Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Is stability safer than entrepreneurship? (Part 1 of 3)

Prosperity and happiness would be easy to achieve if we could make correct decisions all day long. Imagine how efficient we would become if we never succumbed to seductive lies. How far could we go if we never got distracted by irrelevancies? How much would we profit if we never wasted time chasing what cannot be accomplished?

An exalted view of stability can be a constant source of erroneous choices. Human beings seem to suffer from a persistent cognitive distortion that makes them favour all things that are tall, wide, and long. If you think about it, you will find few exceptions to this misconception.

The groundless preference for tall, wide, and long applies equally to space and time. In cities, residents like tall buildings better than small houses. In the countryside, hotels are built next to wide lakes, not meagre rivers. In literature, readers prefer long novels to short stories.

Our belief in stability is the culmination of our cultural bias towards everything tall, wide, and long. Children stories such as Three Little Pigs teach infants the desirability of solid homes. Career advisers encourage youths to choose well-established professions. Dietitians recommend patients to keep a constant weight.

Stability is presented as the perfect answer to all questions. It is the one solution that fits all types; it is the one preference that always satisfies. Temporary approaches are considered unwise. Anything transient is to be revised; anything incomplete, despised. Long live the mirage of stability.

How wrong and how historically false. The truth is that human beings have been leading predictable lives for less than 10.000 years. During the ten-times larger period that preceded agriculture, men and women had few routines and were, in certain aspects, much better off.

To be continued in Part 2

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by kevindooley under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]