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What About This…? 2.26.2015

By Wayne William Cipriano

It always brings a smile to my face when I hear a newsreader on television or the radio explain why the stock market went up or down today. Thousands and thousands of people making millions of buying and selling decisions regarding thousands of businesses all occurring at lightning speed on computers driven by programs unknowably complicated and this guy or gal is telling us why. To understand the “why” of today’s stock market action you would have to canvass every buyer and seller and then everyone who could have traded today but did not.

Just because we cannot do that sort of research does not make the stock market irrational, just unknowable. It’s a lot like sociology or meteorology. There are forces, mostly easily understood forces that drive the action of a society, or the weather, or the stock market. The problem is the sheer number of these forces (often called variables) and the difficulty in measuring some of them.

In the case of the weather, it would be terrific if we could manage to understand and calculate how these almost always-interrelated variables combine to produce our weather. How good would it be to have such a grasp of these ever-changing values that we could make an accurate weather prediction?

In the stock market, if we were to be able to locate and measure the variables, it would be destroyed, wouldn’t it? If we could predict what will happen, who would sell knowing the market would rise? Who would buy knowing the opposite? Paralysis – until someone figured out how to use such a prediction, undetectably.

What about society? What if we were able to accurately measure the millions of variables that effect what we do as we move through our lives? What if we used those measurements to accurately predict what people are going to do and when they will do it?

Isaac Asimov wrote a series of science fiction novels revolving around the idea that someone had constructed a method to make such predictions as to what society would do and when it would happen. (I think they were called The Foundation Trilogy.) As I recall Asimov introduced the idea of a non-predictable event, sort of a biological sport, to move these novels away from the disturbing logical pathway he had, most probably unintentionally, devised.

For to be in possession of such data gathering abilities that could be utilized to forecast societal behavior, perhaps even modifying it – crafting it – “for the best” might very well produce a society that could become safe and warm and secure, but it sounds like it could also be somewhat boring…and maybe just a little sinister too, don’t you think?