Wednesday, October 22, 2003
And my central point is that I think this same theory, of self-sacrificial display, applies also to education, which is a similarly weird and arbitrary process, and which constantly enrages us all by being so very different from what would seem sensible and economical. What I'm saying is, to repeat the title I've chosen for this posting: education as peacock feathers. I think this explains a hell of a lot.
It explains, for instance, why education goes on for so insanely long, and for longer and longer as more and more people can afford to do it for longer and longer. People who two hundred years ago would have been half-way through their working careers are now still engaging in economically ruinous—yet also economically rational if you look at the incentives facing the individuals concerned—competitive display behaviours, which are of no direct creative benefit to anyone or anything. What the hell is going on? Peacock feathers. That's what's going on. Is literary post-modernism arbitrary and absurd? Latin verse composition? Total immersion in obsolete computer languages? Archaeology? Keynesian economics? … Peacock feathers.
The idea is interesting (and as he states, “… the interestingness of an idea is inversely proportional to the fluency with which it is expressed …”) but I'm not sure of what to make of it really. I think the general idea is that the more people are educated, the longer and more expensive it will become because in evolutionary terms, the more expensive and silly a “survival trait” becomes, the more fit for reproduction you obviously are.
Or something to that affect.