Friday, September 21, 2007
The Origins of Virtue
After yesterday's brief interlude for the cricket, back to the main news story of the week and the banking crisis - and to put my usual perspective, the intersection or otherwise of simple mathematics with normal human behaviour.
There is not room within this note's self-imposed limit to explain the implications of non-zero-sum game theory and economic moral hazard to the behaviour of Northern Rock customers, anyway we all know that decisions are sometimes individually sensible but collectively foolish. But what are the roots of this behaviour for human beings? And why do we sometimes act in ways that seem detrimental to our own interests?
The origins of virtue lie in the mechanisms of natural selection. Only the semi-ignorant think that long term natural selection is only about accumulated indivdual self-interest. The system of behaviour that is passed down through generations is related to a pattern of information - and if that pattern of information encourages co-operative or altruistic behaviour then it could help the pattern to propagate, even sometimes at the expense of the individual.
I've reached my limit, so no more about that subject for now. It was explained very well here. Full circle. Matt Ridley is today the chairman of Northern Rock! Can it really be the same person?