Monday, May 2, 2011

Due diligence

If you were going to invest a large sum of money in the common stock of a certain corporation, you would be advised to conduct what the industry refers to as "due diligence."

Diligence is a noun that refers to rigorous attention to detail, hard work, careful effort. Due is an adjective describing that which is proper or merited by the situation, that which is deserved. In other words, before you commit your hard-earned capital to shares of ownership in someone else's business, there is a level of rigorous effort that is proper, merited, and deserved. Failure to perform it would be to fail to give the effort that is due to the situation (we still use the term to refer to wages or pay that someone has earned, such as paying a worker his dues, or we use it to refer to paying the respect or appreciation that someone is due).

Most people instinctively realize the importance of due diligence when it comes to committing a large sum of money. You don't just "buy" every story you are told -- you should check it out for yourself, gathering every piece of evidence available and connecting the dots to try to discern the true picture for yourself.

When a piece of evidence turns up that appears to contradict the story that you are being told, it is a good idea to investigate that piece of evidence carefully, to see if it is a fluke that can be dismissed or if perhaps it is connected to other clues that might lead to a different picture than the one you are being sold.

The concept of due diligence can be applied to areas outside of securities investing. The more expensive the potential consequences of the decision, the more diligence is due. Those attempting to get you to "buy in" to their picture of the situation might have motives for doing so: considering the evidence yourself and conducting your own analysis of the available facts is often a very good idea.

It may seem at first that the potential cost of "buying into" the conventional narrative of mankind's ancient past is not particularly high for us today, living as we do in a very modern age, already in the second decade of the twenty-first century, and enjoying as we do the benefits of unprecedented technological advances and the expansion of human knowledge in so many fields of study.

However, the cost of buying into a false narrative can be subtle and corrosive. When it comes to mankind's ancient past, the conventional narrative presents a picture of long and generally steady progress from a state of relative ignorance and primitive technological ability, to greater and greater levels of organization and accomplishment over periods of thousands of years, culminating in ever-more rapid achievements from the age of steam to the age of spaceflight and mobile computing in just a couple of centuries.

Such a storyline is attractive in many ways, and many people buy into it without much poking around to see how well it holds up.

However, just as a potential investor in a company would be unwise to overlook reports of possible improprieties in the behavior of the key executives, or indications that something is amiss with the company's ability to generate operating cash flows that consistently cover fixed expenses, it behooves us to pay attention to pieces of evidence that appear to paint a completely different picture from the one that everyone seems to accept without question.

If there are only one or two pieces of anomalous evidence (evidence that doesn't fit), then we might be justified in dismissing them. However, if anomalous evidence keeps popping up, and when pursuing each clue leads to a whole new trail of evidence that also seems to contradict the conventional story, then we would be most unwise to simply wish it away.

In the case of mankind's ancient past, this anomalous evidence is extremely plentiful -- plentiful enough, in fact, that an alternative theory appears to fit the evidence much better than the generally-accepted timeline. Some of those pieces of evidence have already been mentioned in this blog, such as the case of the skull of the Ruamahanga Woman, the evidence of advanced geodetic and mathematical knowledge encoded in Stonehenge and other sites, the presence of red-haired mummies in abundance in South America and other anomalous locations, and extensive evidence from ancient mythology of an understanding of precession long before mankind was supposed to have come even close to figuring it out.

Just as in other fields in which due diligence is called for, failure to conduct due diligence in the question of mankind's ancient past can be costly -- perhaps even more costly than investing a large sum of money in the wrong stock.

If mankind once possessed very advanced knowledge and technology, and then fell into millennia of relative ignorance and backwardness, how did it happen? How could it be prevented from happening again? And, seeing that it did happen once, how did those people pass on the clues of what they knew in ways that could be deciphered by people who did not speak their language or even know of their existence, and do so even after thousands of years of darkness?

We cannot even begin to ask those questions if we do not examine the narrative we have bought, and see if it might not be flawed. We cannot get to the important questions of "why" and "how" if we do not even perceive the "what" of mankind's past.

The false picture of generally steady progress from primitive hunter-gatherer to modern man with amazing digital powers at his fingertips might lull us into a false sense of security. Just as an investor who has bought a salesman's story without examining the facts might be in for a later rude awakening, ignoring the data points in the record of history can leave us vulnerable as well.

When it comes to any important story we are asked to "buy," we may be ridiculed for doing our own due diligence (especially if we arrive at different conclusions than the mainstream, in which case the term "conspiracy theory" will likely be applied in a dismissive way), but the bigger the implications are, the more such diligence is warranted.