dinsdag 7 juli 2009

Don't trust the cold intellect

In philosophy they produce sharpwitted but deadly pale polemics and above all a great self-complacency. In ICT they are recognizable as uncommunicative nerds. In the financial world they endlessly invent models and cause a credit crisis.

I refer to a type of person that can be described as consistently rational, showy acute but without an eye for, or in any case without any concern for the surrounding world. That’s the way this type of person is being portrayed by the Dutch columnist Schaberg.

Schaberg adds a warning to his portrayal, as far as the avid whizz kids are concerned in their suits and with their taste for expensive cars. Because they saddled the world with billions of losses and with an economic crisis, but stand ready again behind the scenes, waiting to resume the aborted game. Indeed, maybe it is not so smart for these guys to be called ‘smart’?

I think real brightness looks differently. Real brains respect the environment, recognize that invented linear calculationmodels do not reflect the complexity of human society. Indeed, really smart it is to view the pretensions of the clever rational thought with great suspicion.

Maybe that’s too difficult for economists. Anyway, that’s what suggests Frank Ankersmit. He argues that the economy time and again surrenders to simplifying rationality which narrows reality. Therefore the economy will keep running into deadlocks and will continue to be thrown back on the interference of government and politics.

But is it too difficult for us, the onlookers, as well? I think we, the public, certainly can pull some weight against the new generation of greedy whizzkids which Schaberg sees waiting ready to strike again. What we need to do is: not to be impressed by their cleverness. We cannot cure them of their greediness, that’s just too human. But greediness disguised as cleverness can be stopped, I think, if only the public no longer falls for it. Therefore, let us gape a bit less in admiration at the dizzying model-thinking, because it is bloodless and hollow. And instead nurture the awareness that society is something vulnerable and complex. Indeed, that’s complicated enough already.