We versus I

“The more groupthink you see involved, the farther from the truth you actually are.”

Naval Ravikant

In his latest podcast, Naval Ravikant ponders how scientific breakthrough occurred in our history. It was always coming from an individual, independent effort, and not from a structured, community-driven initiative. A community-driven initiative would be, for instance, what we call Academia. I know it sounds a bit extreme, but, in his defense, he said “breakthrough”, not “progress”. Some progress did happen in Academia as well, but dramatic, drastic inventions have always been outside groupthink. They were always the realm of misfits, as Steve Jobs would rightfully say.

I find this extremely interesting and I resonate with that stance a lot. I guess our risk management practices are a bit skewed. As a community, we are inclined to take on more risk, as long as we have the mechanisms to spread it horizontally, equal to each member of the community. Communities are doing this because they know some members are more powerful than others. Whereas as an individual, we tend to take on less of a risk, because we don’t want to die.

From this point of view, any social project that aims at creating equal wealth and resources is killed by its own success. The moment a community becomes sufficiently strong to split the risks equally on its structure, it has become a menace for its most successful members. Because they now have to also take on more risk than they want to. As a result, they will seek other social circles, breaking the community, igniting a re-organization process.

I’ve seen this, at a very gross level, in communism. If you had “too much” money, your neighbors will rat you to authorities. It wasn’t the authorities themselves, it was the community. Having more than it was approved was a problem, a threat to their own stability.

I’ve also witnessed the other part, in the post-communist era of Romania. Many people who had good risk management abilities (and not necessarily very in demand skills) made breakthroughs. Some in politics, some in their own private lives, but all of them were able to punch well above their height. By breaking from the norm, from the establishment, they were able to generate “pockets” of entropy in which they were then taking refuge.

I find this dynamic fascinating.

How much of a hermit should you be, and how much should you comply? Of course, the first answer, as for anything else, is “it depends”. But going deeper, I think it depends on the broader context.

If you live in a context where there’s too much entropy, meaning each for themselves, then you should probably lean towards creating some societal structures, some basic forms of organization, which can minimize the risks.

And if you live in a context like the one we’re all living in, in which the medical risk is propagated horizontally to all members of the community, you should lean towards self-sustainment and individual resilience.

Photo by Andrew Gook on Unsplash

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