Evolve or die?
Muse #485 - is it a false dichotomy?
I love Ray Dalio and his work though his principles are not for everyone. And yesterday his post was “Evolve or Die”. And it certainly makes sense when I extract some material around it that clarifies his post as below:
Evolve or Die
This evolutionary cycle is not just for people but for countries, companies, economies—for everything. And it is naturally self-correcting as a whole, though not necessarily for its parts. For example, if there is too much supply and waste in a market, prices will go down, companies will go out of business, and capacity will be reduced until the supply falls in line with the demand, at which time the cycle will start to move in the opposite direction. Similarly, if an economy turns bad enough, those responsible for running it will make the political and policy changes that are needed—or they will not survive, making room for their replacements to come along. These cycles are continuous and play out in logical ways—and they tend to be self-reinforcing.
The key is to fail, learn, and improve quickly. If you’re constantly learning and improving, your evolutionary process will look like the one that’s ascending.
— Ray Dalio
All this makes sense. But yet most humans as we are baked cannot and will not be able to learn the above in a way that they can make sense of and then convert it into action steps that enable them to actually evolve and die. Enough to beat a market crash. Enough to beat a severe recession. Enough to avoid pain and have a pain-free life through turmoil. This would mean not knowing humans in the first place.
Therein lies the false dichotomy in “Evolve or Die” - evolve to what extent? This kind of black and white or binary thinking is not reflective of us humans as a race. We are not that good at understanding and living with deep complex patterns that Ray wants us to understand, solve for and live in.
Do we all have the necessary tools and practices to live and survive proactively in a complex world where the future cannot be predicted? Where the future is dispositional - where we can realize and know things only in retrospect. Where the patterns of the past that we are used to and see our life through a rear view mirror be insufficient to navigate the future.
Ray is blinded by his knowledge. He means well. Sometimes we evolve and die. Sometimes we die in spite of whether we do things or not. Sometimes we evolve when we have done nothing. Luck plays a great part. Greed plays a great part. Willingness to stick or move away from morals, ethics and justice play a great part.
It is good advice but with insufficient answers to practices. Principles need to convert into simple rules and practices that one can use. And in spite of the lack of knowledge these rules and practices should be able to guide someone into something more survivable than they are capable of on their own. Expecting everyone to learn and use patterns and instantiate 20-30 years of knowledge to survive unknown waters of the future which still cannot be understood is a fallacy of thinking. Ray cannot walk in the shoes of a man on the street to help him survive something resiliently. That is an impossibility when looking down from the knowledge ivory tower. And if one is really that capable should be able to do more - translate such knowledge for use by the common person with simple rules, practices, and actions that one can really put to use. If not, the ideas are not of much use, and don’t cut the mustard.