Yesterday was my 33rd birthday. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on my life thus far. As I was thinking, I realized something about myself.
I’ve always known that I was idealistic, but now I’m really grasping the extent of it, and I’m realizing that my idealism has been the source of a lot of inner conflict.
The conflict comes from the stubborn belief that I can and should try to change other people’s views and behaviors. And I’ve been unsuccessful at doing so.
More than five years ago, I started writing articles and making videos about my opinions. Some of what I have produced has been appreciated by others, but the only person that I’ve really been able to persuade is my wife. So I would say that my effort to persuade has been a complete failure. However, I can say that over the last five years, I have achieved greater clarity when it comes to my own thoughts.
I can appreciate that I could be wrong, and that other people have valid ideas too. But as time has gone by, I’ve become more entrenched in my own ideas. That has caused me to feel very isolated, because there aren’t really any groups or ideologies that I want to align myself with.
The heart of the conflict is that deep down, I’ve wanted to be appreciated for sharing unpopular ideas.
I’m not trying to drum up sympathy, or wallow in self-pity. Somehow it just feels better to be completely honest with myself.
So what ideas am I talking about? Well, I could list many, but here are a few that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
1. Working for money in the context of employment should not necessary for survival.
Money is a social institution. To work for money (and depend on that employment for survival) means that one person has to be subject to another person. I think that everyone should have the tools and means to be independent. I’m not advocating that we do away with money or with work. I’m saying that there’s something wrong with the employment relationship. In today’s system, if there were no social safety nets the unemployed would starve.
2. Everyone should own capital.
A corollary to #1. Before the industrial revolution, if you owned land it was possible to be almost completely self-sufficient. The land was capital. Capital refers to assets that have the potential to produce a return. Instead of working for money, we should be applying our capital to good use and living off the return.
3. We should help everyone obtain capital through entrepreneurship.
Since we’ve squandered our inheritance, we have to earn it back somehow. The opportunity to own capital isn’t going to come from the corporate world or through wealth redistribution. We have to create the opportunities from scratch. We need to band together and help each other succeed as entrepreneurs.
4. You should never let your money work for you, unless you are unable to work. You should work alongside your money.
To expect a financial return on an investment means that you intend to take from the system without contributing. That won’t get us anywhere. We must avoid anything resembling speculation and invest for the dividends, not capital gains.
5. All debt is bad.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Debt is slavery. Perhaps some debt is unavoidable, but it should be avoided whenever possible. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have a Jubilee every seven years to cancel existing debts.
6. Equity is the only type of business financing we should use. Alignment should be the goal.
Equity means ownership of productive assets. That’s capital. Ownership is the only structure that can truly create alignment – a condition in which all the parties involved are working toward the same goal. But ownership doesn’t guarantee alignment – just look at the modern corporate structure with detached shareholders.
7. It’s wrong to be either liberal or conservative. We must be both.
This one almost always meets resistance.
The core value of liberalism is compassion, or the divine right of each individual. The core value of conservatism is karma, or the law of the harvest. The two values are at odds with each other, but both are necessary and must function together.
Well, I think that’s enough for now.
…people who will come up with creative solutions to solve the world’s biggest problems … will NOT be experts in their fields. The real disruptors will be those individuals who are not steeped in one industry of choice, with those coveted 10,000 hours of experience, but instead, individuals who approach challenges with a clean lens, bringing together diverse experiences, knowledge and opportunities.
And while experts will have a part to play in solving today’s looming crises where incremental evolution is needed, I believe that non-expert individuals will drive disruptive innovation.
Sure – there will always be a need for experts, who will continue to drive steady incremental advancements in fields such as biotechnology, environmental sciences, or information technology. But I believe that the best ideas come from those not immersed in the details of a particular field. Experts, far too often, engage in a kind of myopic thinking. Those who are down in the weeds are likely to miss the big picture. To my mind, an expert is in danger of becoming a robot, toiling ceaselessly toward a goal but not always seeing how to connect the dots.
The human brain, or more specifically the neo-cortex, is designed to recognize patterns and draw conclusions from them. Experts are able to identify such patterns related to a specific problem relevant to their area of knowledge. But because non-experts lack that base of knowledge, they are forced to rely more on their brain’s ability for abstraction, rather than specificity. This abstraction—the ability to take away or remove characteristics from something in order to reduce it to a set of essential characteristics—is what presents an opportunity for creative solutions.
Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive and founder of investment firm The Social+Capital Partnership, said today that the tech world should be “utterly ashamed,” because “we are at an absolute minimum in terms of things that are being started.”
He argued that in contrast to past decades, where tech entrepreneurs were inventing silicon chips, putting computers on every desktop, or wiring the world, we’re now “rehashing ideas from 2003.”
All of this seems particularly frivolous, Palihapitiya said, at a time when people are “dying left and right” and there’s significant inequality: “Everybody should be focused on this big ideas.”
If we have become a debt society, it is because the legacy of war, conquest, and slavery has never completely gone away. It’s still there, lodged in our most intimate conceptions of honor, property, even freedom. It’s just that we can no longer see that it’s there.
~David Graeber in Debt: The First 5000 Years