Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A new parasite?

I can't find the link, I can't even recall where I saw it, but I do recall somone making the claim a few weeks ago that evolutionary theory could be applied to everything - not just biology. It's a big call, it's plausible (I think) but it's not one I'd fully endorse until I see some substantial evidence for. Having said that, here's a commentary from George Monbiot that's not inconsistent with the idea.

It draws from the work of Daniel Kahneman (Nobel prize winner for economics in 2002) in which he showed that there's a self-attribution fallacy rife amongst our financial classes. i.e those who have succeded attribute it to skill on their part when if you look the industry over time, there stands a very good chance they would have done just as well by flipping coins. In other words, they are lucky, not special.

The other work it draws on is Psychologists Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon, who tested senior execs in british firrms, looking for evidence of psychopathy. It's not universal but there's a fair whack of it there. These managers are very good at flattery, exploiting others at the same time as not really caring about them. Monbiot sums it up quite well

"if you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you're likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family, you're likely to go to business school."

Consistent with evolutionary theory? On the surface of it, I'd say yes, it could be viewed that way. Certain traits are selected for (psychopathy), which allow some to succeed though there's a fair amount of chance involved. I'd liken it to the evolution of an (economic) parasitic organism, feeding off the general population, the 1% vs 99% so to speak. The thing with parasites though is that when they start to harm the host, the host either dies or fights back until some balance point is reached. Or lives on, crippled in misery I suppose.

No comments:

Post a Comment