What is Real?

In the film The Matrix, Morpheus asks Neo after he unplugs Neo from the Matrix,

What is real? How do you define Real?

I think in the age of never ending stimuli that’s perhaps the most relevant question we can ask ourselves. There is an often misrepresented quote –

Ignorance is bliss.

This quote is used so often that most have forgotten its original context. The original quote is,

Where Ignorance is bliss, it’s folly to be wise.

These are the last lines of an interesting Thomas Gray poem. Sadly, being an analyst doesn’t really exempt me from the message of those lines. If people choose to be ignorant on purpose it doesn’t mean we should abandon our wisdom.

As analysts we go thru a lot of information to distill a few insights from it. I also converse with people to get some on the ground understanding. All this data collection always leads to an interesting philosophical question.“How do I know what is real?”
I think investors are some of the luckiest professionals in the world because, on a daily basis, we need to engage with this philosophical debate & learn the hard way to assign probabilities to real world outcomes.

I’m glad that we live in a modern world where it is as easy to use information as it is to abuse it. But the same technology that gives an analyst the ability to consciously enter into a philosophical argument also allows any person to subconsciously engage in it.

Take a communication tool like a chat app. It’s so easy to create, send & spread false information on it that people have started to do it just for fun. Some of the forwards are so implausible that they don’t make it past our natural BS filter. Some fake information is so realistic that it becomes difficult to distinguish it as fake. So it’s always interesting to watch people when they receive fake info. Some choose to forward (use) without any sort of fact check whereas some choose to pause & reflect before spreading. some even take the extra effort to verify the information from other sources to make sure they’re not spreading rumours.

I can’t imagine a better age to live in where “what is real?” as a philosophical question gets activated on so many levels. The rigour that an analyst has to summon while going thru so much disjointed information, the same rigour can now be exercised by practically anyone with a smartphone & a data plan.

So ignorance is no longer bliss, in fact it never was. Exercising rigour & wisdom while dealing with information to convert it into knowledge will always be an useful skill, even if we decide to use it just for ourselves.

In case you’re seriously interested to go down this ‘rabbit hole’ of ‘reality’ I suggest watching the Matrix trilogy, the animated film The Animatrix & the documentary Return to the Source – Philosophy & The Matrix.

About Raunak Onkar

Raunak Onkar heads the Research department at PPFAS Mutual Fund. He started his career at PPFAS as part of his internship during MBA.

He holds an MMS (Finance) degree from the University of Mumbai.

7 thoughts on “What is Real?

  1. Aravind

    So, based on this what do you think is the real situation of IT and why are we invested in Persistent Systems when all manufacturing and other services are more and more becoming service offerings and companies that are feeling relevant about what they have to offer. Is this 3rd party thing not a waste exercise?

    Reply
    1. Raunak Onkar Post author

      Thanks for reading Aravind. It’s a good question. I have tried to address a part of your question in this talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdAX61054dw) on the era of Cloud computing & how it’s affecting traditional business models. On the company, like any IT service provider, being in a B2B business, it’s very hard to truly determine the importance of one vendor or another due to the sheer lack of information. In this case it’s ideal to see if the offerings of a vendor are in sync with where the industry is heading. Also how much of business can a company lose from their legacy services? These questions are not just a matter of strategy but also execution by the management, which has to be judged over a period of time. It’s unfortunately very hard to predict how soon a strategy can work.
      Thanks for your question.

      Reply
  2. Kanv

    Thanks for the article Raunak. In this world it is even difficult to find true facts. Facts were supposed to be real as a definition but they are not. Newspapers change the facts based on their opinions. Govt. media people change facts for their benefits including PM Modi and Finance Minister. It becomes a challenge for an individual with limited time to find a good and true source of information.
    For instance, The benefits of DBT scheme are quoted differently by different govt ministries.
    Anyway your article makes a good read to keep me forcing to look for the facts.

    Reply
  3. Rajiv

    Wonderful read Raunak. Apt in these times. Try said, ignorance was never bliss. We chose to be ignorant just like an ostrich to avoid the reality and to be in a world of our own where we thought it is wise to be fool.

    Reply

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