The need for heretics in the society

Do not be shocked by the title. The word heretic has two different definitions according to Merriam-Webster.

1: a dissenter from established religious dogma; especially : a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church who disavows a revealed truth

2: one who dissents from an accepted belief or doctrine

I am actually referring to the latter definition. The modern heretic is a non-conformist who challenges assumptions. This makes the heretic an outlier.

The amount of knowledge in this world is endless. In 2013, even with thousands of years of civilization the knowledge human beings have attained is probably about a drop in an ocean. There is just so much we don’t know. There are also things we think we know, but in reality what we know is incorrect. In spite of all this, we really love to believe that we know a lot and this problem is more so in our so called experts and politicians.

I tend to believe that the people who have reached the highest levels of knowledge in their specific disciplines actually realize how little they know. However, according to Ariel Rubinstein of Tel Aviv University many people despite having this realization have a natural incentive (fame, fortune etc) to give the impression that they already know everything. But we do have a few people like Friedrich Von Hayek whom many consider as the Renaissance man of twentieth century economics. Von Hayek in his final works mentioned that the economy is just too complex for politicians to avert recessions and unemployment without unintended consequences that may well be worse. He advised politicians and economists to be a bit more humble.

Human being in general loves to follow the herd. We try to follow the recent fad and buy the shares that most people are recommending. I guess it gives us a sort of mental peace that even if what we are doing is wrong we are still with the crowd. And boy, do we love shooting down those who come up with radical thoughts.

But we NEED the outliers, the people who would dare to go against the crowd. The people who would challenge the theories which we have taken for granted. History has shown us that time after time that such people have emerged and their discoveries have changed the course of the entire world. It is easier said than done. It takes guts to go against the consensus with a contrarian view.

Personally I am guilty of acting like a so called EXPERT. So this is what I am advising to myself (and anyone else who is reading this post).

1. Always look at both sides of the table before coming to my conclusion. Only after neutrally looking at alternate sides can I come at a solution. In certain issues, like economics for instance their might not be a solution at all.
2. Encourage other people to be outliers. Do not shoot down people who hold the absolute opposite views than me. Be ready to change my view if enough evidence is shown.
3. Be more humble.

Asif Khan, CFA

Asif Khan is presently a Research Analyst (Financial Sector) for Exotix which is a frontier market focused investment bank. He has more than 6 years of work experience as equity analyst in both buy and sell side roles across Asian frontier markets. Asif is a CFA Charterholder and has a dual major in Finance & Economics from North South University.

4 thoughts on “The need for heretics in the society

  1. We are all blind men trying to see the elephant and percieve it differntly while no one is right or wrong. I remember this primary-school poem more frequently now a days. Its wonderfully meaningful and loved your last good point, Asif. And you are asking ppl to be humble 😉

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