Adonis Diaries

Adopting Superstitions as RISK MANAGEMENT strategy?

Posted on: July 25, 2015

Superstitions as RISK MANAGEMENT? A PROJECT

John Peter shared Nassim Nicholas Taleb link this July 23, 2015
We can look at supersitions as x% useless and 1-x % with survival benefits.

Except that it is hard to know beforehand what is useless and what is not, what is “irrational” and what has a hidden implicit rationality that helps navigate opaque systems.

But it suffices that a tiny proportions, say only .01%, of superstitions protect collective or individual survival for these superstitions to be necessary.

And for the very notion of superstition to be rational.
Beware of the probability-fool scientist a la Pinker judging superstitions with primitive tools

In fact we can show that some of these superstitions are most sophisticated in complex systems.
Clearly superstitions might have calming effects in helping us make sense of uncertainty (I never fight harmless superstitions), allowing us to be rational elsewhere.

But let us ignore these functions, just focus on survival. Recall that rationality is survival.


To prove the point that superstitions are risk management tools, extremely “rational”, all we need is

1) show that superstitions do not increase risk of ruin ,

2) show only a few seemingly “anecdotal” examples (they are not) of risk-mitigating superstitions that we only understood ex post, such as the belief that ghosts haunt coastal areas ending by protecting people against tsunamis and pushing indigenous populations to settle in elevated areas.

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