Sunday 25 January 2009

leave it the way we got it

Last April this blog wondered if the historian of the moment Herodotus wasn't positively Gaian in his sense that everything was connected and man went against nature at his peril.

Ben McGrath's New Yorker article on doomsayers (abstract here) finds Nassim Taleb, author of the bestseller Black Swan, also turning to Herodotus. He's thinking,

'more along the lines of 483 B.C., when Xerxes ordered the waters of the Hellespont whipped, out of frustration over the destruction of his bridges.'

'Xerxes' superstitious arrogance, Taleb felt, was no different from our own scientific arrogance, which has been building steadily since the Enlightenment, to the point where investment bankers believed they could eliminate the consequences of risky behaviour through the use of complex mathematics.'

'"We're just puppets to the gods," he said, "The gods don't want us to be too ambitious, too aggressive. The gods just want us to be subservient to nature. Leave the planet the way we got it.'"

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