Evonomics – Evidence for Tribalism in Economics

Evonomics – Evidence for Tribalism in Economics

[ 31/5/20 ]

While I agree with the several of the main themes, there are also some significant errors in the thesis as written.

1/ Your description of “Science” as “It’s a method for determining what’s true and what’s not” does not sit well for me as a scientist.
For me, a more accurate and meaningful characterisation would be a “method for refining our models and becoming less wrong over time.”
This characterisation acknowledges what seems to be beyond all reasonable doubt, that reality is far more complex than we are capable of accurately modeling, and contains many different classes of fundamental uncertainty and unknowability.
Thus, at some point in a scientist’s education they realise that the classical notions of true and false in respect of reality are but simplistic (and often useful) approximations to something far more complex and nuanced and eternally uncertain.
And in this context it is worth considering that looked at computationally, evolution has selected for mechanisms that deliver survivable results, and survivability often has a time critical element – so that often selects for simple but close enough and rapid, over more accurate but slower to compute, models – hence the dominance at many levels of working heuristics – things that work in practice and are quick and easy.
This recursively explains the diversity of views and levels of understandings one sees in wider society.

2/ Your second false statement is “To explain the evolution of sociality, multilevel selection proposes that there must be competition between groups”.
There need not be competition.
There may be competition.
What is required is some set of threats to the population which may be countered by some level of cooperative activity.
And again, this can be multi leveled, and sporadic over time, as long as the selective pressure present is strong enough.
And again, this is a recursive notion, across all levels of “association”. Anything that supplies some form of boundary over time to some degree can form a level of “individual” and “group” on which such multilevel selection may operate (genetic, mimetic, and beyond).
The key here is seeing that any threat can do it, it does not have to be competitive threats (indeed I contend that in the case of humanity it has generally not been).

And as Paul mentions, it need not be tribalism driving your observations.

In a world that is complex beyond our ability to personally investigate in detail, we must all develop trust networks (implicit and explicit) in order to develop our models and understandings of reality.
Certainly, there will be an aspect of “tribe” in that, and it need not be tribal in the classical sense.
We can all have experiences that lead us to trust or mistrust certain individuals or classes (at any level of association, from people through levels of institutions to logics and more general classes of computational or interpretive schema).
Part of all of this is developing a willingness to investigate and question all levels of the implicit assumption we get from all levels of biology and culture and language and distinction. All distinctions become traps that tend to make us mis-classify things that are subtly yet significantly different from our currently available distinction sets. Many such things are actually hard coded into our perceptual and interpretive neural systems. Overcoming them with software takes work, and makes communication of some classes of discovery extremely difficult.

So I am a yes and no to the thesis as written.
Better than most of the mainstream stuff out there, and still too many fundamental errors to be really useful.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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