On October 12th, 1492, Christopher Columbus sights a Bahamian Island he believes to be part of Japan.
Columbus returned to Spain a celebrity, convinced he had discovered a new trade route to Asia. For a brief while, he was on top of the world. But after that first voyage, things started to go very wrong. Given control of the newly discovered lands, Columbus forced many of his new charges to look for gold, producing little but hatred for him and his compatriots. His third voyage saw a near revolt by settlers and back in Spain, Columbus was arrested and stripped of his titles. A fourth mission regained some of his prestige at court. The result of Columbus’ voyages was the opening of a new continent to good things like opportunities for trade and bad things like smallpox. It was then, and remains today, a complicated story.
And it is also a glaring example of confirmation bias. Columbus wanted to believe the islands he found were off the coast of Japan. But the natives in the New World looked
and sounded nothing like the traders he had met from Asia, which might have given him pause. He saw everything that seemed to confirm his theories and ignored whatever didn’t. If that sounds familiar, it is how today’s social media algorithms work, feeding you more of what you like and agree with and none of what contradicts it. Investors beware. We, like explorers, need to examine all of the data, not just what we agree with. History can be unkind to those who don’t.
Don't wait for history to happen...