Physicist Richard Feynman’s First Principle is simple: “You must not fool yourself… and you are the easiest person to fool.”

We tend to believe what we want to believe; see what we expect to see, look for evidence that supports our pre-existing beliefs.

Feynman’s First Principle came to mind this morning as headlines trumpeted the news of J.P. Morgan Chase’s $2 billion trading loss. Jamie Dimon, CEO of America’s largest bank by assets, has long had a reputation as a conservative banker with tight risk controls. Just weeks before revealing the $2 billion loss, a JP Morgan spokesman characterized the trading as merely designed to “protect the balance sheet.” Could the bank’s own reputation for conservatism have contributed to group think and self-deception?

Closing quotes:

“If you thought that science was certain—well, that is just an error on your part.” — Richard Phillips Feynman; 1918-1988. 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics, named one of the top ten physicists of all time in a 1999 poll of 130 leading physicists worldwide

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” — Proverbs16:18

“A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds to a suggestion rather than to reasoning, to an image rather than to an idea, to an affirmation rather than to proof, to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments, to prestige rather than to competence.” – French philosopher Jean-François Revel; 1924–2006