Be the tiger

life-of-pi_key

“Finance is a set of tools, techniques and interconnected relationships waiting to be hacked,” says Brett Scott, author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance – Hacking the Future of Money. Hacking meaning: taking things apart, seeing how they work, and using this knowledge to create new and more interesting things (Levy, 1984).

Scott perceives our relationship with the financial system as the one the boy Pi has with the tiger in Life of Pi: we cannot push the financial system out of the boat – we have to come to terms with it. We have to come as far as ride the tiger – learn about it, understand it as well as be the tiger: recognize it as a living creature, in many ways similar to us.

Exploring, jamming, building

In order to do this, we need heretics, double-agents, “keeping a foot in two worlds and adapting the structure of your thoughts to accommodate and explore the conflicting viewpoints”. One can do this by practicing gonzo journalism like Joris Luyendijk did, or by taking an even bigger plunge into the other world and become a derivatives-broker for a few years, as Brett Scott himself has done.

Both came to the conclusion that the problem in banking is not one of individual immorality, but an issue of institutional amorality. Both argue that although we will not be able to prevent a next crisis, we can have an answer ready when this happens. Scott suggests to ignore short-term distractions (like JP Morgan scandals, outrageous CEO bonuses, …) and focus on exploring the financial system, jamming it and building alternatives.

Putting forward our reality

Brett Scott discusses many examples of jamming the financial system in his book: from shareholder activism and alternative hedge funds to starting Wikileakapedia, creating a slowly unfolding mega-leak on unethical banking practices. Alternative finance platforms that embed new design principles like simplicity, diversity, optimization (instead of maximization) and reconnection, are recognized as fruitful experimentation zones.

In taking on these practices, Scott stresses the importance of putting forward our reality, in the same way as people in the financial system do. “If nobody disagrees, opinions solidify into received wisdom.” Act instead of react. “Furthermore,” as Scott puts it in the conclusion of his book, “a trader will not be engaged by being told that they’re bad. They will be engaged by seeing a radical buzz, camaraderie, creativity and intellectual challenge that they’re missing out on.”

FairFin and the Kaaitheater warmly invite you to join the Brett Scott lecture (in English) on May 18th in Brussels, starting at 7.30 pm and a workshop on divestment (2.30 pm). Entrance free, please let us know you’re coming via b2b@fairfin.be (refer to either workshop and/ or lecture) Thank you!

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