Monday, August 23, 2010

Loose Ends

While reading the paper today I came across a comment - 'I love to watch films with no loose endings'. I don't remember the context anymore, but it definitely was a very unique point of view. Especially unique because I have the exact opposite one. 

I tried to dig deeper in this obsession for loose endedness. I don't know why incomplete information doesn't bother me. But it was fun to run through a few experiences where uncertainty had been really wonderful. In my work usually all the decisions are based on interpretation of incomplete information. At first it would only seem logical to find the entire picture and then decide what is to be done. But the best (for some, the worst) part is that nothing that we see in life is entirely obvious. Things are so dynamic, that even the want for complete information seems ridiculous. 

But here's the kicker, even if we have complete information about something, how do we know that it is complete?

I have prodded a lot over this and came up with nothing. I can either accept at face value that I love to deal with uncertainty and probability or I hate the discomfort it causes. I love it because it is fair and unbiased. Everybody gets the same odds of winning or losing given the same amount of information. Probably this is why there are complicated laws against insider trading which will reduce the chances to tilt this balance of information towards the insiders. 

Its nothing bold to love uncertainty. Its in fact fun to build an idea of the world on expectations and odds. Since this obsession, life has been cut in several parts which have gotten an automatic sense of probability. 'What platform a train will arrive at?' - given a choice of 4 empty platforms its usually fun to calculate these odds. 'What are the chances that the business I put my money in, would go belly up?' - well some decisions are complicated some become extremely simple. Probability automatically builds this rating mechanism which cuts through our decisions and saves a lot of time. Its not necessary to use a calculator to find the odds. Its just a inner sense of identifying more probable outcomes.

I can only imagine where this sense has come from, since even nature leans more towards probabilistic thinking than towards pre-determined actions. An ant colony doesn't get built by itself. There is an intricate system of close co-ordination of pheromone traces left by ants which indicates the odds of finding whether the path leads to food, or building an anthill, etc. Older traces of pheromone are colder than the newer traces, indicating that the newer trace has a higher probability of finding something of value, usually food and so on.

While reading about this, I came across swarm intelligence. It had changed my entire perspective of decision making a few years ago. Even though I only read about swarming a few hours back, but I had been introduced to it in a cruder form. The wisdom of crowds - as an investor it is a very important variable in understanding how crowds behave. Its fun too.

I don't know how a brain thinks, but I can now imagine a better visual picture of my thought flow. Probably any thought flow. There are so many pieces of the brain that work at the same time in tandem in order to create this sentence out of previously understood information. These processes make no sense as a standalone function. Only when all these various parts of the brain swarm together, can we get complex thoughts emerging out of it. 

Its weird how this same information can also be learned by studying the elements of a thought one at a time. But swarming makes it a lot easier to visualize. 

Why can't all films have happy endings? Why can't all decisions be made with complete information? Why isn't probability taught at the 6th grade? Can religion be classified as a swarm effect of conclusions based on incomplete information about our existence? 

Well, more questions....


Shrutika said...

"Can religion be classified as a swarm effect of conclusions based on incomplete information about our existence? "
This is such a killer line.

About probability not being taught in class 6,sometimes 'its better to learn on your own than being taught'

CJ Dates said...

Your post immediately makes me think of synergy. Something about the way you worded one of your sentences near the end; about who knows how many thoughts are put together in making this sentence, made me think of synergy.

Life could be summed up as a complete incompleteness. Think about it. Your thoughts in making that sentence are incomplete, but they develop into a complete sentence. Then that sentence, though complete in itself, does not make a blog post until it is joined by other sentences. Then that blog post, your blog post, does not complete the swarm of the entire blogosphere, it must be joined by other blogs, and on and on and on. So, at any level, you could say things are complete, until you shift your perspective to a larger view of the whole, and suddenly we are faced with how incomplete and narrow our view once was.

Like now, for instance, your blog has given me a brand new perspective of all of reality. A perspective that for some reason, I had never formulated before, but something about your post mixed with my thoughts makes my perspective new, and seemingly complete.

But alas, it is not complete. If it were, I would be dead. The completeness continues to develop, and I don't see my past understanding as incomplete until I come to a situation such as this.

Thank you my friend. Keep writing.


Raunak said...

@Shrutika: I believe some things have to be ingrained through training, the sooner the better - thats why I was thinking if probability can be taught at a young age.

@CJ Dates: Thanks for the insight, it made me think further, I think it deserves a longer reply and I will mail back my reply to you. I always wonder how people I don't know bump into my blog, your experience would be worth knowing.