Saturday, May 21, 2016

What is the Root Cause of Our Suffering?

What is the root cause of most of the good and bad that is happening in our world? What is the root cause of our pleasure and pain? Matt Ridley answers these questions in his new book The Evolution Everything.

Ridley brilliantly uses Charles Darwin's theory of evolution via natural selection, which he calls the "special theory" of evolution, to analyze various phenomena like the universe, morality, life, genes, culture, economy, technology, mind, personality, education, population, leadership, government, religion, money, internet and everything, and shows how all these phenomena have evolved naturally bottom-up rather than being planned and designed by someone (Gods or politicians or bureaucrats or monarchs or dictators or relgiious leaders or geniuses etc.) from top-down. These phenomena are result of bottom-up forces, especially the forces of human action. They are result of human action rather than human design. 

After analyzing these bottom-up evolutionary phenomena, Ridley gives the answer of the question that we posed in the title of this blog post. Ridley in his own words:
the flywheel of history is incremental change through trial and error, with innovation driven by recombniation and that this pertains in far more kinds of things than merely those that have genes. This is also the main way that change comes about in morality, the economy, culture, language, techology, cities, firms, education, history, law, government, relgiion, money and society. For far too long we have underestimated the power of spontaneous, organic and constructive change driven from below, in our obsession with designing change from above. Embrace the general theory of evolution. Admit that everything evolves.

It is fair bet that the twenty-first century will be dominated mostly by shocks of bad news, but will experience mostly invisible progress of good things. Incremental, inexorable, inevitable changes will bring us material and spiritual improvements that will make the lives of our grandchildren wealthier, healthier, happier, cleverer, cleaner, kinder, freer, more peaceful and more equal - almost entirely as a serendipitous by-product of cultural evolution. But the people with grand plans will cause pain and suffering all along the way. (pp. 219-120, emphasis mine).
 In all the areas like the economy, education, health, environment, religion, spirituality, morality, culture, society, law etc. etc., the pain that we all are suffering is mainly because of the central planners - politicians, bureaucrats, so-called experts helping state officials, religious leaders, monarchs, dictators etc., - and their grand central plans for designing our lives, which never succeed because they are against the nature of things. As F A. Hayek said, The more the state "plans" the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.

And the phenomena like the free market capitalist economy or science and technology etc., which have evolved bottom-up spontaneously out of individual human action are the root cause of all the pleasures that we enjoy today. 

I will advise all my readers to read this important book of Matt Ridley. Understanding the central cause of our suffering and all the bad that is in this world is important because only then we can stop that suffering and bad things from happening. As Ridley said, we should know how things like the economy or education or culture or morality or technology or population or law evolve bottom-up on their own out of spontaneous individual human action without any direction from the central planners. And how this evolution is, in the end, inevitable, inexorable and unstoppable by the central planners. Change is the law of nature, and anyone trying to stop this change from coming is fighting a losing battle. It is better that our human societies embrace these changes instead of fighting them. If we people want our suffering and pain to end then we must stop central planners, whether that be Narendra Modi or Kejriwal or Rahul Gandhi or Mamata or Jaylalita with their grand plans (Swaccha Bharat, Make in India, Odd-Even scheme etc. etc.) for the Indians or Obama or Putin or any other politician or Raghuram Rajan or Janet Yellen or any other such central banker etc.,  from desinging our lives from top-down. As long as they are in charge of our lives, we will suffer.