Survival of the Smartest?

I’ve posted before that being smart is not always a good thing. I believe an enthusiastic bias-to-action coupled with sensible risk taking will outperform a risk-averse solution under most measures. I’m talking about business and investment here not space exploration or surgery.

Ben Hyde at Ascription is an anathema to any enthusiasm pointed out this New Scientist report that dumb flies out perform smart flies. Basically there is a cost to being smart and it is possible to envision or create an environment that favours the dimwitted.

Ben further commented

For example lets say that the environment rewards risk taking (i.e. the environment is rich and full of opportunities). For a few generations the risk takers thrive. Suddenly the environment shifts so that the careful and risk adverse win. If a species evolves too quickly to fit the first environment it’s going to be in big trouble when the environment shifts.

The environment that favours the slow learners is one of scarcity. What economic environments allow careful and risk-averse entities/entrepreneurs/investors to outperform? Economic depressions and prolonged bear markets would qualify. Systemic risks causing a meltdown of modern western capitalism would also reward the risk averse, but there wouldn’t be much of a reward.

What about mature or declining markets? If a market approaching the end of its life-cycle there could be deminishing returns for innovation. So the risk exceeds the reward.

So I prefer enthusiastic risk-takers. Playing it safe is historically a bad bet. One last quote that sums it up beautifully.

I remain hopeful that we are in the last generation that rewards people who can spell.

–Ben Hyde

Given a choice of one or the other, I’d take, rather than spell, action.

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