″ target=”_blank” ]Flash Boys[/amazon_link] by Michael Lewis, even though he writes like a dream and it’s a pleasure to read.

Meanwhile, I was distracting myself this morning with this interview with E.O.Wilson. Why did he become a biologist? Not much else to do growing up in Alabama, he says here, apart from looking closely at ants.

I’ve not read many of his books, including the famous/notorious [amazon_link id=”0674816242″ target=”_blank” ]Sociobiology[/amazon_link]; but I was inspired by¬†[amazon_link id=”034911112X” target=”_blank” ]Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge[/amazon_link] (1998) and enjoyed [amazon_link id=”014029161X” target=”_blank” ]The Diversity of Life[/amazon_link].

[amazon_image id=”034911112X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge[/amazon_image]

My notes from reading it in 1999, nicely scrawled on by a 2 year old, have the following quotations:

“Social scientists as a whole have paid little attention to the foundations of human nature and they have almost no interest in its deep origins.” (This obviously does not refer to the earliest social scientists such as David Hume, John Locke, Adam Smith, and is becoming less true of at least some of today’s social scientists.)

“Thanks to science and technology, access to factual knowledge of all kinds is rising exponentially while dropping in unit cost. Soon it will be available everywhere on television and computer screens. What then? The answer is clear: Synthesis. We are drawing in information while starving for wisdom. The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information and the right time, think critically about it and make important choices wisely.” (Right analysis but optimistic conclusions? Not much overt sign of more wisdom in action.)

And on economic models: “Their appeal is in the chrome and the roar of the engine, not the velocity or destination.” Vroom, vroom.