In the clenched palm of your hand sit thousands of seeds. The sun has begun to peak above the horizon to the east, shimmering in the scintillant beauty of a new morning. A breeze blows gently at your back. Extending your arm, you cast the multitude of seeds, each undulating in the air before coming to rest upon virgin soil, tilled, aerated, and moistened in preparation to receive this bounty.
Dutifully, day after day you return, applying the necessary nutrients and hydration, nurturing these nascent blooms, shielding them from unsavory competition, destructive forces both animal and mineral, until soon enough, lesser and lesser efforts are required. Fronds soon outnumber foes.
Were an empirical, longitudinal study of the lives of each of these morsels of potential vegetation to occur, one might imagine a tragedy. After all, despite our best efforts at ideal conditions for germination, the majority of these seeds will never sprout, let alone mature into the florae for which they have carried genetic material from their parent plants to your hand. Some fall into unfavorable recesses of micro-topography, flooded by the next precipitation event and lost to history. Others suffer the pains of edaphic randomness, lacking optimal nutrients amidst the heterogeneity of the soil below. Many, even most, are genetic potential left unrealized.
Ah, but this is not the longitudinal study one performs. As the years elapse, roots burrow into this virgin soil, nourishing the leaves above, who themselves photosynthesize future sunrises. Years later, the foliage is rich and diverse, flowering spectacularly, ultimately nourishing the same animals and plants with whom they originally competed, bearing seeds of their own. The longitudinal study of relevance is not conducted individually, it is conducted in aggregate, and most importantly only in aggregate. At this point, we assert the value of the rich landscape, ignoring the utility or disutility it might provide. Does this ecological array improve its surroundings or encroach thereupon? Are other organisms empowered or displaced?
The nature of nurture with respect to the capital deployed in any venture is never evaluated at the granularity of a single “seed.” Despite our attempts to incubate (by providing resources and support against competition), most seeds never germinate. But is this a failure? The field, orchard, or forest, even if a few seeds flourish initially, is a byproduct of rare success, exponential growth, and time. Svalbard seed vault and commentary regarding the biodiversity-challenges posed by Bayer/Monsanto aside, the best DNA wins.
Whether financial or botanical, our world is shaped not by the proportions of individual successes and failures, but by the emergent properties of the system that supports those individual outcomes and the values through with the riches of those outcomes are deployed. At AE, we till our nutrient-rich soil, dutifully water each seed, and A/B test our way through cultivation of ideal growing conditions. We do not fall victim to the myopia of assessing individual seeds - we aspire to tend our own garden, lush, robust, and ultimately, rich. And most importantly, the economic ecology we spur is sustainable, and always, agency-increasing.