An introduction to my essay-series
On psychology, complex social systems, investing, business and whatever else I can fit into this title.
I have spent the last 15 years in investing. It has been one hell of a ride. And I am still at it, sane and solvent, as far as I can tell. I thought that I would jot down some observations from this journey, in a series of essays. To convey coherence, they have a theme and title: Buggy Humans in a Messy World. The first part refers to psychology. The second part refers to complex systems, specifically social systems. Sparks fly when the two meet.
Our brain software has been designed by evolution. This operating system is optimized for survival and reproduction, in small groups in the wild. Fleeing unthinkingly upon the slightest rustle is a useful feature. So are overconfidence and herd instinct. We are quick to spot patterns and make up stories. Due to capacity constraints, our brain mostly functions in an autopilot mode using subconscious mental shortcuts. We don’t really know why we do most of what we do. Although, we can quickly rationalize if asked why. While these may sound bad, our OS designer got it mostly right. We have unraveled nature’s laws and used them to achieve way more than any other species.
Like any software, ours can act buggy in some situations. We go nuts on Twitter. We have dysfunctional politics. We make a mess of retirement savings. Our greatest scientist went broke speculating in the South Sea Bubble. Essentially, we are buggy in dealing with the social world. Here, there are no universal laws. Data is corrupted by our being both observer and (fickle) participant. In the nature of complex systems, individual quirks get amplified to create violent bubbles and crashes.
Deep down, our core OS is unchanged, even as social systems have become way more complex. We are stone age humans in a new age world. Does that mean that we are beyond figuring it out? Yes, in one sense. A precise understanding analogous to our mastery over the natural world is impossible. No, in a different sense. Complex doesn’t mean random. We can still recognize broad patterns and learn from the past. Even with imperfect understanding, we can recognize a few situations where odds are in our favor. More importantly, we can avoid ruin. Bearing in mind that everyone else is as buggy, we don’t have to be super smart. Just less stupid. And more aware of our own bugginess and messiness.
This is what I will be writing about, mostly pertaining to my immediate messy world of investing. However, as a buggy human, I am certain to over-confidently stray beyond it. Hopefully, this intro will make more sense after a few essays.
[Views are personal. Ideas are at best unoriginal and at worst plagiarized. For anything sensible, credit goes to people around me. For any nonsense, blame is solely mine.]
PS. I’ve been publishing this essay series on LinkedIn since December-2019. Based on requests for a more reader-friendly platform, I am trying out Substack. Over a few weeks, I’ll publish my prior essays here. New essays will show up on both platforms, at a frequency of one every 1-2 weeks. Since I don’t know how all this works, I apologize if you feel spammed by any email regarding this. This essay is also available at