2 thoughts on “Stuff and Ideas — Part 1

  1. Hi Atanu,

    Broadly agree. Slightly disagree. While your idea of initial random draw determining future outcome is valid, history sometimes supports your propostion, sometimes does not.

    If that were the case, the near-death of Learning (only dogma) brought by the Church in the 5th century AD would have condemned the western world forever or the progressive ideas of the greeks 8 centuries earlier would have ensured their continious dominance. Or the fairly progressive mediaval muslim kingdoms (the seculid turks) would have ensured their continuation by the same logic.

    Take for example of the Indian/Chinese civilisations. Perhaps ancient India was more open than today. We had liberal views on women, sex, a “mahajanpad (republic)” based political organisation before Ashoka (3rd century) would have ensured our intellectual continuity. However that is not to be. Also the primacy of ideas should have ensured that the chinese who virtually out-invented everyone – from paper to gunpower should have ruled the world. So even given favourable initial random draws, the outcomes were very different.

    Jared Diamond makes a cogent point in his book – Guns, Germs and Steel. He believes that the way that nations have evolved is also a very strong function of geography (I dont completely take his point). But the key point he made was that of historical ‘inevitability’. That is there is clear linkage why history evolves the way it does. Your random draws view is essentially ‘deterministic’ – that given good initial conditions only good things will happen. However is goes against another of your core views – that of the primacy of IDEAS. If everything is kind of pre-determined where is the scope of any deviation ?

    It is, in essence the oldest philosophical debate in the world – ‘determinism’ vs ‘free will’. The only successful philosophical marriage can be in ‘duality’. Yes, some things are causal and hence inevitable. However since the realationships may be very complex, the output has only a variable probability. Since externalities effect the outcome forcefully and in a complex system, there is no absolute predictability.

    Having said that i respect the view that there is correlation and causality in this world. However the role of ‘random events’/’externalities’/’chaos’ cannot be overlooked. So my point is a favourable random draw is no guarantee for continued success. Who knows, 500 years later the US would be looked at as a century-strong (20th century) power which rapidly declined in a few decades ?



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