Buy High Sell Low

posted to AIA COTE forum 1/20/07

Steering feedback systems is tricky…

Anyone who has changed jobs and had to move investment accounts is familiar with the temptation to buy funds that are high, and just about to fall, and get rid of ones that are low, and just about to rise. Emotional first impressions are generally not a good guide for complex systems, and can cause us to make consistently bad choices.

We have problems of this kind in the design of the sustainability movement I think. Conservation is good, living simply is good, inventing cool things and making room for others is good, and doing these so our world can continually increase its consumption by steady small percents is a total disaster.

The problem is that the end game of persistently ignoring exponentials develops explosively. Just putting off dealing with exponentials assures that you’ll be out of options for solving the problem once you’ve run out of options for ignoring the problem. It’s like deciding that you’ll surely turn the wheel of your car, just as soon as you’ve run off the road!

This is what’s called a ‘wicked problem’. The worst of these (or best as some see them) are the ones that seem to require you to relish in your own stupidity to solve them, leaving you little satisfaction for your efforts than sarcastically observing, “anything that’s completely necessary must be good for *something*.” We’ve been putting off revising the consensus world plan for endless exponential growth of commerce and complications. Ending exponential growth is absolutely necessary, so it must be good for *something* then, but it’s quite hard to say what as long as no one is asking.

Maybe all you can do is keep track of the little places in reasoning where your emotional contribution is “oh yea” and be entertained and perhaps more than a little skeptical. Not too far along that path is where you start to ask what our amazing 600 year exponential growth of modern civilization is really for. I think it becomes obvious, succeed or fail, either way its for dramatically changing who we are as a species, full of great possibilities but also in the worst sort of danger for not addressing the real opportunity and problem being stuck on growth now presents.

Phil Henshaw ¸¸¸¸.·´ ¯ `·.¸¸¸¸

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