Value of ancient wisdom, continued

See the first part here.

heuristic is a rule or a concept which helps in decision making. Such a rule has been developed over time via trial and error. An example for this is a rule of thumb which is a way of doing measurements which turns out to be roughly enough to figure out amy dimensions.

Ancient traditions have developed several such rules of thumb which have turned out to be useful in maintaining a social order. One of the drawbacks of modern day scientism is that some people (Nassim Taleb describes them as fragilistas: people who fragilize societies) arrogate themselves to apply narrow evidence-based methodologies to social situations. This usually ends up in disaster. An interesting example is how all the centrally planned economies resulted in decades of suffering and economic hardships for the majority of populations under such systems. It turns out that decentralized, free economic decision making is less fragile and results in a better society for everyone.

The reason why an exercise in applying “scientific thinking” to society is futile is that unlike a controlled environment in a laboratory, one cannot know all the factors that can possibly affect and shape a human society.

The history of human society is riddled with events which occur completely unexpectedly. Virtually no one predicted the Great War (WW I), but it happened suddenly and caused immense destruction.

So, one is always faced with volatility and unknown factors when it comes to human society. It is in such an environment that ancient traditions have developed, mainly via trial and error, over centuries and millennia. It turns out that in spite of all the scientific progress, human society still has much of the characteristics of societies of old. We continue to make decisions based on incomplete information. In all such situations, having an idea of one’s ancestors’ traditions and heuristics could end up being quite helpful.