In my earlier post about THX 1138 I mentioned that humans appear to searching for an answer beyond money, and that Economics has been mistranslated as proving that money is the goal, when it has always been just a tool to achieving our goals. I stumbled across an article this morning that gave me goosebumps, the simplicity in which it described my thoughts was pure beauty!
I wish I could say that when I began my studies that I knew what I was doing – no such grand plan here, I just selfishly followed my interests. It just so happened that my interests fell into Economics, Statistics and Philosophy. When you look at these three in conjunction, they’re actually very similar, and provide some key insights into each. In particular, if one looks at Philosophy and Economics, there are the obvious threads of logic and systems thinking, however after reading this article I saw something that had been niggling at the edge of my thoughts for a while.
Economics models the ways in which our society works, there are basic models for basic ideas, and much more complicated flows and designs to capture the bigger ideas. We use statistics and theories to try and understand how our systems act and interact within our society, and the more we model, the more we try to generalise or compartmentalise humans – even to the point of adding in a factor for irrationality – all in order to make sense of what we see around us. There are many reasons why we model in this way, some as simple as making business decisions or placing policy, however I feel that we ache to understand our world, we try to make sense of what is happening so we can feel secure that the decisions we make are the best educated ones at the time. We want to feel right, and in control. Tim Harford put this nice and clearly in his Ted talk – Trial, error and the God complex.
However, we are not god. We are not all seeing, all knowing, and omnipotent. We make mistakes, because we are human, and to believe that there are models and systems of thinking that can account for everything is highly delusional, in just that we cannot even grasp the depth of the system in which we live, being our reality. I won’t generalise and claim that Economists do this, or even that people do this, at the least on a conscious level. However, what we are guilty of is believing that a model is the answer, when it is but a tool. Economics models our reality, but it can only show what we ask of it, and we don’t know all the questions, and the tool is only as strong as we make it. We can use economics to clarify, to simplify, to inspire, but it will not show us where to go or the reasons behind our questions.
Philosophy, the age old science, the beginning of all scientific theory, the beginning of logic, is where these questions can be answered. Or, if one has faith, then religion can possibly show these insights too. (Philosophy is my personal favourite, so I’ll continue with that branch in this post). Philosophy considers human emotion, response, consciousness and nature in order to understand why we are here, what this reality is, and what it could possibly mean to us – in this sense we can find our purpose, our reason for living, our reasons for humanity. Economics cannot provide us with purpose, only with the tools for the actions we determine.
I highly recommend you read this article, it’s a brief one and a shorter version won the New Philosopher writer’s award III.
Keep wondering readers.