Is the devil really in the details?

Is the devil really in the details? It seems an obvious yes; even with careful consideration. Though I do wish to stress the importance of detailed consideration, I don’t think that focusing on discrete aspects of nature, in this stage of our development is the best way to approach modeling economic systems. This requires some qualification in the form of very strong arguments and I hope that I can do it justice.

With respect to observation and interpretation of data the observer is always a part of the equation. The observer is influenced by the initial environmental conditions; whether or not those initial conditions are coherent. Considering the financial state of our current economic system, one would be hard pressed to find a recent, peer reviewed publication that would suggest that it was remotely coherent. This can cause issues when making observations; as a heuristic, influence on attention can obscure important details. The same heuristic influence can cause issues in interpreting observations; as our approximations of reality are formed by the bulk of information that we have collected. This is to be expected in the absence of some form of cognitive trash collection.

Though having the ability to apply a maximally accurate approximation of reality is dependent upon the aggregation and correlation of a large number of discrete facts about nature, it’s probably not wise to try to develop coherent systems from the ground up by working out the finer details. This is probably the manner in which our current financial system was developed. At the time Coercion based political influence was likely a factor; as that was the common political ideology. This resulted in a financial system that is fundamentally coercive. Though the same could be said of the laws of nature, the behaviors that our financial system coerces do not correlate with that which nature coerces. This suggests that our financial system influences our behavior to be incoherent as well as our worldviews.

The purpose of rigorous research and experimentation is to gain a more concise, general understanding of nature. This is the goal of intention to fine detail. The importance of this understanding should not be overshadowed by the importance of even rigor. With the development of our financial system it is clear that, the outcome of the development correlated with the initial assumptions of the time. The rigidity of the system, the lack of dynamics, has been a high hurdle not only for innovation, but also for reform. This has been the case for approximately 10,000 years.

Here is a wonderful paper on system modeling that includes dynamic systems:

Note that a coherent general understanding is the basis for which the system is modeled. Though the understanding is derived from rigorous testing of assumptions concerning very discrete aspects of nature, it’s the quality of the understanding that is needed to produce a system that functions in the desired manner. This in opposition to the manner in which the financial system functions speaks volumes about the importance of a coherent approach. It’s said that, “if you begin with the wrong assumptions, you will get the wrong answers”. In modeling systems, it seems that beginning with a ¬†maximally coherent approach maximizes the chances of being able to find solutions when working out the details. Due to the manner in which humans think and behave, top down approaches are inevitable. This suggests that facilitating this fact is just good sense.

Where it is true that the devil is in the details with respect to research and forming hypotheses and theories, it’s not necessarily the case when modeling systems. Though a bit truncated a notion, when modeling systems, the devil is in the approach with respect to it’s level of coherence.


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