Laws of Increasing and Decreasing Returns

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Article Overview and Summary

Laws are supposed to predict and explain. Predict means to describe the future relative to the present. Explain means to justify that prediction based upon ideas about reality.

The Law of Diminishing Returns is a law that predicts that returns on investment must diminish over time but does not explain it. Without the explanation, we don’t know when, where, to whom, or what, the law must be applied.

In this article, I will provide that explanation—discuss when the law must be applied, and when it should not be. Then I will discuss an alternative Law of Increasing Returns, and the conditions that make it possible. We will finish this post with comparisons between the two.

Examples of Diminishing Returns

We are familiar with the concept of division of labor: Add more people to a task and you can get it done faster. As we divide the work and distribute it among many people, initially we see an almost linear growth in productivity. But slowly, the incremental productivity attained by adding more people begins to decline. Ultimately, we find that adding more people to the task reduces productivity.

Likewise, when children go to primary school, in the initial phase they learn a lot. Over a slightly longer period, they start questioning the value of that education as it doesn’t seem very relevant. Ultimately, they realize that education ossified their minds and killed their critical thinking, intuitive, and creative capacities, which are more important over time than the information they got from education.

In the initial phase of a romantic relationship, small investments create much excitement. Then the couple gets married and finds that the additional investments in the relationship are not producing proportional excitement—the kind that they saw during the initial phase of the relationship. Over a longer period of time, they find that additional investments reduce their excitement rather than increase it.

In the initial phase of technological development, we feel a dramatic improvement in the quality of life. Over time, gadgets do not produce proportional returns for the investment—we work harder to get the same returns. In the long run, we realize that technology got us addicted and dependent, and we spent our life building and acquiring gadgets while destroying health, relationships, and happiness.

Initially, some criticism or penalty produces dramatic improvements. Over time, penalties and criticisms produce declining benefits as they are ignored. Sustained criticisms and penalties reduce productivity by demoralizing those who are critiqued. The same is the case with rewards and praises—initially great progress, then declining progress, and then rewards and praises cause regress due to laziness.

Three Successive Phases

The Law of Diminishing Returns divides the succession of events into three phases—useful, useless, and harmful. In the useful phase, you get good returns for a small investment—the investment is profitable because the returns are good, even for a small investment. Then in the useless phase, your returns match the investment and you start searching for alternative avenues of investment to get higher returns. Finally, in the harmful phase, all the investments are lost and the situation gets worse due to continued investment.

When returns begin diminishing, most people are unable to wean themselves away from the status quo and start anew. They think—It worked in the past, so it must work in the future. The diminishing returns are seen as a temporary glitch or headwind in the path. By doubling down on the efforts, people hope to conquer the glitches or headwinds and return to progress. They invest more, and for a while, they do see higher returns, although not similar to the gains that small investments produced in the initial phase. So long as investments produce some gains, greater and greater investments are made on the same path. This process continues until the return on investment becomes negative: Initially, the returns are lesser than the investment, and eventually, the situation gets worse with investment.

The change that follows is disruptive and discontinuous: We have to throw away the older approach and restart with a new approach. For example, if criticisms and penalties are not working, then we try praises and rewards. If one technology is no longer solving the problem, then we move to new technology. If one type of diet and exercise is not working, we try another type of diet and exercise. If we are bored and frustrated with one philosophy, then we try another. If some people are proving incapable of solving a problem, they are fired, and new ones with different skills are hired. If we are not getting happiness via romance, then we seek happiness through work and friendships.

Cosmetic vs. Novel vs. Drastic

In all such cases, if the new thing is only cosmetically different from the previous thing, then one keeps progressing on the same path from useful to useless to harmful. If the new thing is significantly novel than the previous one, then one enters a new cycle of the same three phases—useful, useless, and harmful—and much excitement is generated in the initial phase of usefulness, although the new cycle also eventually enters the useless and harmful phases. To get into a continuously progressive path, drastic changes have to be made.

The definition of cosmetic is that it keeps us in the current cycle of rise and fall. The definition of novel is that it puts us into a new cycle of rise and fall. And the definition of drastic is that it puts us on a non-reducing path—the progress on this path may be slow, but there is no loss or diminution. Even a small effort made on the path propels us forward to greater gains, and those gains are never ruined.

The drastic changes are far fewer than novel changes and novel changes are far fewer than cosmetic changes. Most of the time, what people call a dramatic change is just a cosmetic change. It does not put us into a new cycle of rise and fall. It moves us forward in the same cycle but demands greater effort, which increases the returns, but not close to the returns on investment in the initial part of the cycle.

Kuhn’s Idea of Scientific Change

I will now try to demarcate the differences between cosmetic, novel, and drastic changes using a cyclical pattern articulated by Thomas Kuhn in the book The Structure Scientific Revolutions. Prior to Kuhn, scientific progress was thought to be linearly progressive. This idea has deep roots in Western thinking where time is believed to move linearly, and bring continuous progress. Kuhn modified this idea to usher in the idea of revolutions—i.e., there is a long period of incremental change followed by a phase of disruptive change, which is again followed by a long period of incremental change.

Based on the distinction between incremental and disruptive, Kuhn constructed a cycle of change that involved five phases and rested on the key idea of what he defined to be a scientific paradigm.

  1. The phase of “normal science” where new phenomena are explained using current assumptions, and the current assumptions prove quite sufficient for explaining the new phenomena.
  2. The phase of “model drift” under which the phenomena that cannot be explained by the current axioms are explained by postulating new axioms without breaking the current paradigm.
  3. The phase of “model crisis” under which new phenomena cannot be explained by adding or tweaking axioms to the same paradigm without breaking the current paradigm.
  4. The phase of “model revolution” under which both old and new phenomena are explained using completely different assumptions. But only the new phenomena justify the revolution.
  5. The phase of “paradigm shift” where the new model of explanation becomes the new paradigm for all of science. It is applied repeatedly and recursively to revise all previous theories.

But there are two significant issues in Kuhn’s idea of scientific progress, which often go unnoticed.

  • Kuhn could not guarantee that the new paradigm would be final.  It meant that the new paradigm would also lead to a model drift, model crisis, and model revolution. He did not entertain the possibility of science walking a path free of revolutions and paradigm changes.
  • Cyclical history entails that history repeats itself or rhymes with itself, and the older ideas return in a new form, preserving the dichotomies of the past although seen in a new way. Cyclical history is not progressive. If this idea is accepted, then science would never progress.

Kuhn’s idea of scientific revolutions tries to take the best out of two worlds—cyclical and linear histories—without accepting the conditions that come along with them. Cyclical history is not progressive. And progressive history doesn’t have revolutions and paradigm changes.

So, if science was to progress continuously, then it could not have revolutions. However, since Kuhn believed that the current models could not be considered final, therefore, a revolution in paradigm was imminent. When such revolutions occur, they repeat the dichotomies of the past, and there is no long-term progress. Basically, Kuhn’s idea of continuous progress through a succession of revolutions is pure fiction.

I will term Kuhn’s cycles novel changes, but not disruptive. The paradigm change is significant in the sense that it puts science into a new cycle of rise and fall. However, since this is a cycle too, therefore, another paradigm change must occur in the future. The cycle of paradigm changes is the cycle of non-disruptive novelties that preserve most previous assumptions and changes a few of them. A drastic change would be that which leaves the cycle for a path free of revolutions and paradigm changes.

Long-Term Cyclical Changes

Kuhn’s illustration of cycles is deceptive because modern scientific thinking is less than 350 years old. It is hard to derive structural conclusions based on a short period. We can see the longer-term patterns of change by looking at a longer—over 2500 years—history of Western ideologies. Since Greek times, Western ideologies have been caught between the horns of dualisms that take different forms.

  • During the Hellenistic period, it was being vs. becoming.
  • In Socratic debates, it was ideal vs. real.
  • In Platonism, it became form vs. substance.
  • In the hands of Aristotle, it became theoretical vs. practical.
  • During the Middle Ages, it became faith vs. reason.
  • Descartes created the dualism between mind vs. body.
  • During Enlightenment, it became religion vs. science.
  • For empiricists like Locke, it was primary vs. secondary properties.
  • For skeptics like Hume, it was a priori vs. a posteriori.
  • For Existentialists, it became essence vs. existence.
  • For Analytic philosophers, it became empiricism vs. rationalism.
  • For Structuralists, it was signifier vs. signified.
  • For economists, it became individualism vs. collectivism.
  • For sociologists, it became individuals vs. institutions.
  • For political thinkers, it became freedom vs. regulation.
  • For post-modernists, it became universals vs. individuals.

These are novel dualisms. But they are not drastic changes. All these dualisms are either mutually equivalent or parts of a broader tripartite distinction. History cycles through these distinctions, allowing one idea to dominate over the other, temporarily. If we study history, then the same structural oppositions appear in new ways. Hence, history rhymes with itself. Sometimes, it repeats itself.

Shorter-Term Cyclical Changes

We can see the same recurring patterns even in the evolution of modern science. This problem is not restricted to philosophy. Cyclical history—that repeats the oppositions—exists in every domain.

  • In physics, history is caught between:
    • Particle vs. wave
    • Determinism vs. probabilities
    • Continuity vs. discreteness
  • In biology, history is caught between:
    • Holism vs. reductionism
    • Structure vs. function
    • Heredity vs. environment
  • In psychology, history is caught between:
    • Conscious vs. unconscious
    • Cognition vs. emotion
    • Nature vs. nurture

You can pick literally any time in history and you will either find greater importance being assigned to one side of the dichotomy, or you will find equal weight being assigned to the opposing sides. Kuhnian analysis of the history of science sees progress even through a cycle. It doesn’t recognize the persistent dualisms and dichotomies that (a) remain unsolved, (b) repeat over time, (c) are mixed in various ways to create new dichotomies, and (d) even as the debate shifts from one dichotomy to another, structurally—i.e., as the debate about which of the two sides of the dualism is correct, and why both sides of the dualism are necessary and yet logically irreconcilable—remains unchanged.

Kuhnian Cycles and Diminishing Returns

We can rephrase Kuhn’s cycle in terms of the Law of Diminishing Returns. Under this rephrasing, the phase of “normal science” is the productive phase in which small investments lead to significant returns. Then, the phase of “model drift” is the phase of declining returns where the model has to be constantly tweaked with new assumptions to explain the new observations. Finally, the phase of “model crisis” is the phase of negative returns where any additional assumptions required to explain the observations contradict the existing paradigm. We have to discard that paradigm if we want to progress at all.

In this rephrasing, whatever Kuhn called a model revolution, is nothing but the remixing of old dualisms into new dualisms. For example, classical physics had a dualism between matter vs. light—they were described by gravitational and electromagnetic forces. Quantum theory partially reconciled this duality into a theory that applies to both matter and light (called fermions and bosons). This reconciliation, however, introduced the dualisms of waves vs. particles, determinism vs. probabilities, and discreteness of quanta vs. the continuity of space-time, within quantum theory. We can look at this historical evolution, and say that science progressed because quantum theory unified the separate theories of light and matter. But science hasn’t progressed because the situation isn’t structurally better. The problems of resolving the new dualisms aren’t easier than the problems of resolving the older dualisms.

There was a productive phase in physics from 1900 till the 1930s after the advent of quantum theory. Then the phase of declining returns began as the Standard Model of particle physics was constructed by trying to fit the model with observations through arbitrary tweaks. This lasted until the 1960s. Then the phase of negative returns began as large particle colliders were built to find supersymmetric particles. Despite thousands of papers and tests, no supersymmetric particles were found. This lasted until the 1980s.

Then a model revolution occurred in physics in the 1980s with the advent of String Theory. By some estimates, there are 10500 possible String Theories, none of which can be empirically tested. So, we cannot weed out some theories based on empirical data. String Theory went rapidly from the productive phase to the phase of declining returns and then to the phase of negative returns.

Kuhnian Cycles are Not Perpetual

We can see the problems in Kuhn’s concept of cycles—(a) science doesn’t always progress with paradigm shifts because the same dualisms recur over time, (b) by mixing and mutation, the number of contradictory models increases over time, and we cannot eliminate any model rationally or empirically. We can no longer decide which of these models should be discarded, and where the effort must be focused. As effort and focus are diluted, the chances of progress reduce. The return on investment is negative—All the time, money, and effort that you throw at the problem only lead to more models, and the problem of deciding on a specific model over others worsens. This is when we can use some wisdom: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. But physicists cannot do that due to their benchmark—publish or perish.

Kuhnian cycles are not perpetual because, in the phase of negative returns, money moves away from science into other things. For example, at present, computer programmers with a B.Tech. in technology earn more than Ph.Ds. in science. Financial analysts that mine stock market data earn more than academic professors. People with an M.B.A. from prestigious colleges earn far more than science Post-docs from the same college. This is because science is now less valuable. Most smart kids in the next generation will avoid low-paying endeavors. They will prefer to be computer programmers, financial analysts, or corporate managers because it gives them a much better life.

The Crisis in Modern Science

Modern science is suffering from two problems: (1) a crisis of reproducibility, and (2) predetermined ideological biases. The more complex the phenomena under study, the lesser the reproducibility. If you cannot reproduce the results, then using that theory to make decisions will not lead to the expected results. Since the theory does not predict or explain correctly, it has no value. The crisis of reproducibility is attributed to ideological biases in research—people want to prove their predetermined ideological commitments through data, so they select the data that fits and neglect what doesn’t fit. They repeat the experimental process until they find the data that fits their view.

These are actually not new problems. Underdetermination of theory by experiment and experiment by theory is well-known: A single theory can be used to explain some subset of possible phenomena, and a single phenomenon can be explained by some subset of possible theories. The problem is that there are too many theories and too many phenomena to contend with. We have to either fix the phenomenon and iterate over theories, or fix the theory and iterate over the phenomena. But we cannot do either of these due to the fragmentation of the academic process—each department and/or person is entitled to create their own theories and phenomena. All departments and persons are now Towers of Babel. Nobody is inclined to look at everything that everyone is doing. Their goal is not collective progress. Their goal is personal advancement. They cannot focus their efforts, and they cannot stop other efforts because they don’t know what to encourage.

As the academic system is paralyzed by too much fragmentation, it starts losing value rapidly. There are too many viewpoints, which can be selectively justified by cherry-picking evidence. All these viewpoints make different predictions, which work for some cases and not for others. All these viewpoints explain the same predictions in different ways, which are applicable for some cases and not for others.

Diminishing Returns of Division of Labor

We can recall the problem of division of labor. As we divide the work and distribute it among many people, initially we see linear growth in productivity. But slowly, the incremental productivity attained by adding more people begins to decline. Ultimately, we find that adding more people to the task reduces productivity. Science suffers from the Law of Diminishing Returns caused by the division of labor. A little division is useful. More division is useless. And even more division is harmful.

The fact is that any amount of division of labor will work if the divisions cooperate. If the workers stop cooperating, then the division of labor is counterproductive. Cooperation works well in small groups. This is why some division of labor is useful, more division is useless, and even more division is harmful. The reason is that cooperation, common goal orientation or purpose, and communication between the workers breaks down when the group size increases—especially if the workers are individualistic, have been given the freedom to drive their agendas, and are rewarded by competition with others.

When science is dominated by individualism, competition, and the absence of a common purpose, then scientists work against each other, rather than with each other. That leads to diminishing and negative returns. We cannot solve this problem in any way other than by altering the underlying philosophy of life. That philosophy needs an answer to the dualism between individualism and collectivism. The collection has a shared purpose, and individuals have different roles in fulfilling that purpose. If each individual decides their own purpose, then the collection will act cross-purpose with diminishing and negative returns.

Perpetuity is Iterative Progress

The superstructure of historical evolution under diminishing returns is continuous decline. Within it, the substructure can be governed by Kuhnian cycles. It is like a marble rotating in a bowl—it descends lower with every iteration until it halts at bottom of the bowl. The only question is: How deep is the bowl? How many more paradigm revolutions before it halts? Or, how long can the people who fund science allow the scientific paradigm to keep digging before someone realizes that they are headed in the wrong direction?

Continuous progress requires a general solution to the problem of dualities. We can visualize it as an inverted bowl, or better, an inverted tree—root at the top, trunks below it, branches emanating out of the trunks, and twigs and leaves emanating from them. We have to rise on this inverted tree to solve the problem of dualism because each upward step converges the diversity and reduces the duality.

Each upward step on this tree requires us to solve a new kind of dualism, yielding greater model unity. In contrast, the path of diminishing returns mixes the dualisms and subdivides them to produce greater model diversity. Both processes are generally iterative. That is, you iteratively produce more model unity or more model diversity. Thereby, both can have Kuhnian cycles as they rise up or fall down.

In contrast to the Law of Diminishing Returns, the upward path involves a Law of Increasing Returns, because the solution to one dualism benefits other domains. As all these domains lift almost simultaneously, they begin converging. Now, you can think of one subject in terms of the concepts of another, and cross-fertilization of ideas benefits both. The solution to one problem in one domain becomes the solution to another problem in another domain. The Law of Increasing Returns delivers increasing benefits as it progresses iteratively.

There is hence no conflict between linear and iterative progress—if the path is an upward spiral. Iterative cycles are not always progressive—if they are on a downward spiral. Finally, cycles may be neither progressive nor regressive if they are just cycles, rather than spirals.

Cause of Decreasing and Increasing Returns

Diminishing returns are the result of duality. Each side of the duality is useful in some scenarios, useless in others, and harmful in the rest. Initially, we see the useful applications of one side of the duality. But over time, their continued use is either useless or harmful. We can try to balance them—i.e., use different sides for different problems, places, times, etc. But that also produces diminishing and negative returns.  The scenarios where they have to be combined are far more numerous, than the scenarios where one of them works perfectly, or they are balanced by alternation. Since we cannot reconcile them, the result is always diminishing returns followed by negative returns.

The time it takes to reach a diminishing or negative return depends on our capacity to (1) use only one side, (2) use both sides for different problems, and (3) try to balance opposites alternately in a problem. By using successive methods we can delay it, but not eliminate it.

Increasing returns are the result of non-duality. Non-duality is the capacity to embed one opposite inside the other, without a contradiction. Opposites in this case are mutually defined, employ non-binary logical conditions, and are not independently separable. As we embed more and more dualisms within each side of dualism, the system of non-dualism gets richer and more applicable to more scenarios.

Duality is fragmentation and non-duality is unity. Fragmentation appears in an individualistic society. If each person thinks that they are independent of others, they create ideas opposed to the others. Each person chooses their goals, comes up with their own ideas, selects their own data to fit their chosen theories, and competes with other people who have chosen different theories and data points. Under individualism, academics are divided into departments and subareas, subjects and theories, which are encouraged to pursue their own ideas and required to compete with others. All these departments, subareas, and individuals compete with others for funding.

Ideologically, diminishing returns are the result of fragmentation caused by the mixing of dualities. Each duality can be subdivided by another duality to create more diversity. There is no limit to this mixing and fragmentation. As time passes, there are too many ideas, each of which is actually useful for a very small subset of phenomena, but such ideas are never contextualized because each individual tries to universalize their ideology. The result is that every single theory is partially right and mostly wrong. Since no theory works correctly in all cases, and nobody is inclined to acknowledge that their opponents are right, the system of academics leads to negative returns.

Non-Dualistic Conception of Truth

The modern system of individualism, speculative ideas, and competition is rooted in a universalist idea of truth. Truth is one; it cannot be many. People assume that in a universalist conception of truth and reality, one of the viewpoints about the truth will naturally win over all other viewpoints. But that is not the case because the truth is one, but it has many aspects. Even the seekers of truth are many aspects of the truth. Hence, they prioritize or prefer different aspects over others. Their views may not be false, but they are not the whole truth. The dichotomy between true and false is incorrect. The correct dichotomy is between higher and lower truths. The higher truth is truer than the lower truth. The higher truth is also a bigger truth that has its aspects as smaller truths. This is the inverted tree of truths.

The different aspects of the whole truth can be logically contradictory. Each of the opposing aspects is true—contextually not universally. The non-dualistic solution to this problem requires us to reject binary universalist truth conceptions. Instead, we have to envision an inverted tree of truths in which the parts of the tree can be logically opposed. That opposition is not a self-contradiction, because the self must be on one of the branches to observe that truth. By treating the branches as perspectives on the truth, duality becomes non-duality.

The Nature of Dualistic Sciences

Validating one side of the duality is regular science. But as the other side of the duality is discovered, a model crisis is created. When these dualities are mixed to create a new theory, scientists call it a paradigm shift. But it is just a cosmetic change. If instead, we use a new kind of dualism, then we can produce a completely new cycle. That is also a paradigm shift, but it is a novel cycle. After a few such cycles, there aren’t enough new dualisms to go around. Then, as we mix them again and again, we produce a path of diminishing returns. Changes are no longer scientific revolutions. They are history rhyming or repeating itself. This cycle comes to a halt after it hits a phase of negative returns.

Based on these considerations, we can provide alternative definitions of cosmetic, novel, and drastic:

  • Cosmetic: That which mixes existing dualisms. That mixture produces short-lived cycles within a declining trend. That is, as we mix existing dualisms to produce a new dichotomy, there is a short-term spurt, but when it ends, the new normal is lower than before.
  • Novel: That which creates or envisions a new dualism. It produces a longer-term cycle, which eventually starts declining. As it starts declining, the opposing sides of dualism are mixed to produce short-term cosmetic changes with short spurts.
  • Drastic: That which takes us out of the dualism to produce unity. That path is also iterative because there are many kinds of dualisms.

Different domains of modern science are in different phases of diminishing and negative returns; some departments of science are much further down the path of diminishing returns than others. They are being sustained by ever-increasing time, effort, and investments to create a semblance of progress. Some departments are in negative returns, such that every passing day worsens the problem. The issue is that they cannot diagnose the problem they are facing because they think— (1) the truth must be one; it cannot be many truths, or (2) there is no truth; the truth is whatever you believe to be. Under these two false assumptions, the path of diminishing and negative returns continues.

If someone believes that there is no objective truth, then they are much less constrained by evidence. They fragment faster because their costs are very low. Social sciences are examples of this today. They progress rapidly to negative returns. Conversely, if someone believes that there is only one truth, then their model crisis leads to many models, in the attempt to solve the crisis. However, instead of resolving the crisis, it worsens and deepens it, because people can no longer decide which model to pursue further. Natural sciences are the prime example of this today. Then if someone believes that there are many truths, constrained by evidence, then their models multiply but they are used for different scenarios. The prime example of such fragmentation is medicine today. They invest in model fragmentation but are careful to use different models for different problems. They can stay in the phase of diminishing returns much longer because they don’t face a model crisis: Each department of medicine uses a different type of model to cure different diseases.

Comparing Dualism and Non-Dualism

If we understand the problems of dualism, then we can appreciate non-dualism—i.e., that it follows the Law of Increasing Returns, instead of diminishing returns. The investment in both cases decreases over time—in the law of decreasing returns because high investments produce low returns and in the law of increasing returns because low investments produce high returns.

Since the non-dualistic scientific system requires progressively lesser investments, therefore, the cost of knowledge declines over time. You don’t need to invest money in experiments, testing, speculation, and invention. You just need teachers who can preserve and impart this knowledge over generations. And because the costs of education are so low, therefore, it can be imparted freely to everyone qualified and inclined towards it. The system of knowledge that formerly existed in India was such a non-dualistic system. It required no technological apparatus to know the truth, and imparted that truth freely to anyone interested in it. It was sustained by scholars who had received it through a succession of masters and disciples.

At present, people ask: How could advanced scientific knowledge exist in India without instruments, machines, electricity, etc.? All such claims must be false. This is because they think in terms of dualistic knowledge which requires growing investments to get declining returns. To support this growing investment, knowledge must be converted into technology and business. Students have to pay for this education, researchers and professors have to be paid big salaries, there must be competitive journals that junk and trash each other’s ideas to see which ones remain standing through the process of attrition, and a lot of money has to be invested into research laboratories. Without converting knowledge into a business, there can never be scientific progress. Hence, science must be married to industrialization and vice versa.

Technological industrialization is not necessary to sustain progress in non-dualistic knowledge. Even if some experiments have to be performed occasionally, the investments decline over time. You can do more and more scientific work with pencil and paper, if not with your mind, because you are trying to reconcile ideas and models. You only need teachers who have this knowledge and can keep passing it through generations. And the students don’t have to pay exorbitant fees to schools, nor is there any monetary investment in scientific research. The industrial business model of dualistic education is quite different from the voluntary teacher-disciple model of non-dualism.

Peg and Hole Knowledge Analogy

Factually, anyone who invests a little time in non-dualistic education will reap far greater benefits than those obtained through a dualistic education. Furthermore, the investments over time decline; if you understand one subject completely, you can understand all subjects completely. Every additional understanding in each subject contributes to additional understanding in all subjects.

And yet, people don’t invest even a fraction of the time in non-dualistic education that they invest in dualistic education. They are prepared to work harder and harder to get lesser and lesser benefits through the system of modern science, industrialization, and business economics. But they are not prepared to invest time and energy into something that will yield greater and greater benefits almost for free. This is due to an innate revulsion against traditions, and an innate love for modernity. It is cultivated. But it is not true.

When non-dualistic knowledge is presented, people want to “evaluate” it in a short time using dualistic standards. They don’t realize that acquiring knowledge is like fitting a peg into a hole. If the shape of the hole doesn’t match the shape of the peg, then we cannot insert the peg in the hole. This means that the time spent learning is changing our way of thinking to allow the peg to fit in. If it takes longer, it is because our thinking is more at variance from the peg. Instead of blaming the knowledge, we have to be a little humble.

If we cannot be humble and patient, then the Law of Diminishing Returns will humble us. It makes the current dualism useless and harmful over time. But there is still a choice: We can pick a new kind of dualism to produce a new cycle or step into a continuously progressive path.

Cite this article as:

Ashish Dalela, "Laws of Increasing and Decreasing Returns," in Shabda Journal, July 15, 2022,