Babbitt Column | Instinct and Evolution, Panic and Reason, Investment Thinking in Epidemics

Living and living better is the ultimate meaning of all human activities in any age.

Humans have evolved all the way from the ape-man. There are two instincts that helped humans survive and reproduce, but now they are gnawing at humans: one is the excessive intake of food, and the other is the overreaction to fear.


Instinct and evolution

In the age of the ancient apes, the greatest threat to survival came from famine and beasts. After cruel and long natural selection, our common ancestors of human beings have finally become a group of "eating goods" and "running men (females)". As soon as they see what they can eat, they eat as much as possible, and store fat to cope with frequent food shortages. When they hear the wind blowing, whether it is true or not, they want to run fast because they are slow or overly optimistic. All died at the mouth of the beast.

These two basic survival skills allow them to greatly increase their chances of surviving hunger and hiding from the beast, to survive and reproduce, and to firmly imprint these two skills in the genes of the offspring, becoming instincts.

However, in modern society, especially with the rapid development of science and technology, the biggest obstacle to human survival is not the shortage of food: human beings can use science and technology to provide abundant food to meet the needs of most people. The enemy of human survival is no longer a beast. Now it has been reversed. The enemy of the beast is human beings. If the beast evolves quickly and learns cleverly, he should turn his head when he sees people to avoid extinction as a game on the table.

Times have changed drastically, and it is no longer a problem for people to live. It is the goal to live better. The focus of human activities has become to scramble for more resources from similar hands to live better than similar ones.

Can humans evolve through the instincts of over-eating food and overreacting to fear, just like removing their tails? Not so easy.

From the perspective of biological evolution, the evolution of human beings as a species is very slow. The rate of evolution is so slow that individual individuals can barely feel it is happening, and as long as ordinary individuals have exhausted their lives, they cannot see its changes.

The main reason for the slowness of human evolution is long life. Before entering the comprehensive development of science and technology, the average life expectancy of human beings has reached more than 40 years, which is relatively long compared with most mammals. Increasingly developed medical technology and ever-increasing living standards have significantly extended the lifespan of generations. Today, the average life expectancy of a person has risen sharply from 40 years ago to about 70 years ago. Coupled with increasing human, moral and ethical standards, it is also resisting and delaying the process of human natural selection.

However, on the one hand, human beings use their best efforts to delay the evolution of human beings on the one hand, while on the other hand, they deliberately transform the natural and social environment on which human beings depend. Ironically, humans use the same weapon internally and externally: increasingly advanced science and technology.

The speed of scientific and technological progress is constantly accelerating, internally delaying the evolution of human body structure, but externally, it is accelerating changes in the natural and social environment. The huge difference in internal and external speeds creates a very unique contradiction: our modern human body structure is not much different from the ape-human ancestors who can walk upright for 4 million years, and the genetic difference between another distant relative, the gorilla, is only 4 %, Yet the living environment that modern people face every day is beyond the imagination of the most creative people 400 years ago.

Knowledge and reason fight animal instincts

Obviously, the human body's own structure has become less and less suitable for the world it created.

The task of balancing this internal and external change is in the hands of the most proud organ of the human race: the brain. If we humans can't achieve natural selection by accelerating birth, illness, and death, we can only keep up with changes by the brain's continuous self-regeneration and transformation in the field of thinking. Just like a PC 30 years ago to complete the highly complex tasks now, the only possibility is to design a perfect software for it, and this software must be updated frequently.

The human brain is the most perfect "software" created by nature so far. It directs the "hardware" that has not been replaced for 4 million years, and responds to the changing society and natural environment that I never dreamed of 400 years ago .

How is the brain designed and updated to perfect software to accomplish this feat of balancing internal and external differences ? One of the important links is that human beings continue to actively learn and passively accept the influence of society, so as to improve human cognition and obtain scientific rational and objective judgment.

Nevertheless, the brain is still unable to fully control its instincts. Some instincts are relatively easy to control, and some instinctual brains are powerless.

For example, in terms of excessive food intake, the results of the brain's control of this instinct are mixed. According to a 2014 report on obesity published by the British "The Lancet" magazine website, one third of the world's population is now overweight or obese, which has become a serious problem worldwide. Fortunately, modern people know that obesity can harm physical health, damage external appearance, affect social status, and even affect success in finding a partner and career. Therefore, people who pay attention to weight will rationally remind themselves every time they eat, not to let instinct to eat indiscriminately, but to control their appetite. If you cannot control your appetite by your own reason, you can only resort to outside help, such as taking diet pills and diet meals. These behaviors have contributed to weight loss becoming a huge industry.

The brain's instincts for overreacting to fear are trickier.

The brain's instinct to suppress the overreaction to fear requires the two prerequisites of knowledge accumulation and rational thinking. It must have sufficient knowledge of the cause of fear, and must maintain a rational and objective scientific judgment when the fear occurs. For example, human beings are inherently afraid of darkness. After all, darkness represents unknown and dangerous, but human's exploration of unknown domains, combined with the use of fire and electricity, has almost freed humanity from the fear of darkness. If there is a sudden power outage one night, I believe that most people will not panic because of fear of darkness. Or when the sun suddenly disappears on a clear day, we can rationally analyze the possible solar eclipse without thinking that the disaster is coming and the six gods are out of control.

Unfortunately, not only do humans not have enough knowledge in many fields, they are also irrational in many cases.

Nobel Laureate in Economics in 2017 and father of behavioral economics, Richard Taylor said: Human beings are individuals with feelings, souls, and weaknesses. For all uncertainties and unknown areas, our actions cannot be achieved. Complete rationality is, at best, limited rationality (Bounded Rationaliity).

Obviously, in reality, our instincts are often inaccurate, and instincts are often wrong. Fortunately, we can continue to improve our experience and continue to learn through repeated attempts. Of course, the premise of being able to continuously learn and try is that the incident itself is of small interest and can occur frequently. Such as diet control, we can gradually become more rational control of diet each time we eat. However, in matters that are very important, at stake, or have only a very limited number of attempts in life, most people are unable to gain accumulated experience and are even more unable to choose rationally. For example, in the face of marriage and the choice of life and death, most people's sensibility and intuition become guidelines for their own behavior.

How to face panic in the new crown epidemic?

The Xinguan epidemic is a very extreme case, which condenses all the elements that cause panic-induced overreaction.

First of all, the new crown virus is a brand new virus. Although scientists have done a lot of scientific research day and night, there are still many unknown viruses that need to be revealed by humans. Second, human empiricism is not useful. In modern society, human beings have not encountered such a serious global epidemic. Although there are also large epidemics like the Black Death in history, the social living environment at that time was very different from the contemporary. Therefore, many experiences cannot be referenced. Human beings can only explore. Forward. The most important thing is that being infected with the new crown virus means that there is a risk of death. In the absence of the new crown virus vaccine and antidote, in the face of health and life and death problems, normal people will become irrational, will have great fear and instinctively overactive reaction.

And society is made up of normal people, so the new crown virus naturally induces rare social and economic upheavals. This is the status quo we are currently in: all countries around the world have been closing down, and the stock markets of various countries have experienced unprecedented panic and continuous plunges. People are lining up to buy daily necessities, and the world is in a state of horror.

As individuals, how can we deal with such unprecedented panic?

At this moment of ten thousand horses, it is easy to produce excessive pessimism and fear. Let's calm down and look a bit further. Don't underestimate the ability of human society to overcome difficulties. In a disaster, we are unavoidably confused, confused, and upset, but as long as we take a proper look at it, such as 6 months or 1 year, the virus will be defeated after all, and humans will still get out of the predicament, just like the past human experience. Viruses are the same as other crises where the plague is more severe.

The choice of how to view the new crown epidemic reflects one's attitude: choose to be the right pessimist or to be a successful optimist . A book called "Optimist Wins, Pessimist Wins" states that successful people, especially in the field of entrepreneurship, are often optimists, and are good at finding opportunities when everyone is most pessimistic, and those critics generally analyze The right way, but although they are right, they have lost a rare chance of success.


The right pessimist is the darling of the media. As the epidemic further expanded, media coverage of the epidemic became overwhelming. But the starting point of almost any media is to compete for readers' attention, instinctively negative and pessimistic. Just as food ads always try their best to induce the appetite of viewers, news media often hesitate to make alarms to stimulate readers' instincts to react to fear of overreaction, thereby increasing click-through rate and spreading effect. We don't have to be successful optimists, but we can try to control the quantity and quality of our exposure to the media, and avoid being bred by the generally pessimistic media into the right pessimists.

When a crisis occurs, the only thing that can be done is to remain calm, control instinct with reason, overcome fear with science, call for courage to face disaster, and strengthen the determination of mankind to defeat the virus.

"Nothing to fear but fear itself"

This is the address of President Franklin Roosevelt Roosevelt to the nation ’s citizens during the Great Depression of the 1930s, saying: "The only thing that is worth fearing is fear itself, an inexplicable, irrational, baseless fear. It brings to nothing the efforts needed to turn people back .

Investment thinking under the epidemic

Recently, the author was frequently asked how to deal with the virus epidemic in terms of investment: whether to dip in US stocks, whether to buy digital currencies, whether to exchange for US dollars, whether to sell A shares now, and whether it is time to buy a house now. Obviously, investors are extremely confused in such a turbulent market environment, hoping to hear clear direction guidance and suggestions.

These investment questions are extremely difficult to answer. Although I have my own clear investment strategy and specific operations, I cannot share them with you. "This honey is poison." Although there are only two kinds of investment decisions: buy or sell, the process of getting decisions is complicated and there are many reference factors and variables. It is an extremely irresponsible and unprofessional practice to provide investment advice without fully understanding the specific circumstances of the person asking the question, especially in such a highly volatile market.

Of course, the bell must be solved by the bell person. At present, the most important parameter for any investment decision is the direction of the development of this epidemic. In terms of controlling the epidemic, the author is more and more optimistic, the reason is very simple and simple: when governments and peoples of all countries attach great importance to it, saying that the time to worry is over, the epidemic continues to be destroyed on a large scale with the worst consequences The possibilities have become very small. We should have a little confidence in ourselves and our companions. Can't the global power overcome a small virus? Human beings do not rely entirely on luck until they become the masters of nature.

In particular, I am relatively optimistic about the epidemic, not optimistic about investment. The transition from optimistic epidemic optimism to investment optimism requires many factors, including time. One of the important factors is whether investors are still overly panicked and whether they are thinking rationally. Only then is the real bottom of the market, which takes time.

There is a saying called A picture is worth a thousand words, so borrow the 19th century French romantic painter Drachval's "Hunting Tiger" for everyone to appreciate and appreciate. His legendary masterpiece "Guide to the People", now in the Louvre in Paris, is more widely known, but it is clear that Tiger Hunting is even better at this time.

Tiger hunting, Drachvall, 1854, Musée d'Orsay, Paris