Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wisdom Of The Week

Over the years, I have learned that sometimes it's better to re-read good books than read any new ones. Albert O. Hrischman's biography Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman is the best book I read this year but yet my memory already failed to retain some important lessons.
Here is distilled version of his "Hiding Hand" principle from the latest review of his biography:

Hirschman’s seminal ideas, such as the principle of the “Hiding Hand,” began to emerge through these global encounters. It is initially difficult to distinguish his idea from Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” or from Hayek’s concept of the “unintended consequences of social action.” Undoubtedly, Hirschman felt affinities to both. Yet what preoccupied him were not “unintended but realized effects.” Rather, as Amartya Sen explained in his foreword to the twentieth anniversary edition of Hirschman’s 1977 book The Passions and the Interests, Hirschman focused on the importance of “intended but unrealized effects.” Reflecting on development projects ranging from a pulp and paper mill in Pakistan to an irrigation scheme in Peru, Hirschman observed that in all these cases “if project planners had known in advance all the difficulties and troubles that were lying in store for the project, they probably would have never touched it.” Ironically, however, “the difficulties and the ensuing search for solutions set in motion a train of events that not only rescued the project, but often made it particularly valuable.” He concluded that we may be dealing here with a general principle of human action and psychology, which he called “the Hiding Hand”—that is, often the only way to bring our full creative and problem-solving capacities into play is to underestimate the daunting difficulties that await us. Particularly, in the case of development, but maybe for social movements in general, “[t]he Hiding Hand is essentially a way of inducing action through error,” and such error can be encountered only when one has had the courage to undertake one’s projects and goals.

I think, the hiding hand principle applies to all aspects of our working as well as personal life. Hirshman's analysis not only agrees with Robert Trivers's theory of The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life but also somewhat converges with Taleb's Anti-Fragility.

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