I suspect that rich people who aren't just measuring their progress by net assets, acquire this problem with their entire lives - now that they're not holding down a job, they no longer have any sense of what constitutes "progress".
Existential angst mostly just consists of having one or more problems you don't know how to identify ("My life lacks obvious progress indicators" having not even occurred to you as a hypothesis for describing what's wrong) and so you find that everything you do to try to address the problems you think you have, never solves the real problem. http://lesswrong.com/lw/sc/existential_angst_factory/. If there's anyone out there who's reading this and thinking "Yes, that's me", you can go ahead and email me (Eliezer Yudkowsky) because problems like this really should be solvable. Similarly, now that we've figured out what was wrong with the Visiting Fellows program we're going to try to fix it, etcetera.
And this Robin Hanson blog post:
(Which suggests that the personality development agenda the Visiting Fellows program is currently pursuing may not succeed in transforming Visiting Fellows in to folks who are more driven and productive.)
I and at least 2 other people who have had a decent amount of direct contact with the Visiting Fellows agree on this.
Of course, another possibility is to make being a Visiting Fellow more like having a job--even relatively non-driven folks seem to be able to frequently get stuff done in job-like contexts. It's just that the portion of the population that's able to succeed in deadline-free not-intrinsically-fun self-directed activity seems to be pretty low. (And FWIW Eliezer, I am pretty sure you are part of this portion of the population--the fact that you're frequently disappointed with the amount you get done is a strong indicator. The real problem is when a person isn't disappointed with the amount they get done because their bar for themselves isn't set very high.)
I'm very glad that I've been able to get out of the box and do my own thing, but it's also made life a lot more difficult in many ways. It's been harder to develop consistent social circles since these tend to center around college and work. Even though I'm pretty good at making friends, at least for a fairly introverted person, I rarely feel like I really fit with whatever groups I fall in with--I tend to go back and forth between feeling insecure and being bored and annoyed by others' seeming conformity and lack of imagination. A bit of social anxiety is involved as well.
I've also never been able to maintain a consistent circadian rhythm. At this point I've just given up on worrying about it and regularly stay up for 30+ hour stretches when I'm not tired or have a lot to do. I've found it easier to just go with it than trying to force myself into the 'normal' way. This also contributes to feeling weird or different from others though--just feels like I'm on another wavelength a lot of the time.
Not sure why I decided to share this exactly. I can definitely imagine having a lot of the same issues as a billionaire. I suppose that's why it doesn't seem a particularly worthwhile goal to pursue. I'd rather focus on finding a good creative writing group or learning to meditate or finding a place/way to live that helps me find more balance and belonging. Things that would have a tangible impact on my day to day being. Making a lot of money seems beyond a point to get in the way if anything.
I don't know if there's anything in particular to blame, but our society is quite exclusionary in many ways toward folks who go off the beaten path, even if they are otherwise kind and productive people with plenty to offer. Generally reasonable people can be very judgmental about things like not having a college degree or a normal job or typical sleep patterns. I've learned to take it in stride for the most part, but it leaves sort of a bad taste in my mouth. I suppose wealthy people may have to face some irrational prejudice from others as well.
However, as much as people might dislike them the most accessible team sport is Raiding in an MMO. People get addicted because they fill some basic human needs that the average modern life does not.
I'm going to move soon, most likely to SF or Oakland, where I don't have any real friends or contacts to speak of. I'm very excited at having the chance to fully restructure my life, but the wimpy worrier in me is worried that being alone will cause me to freeze up. Ah well, suppose all I can do is try :)
I mean -- we're made of dancing particles! That's hilarious!
This has nothing to do with existentialism, much less existential angst. Don't know where you got this definition.
The insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful; it is that they are unconscious. They are default settings. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing."
If you define "worship" as merely seeing something as larger or more important than yourself, then yes, everyone "worships something". But this "observation" is not profound but rather a verbal card-trick leaving you with nothing useful. What interesting is the difference between worshiping a God, formulating a rational, ethical system, attempt approach reality scientifically, cultivating the "be here now" attitude and what-all, rather than the comforting new age claim that "all beliefs are really the same".
Whoa, there, stop right there. Meaning flows into definitions, not the other way around. Worship can mean many, many things, and when specified by the author (as it seems to be reasonably, if implicitly, done here) unless they're trying to do something really stupid like redefine worship to mean "purple", you pretty much have to take the definition as given.
Declaring "No, the word worship really means X" does nothing to counter the original text, nor does it further your understanding or anybody else's. As evidenced by the fact that your second paragraph strongly suggests you were too caught up in enforcing a wrong meaning to even see the point, as "all beliefs are really the same" is very contrary to what you are replying to, which is a discussion on the very different results that different beliefs can have! And I would note, at no point in the quotation as given did the question of "truth" come up, it was simply talking about beliefs and their results. (Right or wrong. I'm not defending it per se except inasmuch as I'm suggesting you completely missed it. The full context may contain the idea of truth of the belief, I don't know.)
Similarly, to use another example I've seen more times than I can count, logically defeating religion requires substantially more than to simply declare that "by definition, faith is belief in something that doesn't exist" and QED your way to victory in the next sentence. Not everybody uses the term in that way, and all you can do with wordplay like that is preach to the choir, you'll convince nobody who didn't already agree with you with that sort of thing.
While there is no platonic definition of the word, any two people communicating have some definition, and each has some sense of what the other's definition is. Intentionally violating that is acceptable in certain cases when you are careful to ensure you don't poison the conversation. No such care was given here.
It's a shifted definition of the word "worship" which then shifts the definition of the word "atheist" which then shifts the definition of the word "belief" in your post, and which then shifts the definitions of the word "faith". We've created an entire parallel vocabulary which will do -nothing- helpful to the conversation.
And two posts away you have this: http://news.ycombinator.org/item?id=2365864
A guy talking about how atheists have faith. Except it's not atheists, it's "atheists". And they don't have faith. They have "faith". The equivocation fallacy is complete.
This is what happens when you let someone poison a conversation with an equivocation.
You haven't created one. It already exists. I'm not proscribing, I'm describing. This is well within normal definitions of worship, which is a fairly fuzzy word as it is. Go ask ten people on the street to define it and see what you get. You'll get at least one that fits this close enough. "Spending ones mind and body on that which you prioritize the highest" is not that far out a definition, which is at least close to the sense used in that quote; when one talks about "worshiping money" we do not generally mean that a Benjamin has been placed on a literal pedestal and one is literally bowing in front of it and expecting favors from Mammon, yet the phrase is clearly in common use and has some sort of meaning.
The quote does not equivocate and you've misdiagnosed the fallacy. Equivocation is when you change your definition halfway through. There's no change in that quote. It starts with a certain (though as I said implicit) definition and it carries it through. If you think it changed, again, I'd really suggest reading it more carefully and considering the possibility that it is in fact not out to trap you in linguistic wordplay but actually has something to say that is in fact not even particularly religious (or perhaps more accurately supernatural) in nature. It's an observation about human nature that can still be true in a purely mechanistic universe. I'm not even sure what better terminology there might be.
The conversation isn't being poisoned with equivocation, the conversation is poisoned by people being simply unclear by their word usage, and refusing to grant the author any benefit of the doubt because they have their own baggage surrounding certain words. (That's two distinct things.)
English sucks. If you agree that there are no platonic definitions of words, then you need to be willing to follow through with the implications of that and bend a little to follow people in good faith. You're getting caught up in particular definitions and also appear to consequently not actually understand what the quote was saying. Right or wrong (because I'm not sure I 100% agree with it as is), how can you fairly judge it if you choose to not understand it?
While I disagree with the "worshipping anything other than god will eat you alive" sentiment... in general I agree with the concept.
The idea that you could rid yourself of unexamined, culturally imprinted beliefs is a charged mixture of hubris and absurdity.
Atheists shed some small set of (generally preposterous) beliefs, and then imagine they are free of faith. It's like rich white kids eschewing BMW's and designer clothes and thinking they've escaped privilege.
you can't avoid worshipping something
The only people who don't have faith are skeptics, and I'm talking about skeptics who are skeptical about everything here. Like they aren't even sure of their own existence.
Faith is a logical requirement of any personal conclusion whether you like it or not.
Even if you experiment to beyond reasonable doubt, you still risk that you could be wrong. Any true scientist trusts in the scientific method, but the scientific method itself leaves things open to new questions, new evidence, and new experiments. That's what makes the scientific method wonderful. But that's also why any conclusion by the scientific method also in the end has a final requirement of faith for any immediate conclusions.
It's only been about the last 140 years (with the rise of Christian Fundamentalism and the associated mysticism and anti-intellectualism) that "faith" has been used to refer to belief without reason or evidence. The parent poster is moving the goalposts, but he's moving them back toward where they actually belong.
You can't just pick a word's meaning from hundreds of years ago (worse, a foreign-languag equivalent) and drop it into modern conversation without stating that that's what you're doing.
That said, PakG1 is not stretching the definition of faith, he's correcting it. It is appropriate to classify erik's position as incorrect and his definition as lacking, but not to classify Pak's correction as a fallacy.
From a Christian perspective, the Bible defines "faith" as confidence in that which we hope for and that which is unseen. (Hebrews 11:1)
That's pretty simple, and secondly, that pretty much lines up with every "dictionary" definition of faith -- i.e. a confidence (or an assured belief) in that which cannot be presently assured. Everything in this world has differing degrees to which we must use faith.
When I drive my car, I don't need much reassurance of faith (i.e. confidence in a belief) that when I turn the wheel left, the car is going to make the turn. (My belief being in the car's ability to make the turn). However, if you were rationally honest, you would agree that just because the car turned left 1000 times prior, that does not truly give you a reason to be 100% rationally confident that it will continue to do so.
Why? Because the environment and every single factor has changed. The road is different, the car is older, the wheel bearings may be a little less greased, the tires have worn, the gravel lays differently, the weather is different, thousands of tiny different universal factors have changed, which really forms an entirely unique model for the 1001st left turn you are about to make. Not to mention, you aren't God, so you have no possible way of knowing all those factors. The perfect mathematical model exists for determining whether that car will make the turn, but you will never know it, so you can only generalize based on prior experience. So you go on, ignoring that tiny little chance (using faith -- a confidence in a given outcome) that the car will not perform as expected.
Faith is the confidence in an expected (hoped for) outcome, don't make it out to be more than it is. Some things in this world require larger doses of faith, like whether or not God exists. Empiricism helps to make faith easier.
Some things in this world require larger doses of faith, like whether or not God exists.
Exactly. To put an even finer point on it, it would also take a great amount of faith to confidently assert that there are dragons in your basement.
- Where did we come from?
- How did we get here?
- What happened X billion years ago?
- etc, etc.
We can establish mathematical and physical models in the present, but knowing present models does not rationally give us any clue as to whether those models were the same in the past, especially as we go farther back in time. Even knowing present rates of change do not establish whether that delta was the same throughout history. Extrapolating present models into the past functions on several underlying assumptions (oh hey, faith!), and ultimately we realize we truly have no way of empirically validating the past.
So yes, I think it's good we've come to common ground on a definition of "faith". Now apply it to your own models of thinking, and you can see why on existential issues we stand on common ground of faith. I'm all for science, but it's good to recognize the limits of empiricism.
As far as your past versus present comments go, I cannot tell whether your indulging in philosophical navel gazing about the Problem of Induction, or if you actually have a particular scientific theory in mind that you think doesn't stand up to the evidence. In the former case, you can quickly reason that accepting any scientific principle takes as much faith as picking your nose, which renders the conversation meaningless and contradicts your given definition of faith to begin with. After all, you don't know that the universe wasn't created 15 seconds ago with all of our memories intact. If it's the latter case, and you really believe that there are some important underlying assumptions in a specific area of science that scientists have not stated up front, then I think the best thing to do would be to contribute your insights to the scientific community by writing a paper on it. If you can demonstrate previously unknown shortcomings in a widely accepted scientific theory, then you will be listened to and heralded. If you cannot, then your vague accusations that scientists overstate their assumptions and thereby use "faith" to back up their research are baseless.
Regardless, I think we both came to agreement that faith is a necessity.
After all, you don't know that the universe wasn't created 15 seconds ago with all of our memories intact.
You're being absurd. What I was trying to get at is that empiricism has its limits (and that everyone uses those "large doses" of faith). The only valid past that can be legitimately (i.e. rationally) studied is the past which has been subjected to empirical observation.
We cannot rationally establish beliefs about a past which we have not (nor any human) ever empirically observed. The scientific method relies on empiricism to validate its claims. Therefore science which attempts to describe a past that nobody has ever experienced is functioning on faith (origins, existential answers, etc). Pretty simple and really all I was getting at for a typical atheist's worldview.
It is, however, a fallacy to poison the well by suggesting that the person who has presented the correct definition is about to engage in the "typical next step" of making an erroneous claim that the person hasn't actually made.
I like that XKCD gets cited in rhetoric here. =)
I dislike this: Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.
To me that says people cannot choose what to do with their own minds. Like the atheists-in-foxholes saying, it denies a freedom that I cherish and denigrates a goal that I aspire to.
This is all very much a sidelight. We're just messing around on the internet, right? No hard feelings.
* I did re-read the speech.
* Not every text relates to the foxholes platitude.
* Even if you don't think there's a connection between what I said and what DFW said, so what? We are on a tangent off a tangent off a tangent in the middle of the internet.
* I feel like you maybe are frustrated at somebody or something else and taking it out on me via the internet. Not nice.
What I took from it personally is that people tend to find meaning in life from something - a deity, a job, money, fame, looks, their own business - and that it doesn't really which of those you choose you're essentially taking a leap of faith that it will deliver happiness.
I find DFW's perspective interesting but overly didactic.
The above was not meant as a takeaway or summary of what he wrote.
All it takes is a simple Google search to show that the author of the quote uses worship quite routinely in one of the word's many "widely accepted" meanings:
The only contentious thing he has done is draw parallels to atheism, the definition of which is not so sensitive to context. The merits of doing so I think would have been a good talking point, but instead all you contributed was "a stupid nonsense."
extravagent respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>
I had the non-unique experience of being a multi-millionaire for 2 weeks in the summer of 1999. Which is to say that on paper, in terms of options and restricted stock, and stock which was currently owned but embargoed (due to my companies acquisition) was 'worth' millions.
I really had to sit back and think hard about what that meant, would I retire in 4 years?, keep working ? join a venture firm? The stock went from $120/share to $0.83/share before I could sell any of it so I never had to actually answer those questions but I found that how I felt when I was 'rich' was different than how I thought I would feel. I don't know if that is a common experience or not.
I find the idea that someone wouldn't really feel financially secure unless they had $1b in the bank sad. But I looked at what Google paid for Eric Schmidt's 'security detail' and I realized that at some point you become a 'soft target' for people who would acquire money through violence or extortion. I would hope to avoid becoming one of those targets. I've heard that if you are ever in danger of acquiring too much wealth you can 'fix' that by buying an airline. (with props to Sir Richard Branson)
"At a party given by a billionaire on Shelter Island, Kurt Vonnegut informs his pal, Joseph Heller, that their host, a hedge fund manager, had made more money in a single day than Heller had earned from his wildly popular novel Catch 22 over its whole history. Heller responds, 'Yes, but I have something he will never have . . . Enough.'"
It is a math model for infectious disease
Wealth is relative. Rich people have problems too. Rich people can be unhappy. At the heart of this is that we're all human. I'm still struggling to figure what exactly we're trying to prove by asserting otherwise... This article, and all like it, are just so silly.
'People think because I'm rich I must be happy. But they don't realize that my happiness is connected to so many material things, if just one of them goes wrong it can ruin my day.'
Or something to that effect. More material comforts = more dependency for happiness = greater likelyhood of misery (or at least, 'peevement' or angst). He was talking about all the expensive toys that had to be maintained properly, special meals he liked to have, elaborate plans for essentially simple social occassions, and so on.
Somewhat surprisingly to me, I found the most mature amongst his peers to be Ivanka Trump. She acknowledged her wealth, but at the same time made it clear that given her head start in life, she planned to work hard to make her own path in life. And judging from accounts from a couple people who went to school with her at Penn, she's pretty sharp. I liked her.
But most of the others seemed to fall into two groups:
1) At a loss for what they should do in life given the massive amount of wealth they knew they had at their disposal. One of the main concerns for this group is just not to lose the family's money. (Jamie Johnson himself and his father fell into this category)
2) An arrogant disdain for those not in their self-determined "class". This disdain is not necessarily reserved for the middle/low classes, but could also be applied to "new money" or those with just single/double digit million net worth.
All around, great documentary. Go see it.
What stood out the most for me is how Warren Buffett disowned his grand daughter, Nicole Buffett, for taking a part in the movie.
Here is an exert from the article:
"Buffett said she received a letter -- in response to one she sent asking her grandfather to explain why he disowned her -- in which he told her she had "never been considered a real family member, that I have not been legally or emotionally adopted" by him. Nicole Buffett reads from the part of the letter in the documentary."
One respondent, the heir to an enormous fortune, says that what matters most to him is his Christianity, and that his greatest aspiration is “to love the Lord, my family, and my friends.” He also reports that he wouldn’t feel financially secure until he had $1 billion in the bank.
I think this guy needs to crack open his Bible, and read a bit of Matthew 19:20-22...
The young man said, "I have obeyed all of these. What else must I do? Jesus replied, "If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in Heaven. Then come and be my follower." When the young man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich.
I can't think of anything more to say. I just hope I didn't just start a religeous flame war.
This may sound like a "soft" interpretation because it allows for being rich and also spiritual, but then again, it also means that Jesus' implied indictment may apply to non-millionaires like me. If my focus is money or prestige or whatever, I'm in the same boat. You can't follow Jesus half-heartedly.
To your point of advice: it does seem that if you've got $50 million and it's causing you anguish, you could certainly get rid of it and do a lot of good in the process. And I imagine the stigma from regular people would largely turn to respect.
Honestly, I would be quite fine with a shitload of money and a meandering purpose in life. I think that's true of most people, including the larger subset of the "super-rich" that didn't choose to whine in an article in the Atlantic. Most people have a meandering purpose in life anyway, and mixtures of reliable and unreliable friends. It's not something special royalty gets to lay claim to.
The primary difference appears to be that the royalty can choose who they want to be, where-as not all of the plebeians have that luxury ("dream it, live it" self-help bullshit aside, one still has to pay for food and shelter and dependents). And the poor rich children are depressed because they have all their options open to them...
I seem to be saying this a lot, but here it is again: cry me a fucking river. :-)
I think part of the point of the article was to say, "no, you probably wouldn't."
Or in essence, I don't believe what the article is implying, and it has nothing substantial within it to make me believe it.
Happiness is relative, and your personal happiness likely settle down to the same place. So if you get a huge windfall (millions of dollars), you will be happier for a short term, but ultimately, your happiness will fall back to your normal levels. At that point you have different concerns, but you still have concerns.
Concerns differ in terms of criticality. "I lack motivation because I don't NEED to work" is a very different concern from "I work 60 hours a week and still can barely put food on the table". The former may seem like a major concern when it's happening to you, but from a non-relative perspective, it's still much less serious than the latter.
No, I'm not rich. But I'm not one to pretend I prefer being poor because it's easier than admitting I can't make money. Come hell or high water, I'll one day catch big fish.
But the perils of being rich are legion, as detailed in this interesting piece.
As I grew up, I always had to work for most anything I got and, in retrospect, I believe that the financial necessity that drove a good part of this was actually a big part of my character development. I always wonder what it would have been like on that front if I were continually faced with the temptation, as a rich kid, of bypassing the pain and difficulty of such challenges in favor of indulgences that were readily at hand. This must be an enormous problem for young people who have inherited significant wealth.
In any case, this piece portrays those with some measure of wealth from an interesting angle and nicely highlights that all that glitters is not gold, even if it literally is gold.
Your perils are legion when you're suddenly the target of a squad of ninjas, or surrounded by a hostile armed gang. There being a social stigma attached to being rich or there being higher expectations on you because you're rich are miles away from a legion of perils. "My friends look at me differently" or "I tend to take the easy road whens stuff gets hard" are drastically less severe of problems than "I can't afford my kid's medical bills" or "I'm having a hard time providing for my family while saving for retirement". Yeah, their lives have problems, but that inevitable - if our lives didn't have some risks or tradeoffs, we'd go insane from boredom. But their tradeoffs and risks are very far removed from their physiological and safety needs.
If something makes you intensely unhappy, you would resent somebody else saying "bah, that's not a problem."
"One thing you learn when you get rich, though, is how few of your problems were caused by not being rich. When you can do whatever you want, you get a variant of the terror induced by the proverbial blank page. There are a lot of people who think the thing stopping them from writing that great novel they plan to write is the fact that their job takes up all their time. In fact what's stopping 99% of them is that writing novels is hard. When the job goes away, they see how hard."
That seems to be what college (esp. summers and spring break) is for, at least at a good school: giving you a sense of what life would be like if free from economic bullshit (as it is for the rich, the only people attending college 150 years ago). It's better in most ways, as only the most successful or wealthiest adults actually enjoy adulthood more than college, but college is not perfect. I had fun, but I wouldn't want to go back. And how many college students are writing novels, or even engaging in the amount of reading and writing that an aspiring novelist needs to be doing? A few, but not as many as who "want to write someday".
"Some day you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are."
Power attracts the corrupt, and it does corrupt. This is why handguns are (for a certain type of person, i.e. those who are explosively impulsive) so dangerous. Holding one gives the power of life and death.
Being in power tends to make people arrogant, short-sighted, and less creative than they'd otherwise be. Power relationships are generally negative on both sides, thus worse than zero-sum.
If Schervish had felt this way, it’s because he didn’t read Marx carefully enough. The whole point of Marxism is not “rich people are bad”—the Communist Manifesto is brutally critical of those who think that capitalism could be reformed by making rich people nicer. The point is that capitalism as a social structure is bad, because even well-meaning members of the bourgeoisie have incentives to oppress the working class, and those who do not follow those incentives will eventually find themselves at the bottom of the heap.
(I am not a Marxist myself, but this misreading is one of my pet peeves.)
I am experiencing the awkwardness of a change in personal wealth as we speak.
I have a friend I met at 16 via a t-shirt venture. We would hang out & work on his company. As time progressed we would hang out off and on. After an extended gap in communication, I emailed him to get his number & he came by to pick me up.
We drove for about 15 to 20 minutes until we reached an office warehouse. He then told me, "welcome to his company". He had started what is now one of the country's top promotional products companies. He now owns a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bentley, $3M home, and more.
I feel awkward around him & I think he feels the same at times. We are both entrepreneurs but he has had more success financially. I've since taken a major interest in philanthropy. I recently asked for a contribution toward my non-profit & it was amazingly awkward as well. LOL, I was sweating... I felt like a panhandler.
Lastly, when I ask how he's doing & about other things outside of business I feel fake. It's usually a general response as to not seem ungrateful as mentioned. But, I genuinely want to know.
Anyway, that's my experience with this issue.
* You're not wealthy enough; and
* There's always someone wealthier than you. 
 Caveat: In principle, someone has to be the wealthiest in the world, which means the other ~7,000,000,000 people are not.
Anyway, at the three-digit millionaire and billionaire level, it's all about score-keeping and social status for those who care at all. Most billionaires are not quite at the pinnacle of the social elite, and no one stays at the tip-top of that for very long. Wealth is more stable, at the upper tiers, than social status, which is lost to age if nothing else takes it away.
"Pareto found that the distribution of income was well approximated by a log-normal distribution, except for approximately the upper 3 percent of wealthy individuals."
(Hopefully you are becoming inspired to do some agent-based computational economic modelling! It's fun.)
The sole reason why being happy with the present will do more for you than anything else.
Not being rich, but being able to use my imagination and reason to figure out logical conclusions, I have come to realize that it is not about what you have, or who you are, but about how you're being. In the end everyone dies naked and alone regardless of how much or little money/friends/love/whatever you have.
Actually, the article contradicts itself: the byline says "the first time" and paragraph 2 says the studies have gone on since 1970.
It went something like this:
"I've found that a person really can't spend more than $200 million dollars in their lifetime. Even if you make no attempts to save it or spend it wisely, it's very hard to squander $200 million so badly that you are left with nothing" (that was the gist, at least, but this is from memory)
Then again, Ted's likely just referencing people who at least have shreds of sanity in them.
If you've really got a fortune to squander, that's the way to do it.
Tyson's problems had nothing to do with money. Money just made his problems more expensive.
The financially independent often choose to work anyway - so why not just choose work you enjoy (or rather, find worthwhile/meaningful) in the first place?
Stress, poor decisions, emotional tumult, and being flung into life itself are inexorable, and as unavoidable as breathing when you have a pulse.
Money is tangible, and as far as tangible things go..May well be at the top of the food chain.
In day to day life, and superficial observation of others, the tangible is our primary prism of experience and thought. It's not that this issue isn't "real".
The mind is so complex and our emotions so strong, we're (benignly) selfish and self-consumed to the point that day to day living and observation is done through the "tangible", as our primary prism of experience and thought.
Money/wealth takes on significance. It simply is significant. And always will he for those with and without.
But if we admit the ubiquitous behavioral pattern of our selves (as applicable to money as seeing an ultra good looking person walk down the street; or someone walk around with a 145 scored IQ test on their shirt..), we aren't dealing with wealth and money, per say.
A deeper but likely impossible study would be having the recording of therapy sessions with these people; and then juxtaposed with therapy sessions of non-SuperRich.
Dollars to donuts that those who are 'happy' and Super Rich bear striking resemblance, and actual distinct cross overs, to those 'happy' and not Super Rich. The converse being true for those 'unhappy' and all in between.
Perhaps there is a tipping pt in both poor/rich directions, at certain extreme ends; but in these instances, what are we dealing with, aside from the perks or poisons of 'luck' in a distilled form, that is life's ace up the sleeve and trump card.
And when it's just as possible to meet your wife while getting a latte, or choke on the biscotti you get with it...luck shouldn't be taken for granted, either.
Cliff Notes: when I am Super-Rich and still neurotic, i will simply blame myself, and move on in finding a year or two respite while penning an epic book and psycho-behavorial study on the rich and poor, vis a vis therapy sessions.
It reminds me that we're all people, all human.
Also reminds me of a bible verse (Ecclesiastes 9:10): "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."
Whether rich or poor, happy or not, we all die.
That will probably be changing soon.
Very few people want to live to 100000, much less forever. What will produce the very long lifespans is the day-to-day iterated decision, which won't be life vs. death or stay-young vs. get-old, but well vs. sick, where there's an obvious victor: being well. There's the saying, "Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die." I disagree. Everyone wants to die (at some point in the future, possibly millions of years off) but no one wants to get sick.
-there is an associated cost per citizen that may not be offset by revenue/taxes
-this will spur population growth, with all the associated problems
Aging and dying costs the medical system about $500,000 per person. Then there is the loss of that person's productive potential. Anti-aging treatments are going to be incredibly cheap in comparison to death.
Post-aging population growth is likely to be closer to linear than exponential. Would you really want to deal with 5000 kids for a million years?
There will be a lot of problems with post-aging humanity, but they aren't the ones people propose, especially not the ecological ones. Humanity's ecological load on the planet will max out some time early this millennium. As a cautious transhumanist and a deistic Buddhist, I worry about spiritual emptiness. I think post-aging, post-scarcity might look like the realm of the devas and ashuras in Buddhism (often mistranslated as "gods" and "demigods") which may exist only as metaphor now, but is likely to become reality (for some) in a few hundred years. I see no need and no way to prevent these changes (end of aging and death) and we have no right to do so, but they do run the risk of allowing people to lock themselves into sub-optimal and stagnant states. Also, I may be wrong about the post-aging world and I hope I am. A world with a 50,000-year lifespan may be a spiritual paradise, a pure land. Currently, we have an 80-year lifespan and people only get to use 10-20% of their living time due to economic needs, so we have a world where most people don't develop much at all.
We all accumulate quirks. If you're mauled by a dog, you will understandably be afraid of dogs afterwards. Probably excessively, irrationally so. If you live through a depression, you may become obsessive about saving. If you have a great time polka dancing, you may scoff at electric guitars.
Eventually these things build up to the point where you're a curmudgeon. We say old people are "stuck in their ways." But young people, for all their foolishness, see their parents viewpoints and habits and virtues and prejudices, not with objective eyes - they have their own faults too - but with fresher ones.
If humanity ever consists mostly of people with thousands of years of life experience, accumulated habits, etc - well, that sounds like a pretty miserable existence to me. And maybe a fragile one if larger threats arise. How will you "think outside the box" to respond if you've been building your box for centuries?
I don't think this personality decay will be a major problem. When people have nearly infinite life left and all physical manifestations of aging can be held back, I think people will retain all advantages of youth, without the disadvantages after 40 years or so (although behaviors of 100-year-olds in post-aging world may be considered "immature").
Part of why I feel this way is that, as a Buddhist, I don't see much difference between spending (say) 100,000 years in 1200 bodies or in one of them. Impermanence is constant regardless of life span; constantly, thoughts are being born and dying. It's not that different: short lifespans vs. long ones. The current arrangement just shakes us up a lot more. We have 20 years (+/- 15 depending on how terms are defined) of uptime before we are fully formed and spend our last 10 years "unwinding" and not very productive, with this process culminating in a complete loss of physical memory (and complete submission to the force of karma and the will of God-- Buddhism doesn't require belief in God, but I'm a deist) every 80 years or so.
Most changes humanity has made have been slightly positive, but have only enabled and made easier (not guaranteed or enforced) happiness and spiritual progress. In this regard, their improvements to the human condition have been non-negligible but have only increased what is possible, not so much what is realized. I expect post-aging humanity to be similar. Life may become more comfortable without losing all of one's memories (and facing, since no one knows for sure what happens after death, the possibility of nonexistence) every 80-100 years, but it won't become better unless people make spiritual progress, which can't be imposed upon people or "given" through technology. People have to take it up on their own when they are ready. My concern regarding a post-aging and post-scarcity world is that people will just turn into spiritual procrastinators.
In the middle 3rd millennium, aging will be gone and death will be rare (very rare, and exponentially declining so as to make humans post-mortal) but extremely traumatic when it happens. "Breaking News: 134-year-old honors student dies in lunar train crash." 4th-millennium humans will probably store their brains in very safe repositories and control robotic, replaceable bodies through electronic telepathy. Some people alive will probably live to see this, and if I take my next rebirth here, I probably will as well. But I kinda hope not to "make the cut". A hundred years in good health I'd love, but I don't really want to wait around till the heat death of the universe to pass on.
Well, the alternative is magic.
In several comments here, you use the word "will" a lot. It's possible, but it makes you sound like a crazy prophet. No-one knows for sure how the future will play out.
I loved this single,succinct line.
It may be preposterous for most anyone to feel financially insecure, given that it's possible to survive through couchsurfing and dumpster diving and what a high historical standard of living this would provide.
The super-rich aren't the only ones who keep seeing their standards go up.
Although it might not seem like it compared to our super-rich peers, we are rolling in wealth.
(I've read the FAQ). Moderators please feel free to delete it if this is the wrong place.
It seems to make sense for people to continue working after getting rich, presumbably in a position of responsibilty, to give us a regular set of fresh chalenges. e.g. Steve Jobs doesn't quit even though he is extremely rich and also ill, he feels a responsibility to that position.
It seems to me this is similar to those in the article who "satisfactions of philanthropy", with the added bonus of having people who listen to your advice.
I merely meant to imply that large amounts of wealth make a small (negligible?) improvement to the top .001%, and that much smaller amounts (like food stamps) can mean the difference between life and death to the poor. The productivity gains (due to dampening entrepreneurs' risk aversion) caused by refactoring wealth from the top to the bottom are another pro-transfer argument I meant to reference.
Communism does not create wealth as well.
Most people who want to be rich want escape from money's grip, and it seems like that rarely happens. Either that, or freedom from money is not a monotonically increasing function of one's allotment and these people have overshot some sort of "sweet spot" at the level of the middling wealthy.
The grand takeaway was that living in a society ruled by money sucks even for those who have a lot of it. I wish the world were more like college in the sense that, when I was in college, I had no idea whether what my friends' grades were, and people weren't stratified into socially insular tiers based on GPA. The difference between a 3.9 and a 3.2 wasn't socially divisive in the way that the difference between $20 million and $7.50 net worth is.
Well said. Freedom from money is a combination of factors: how much you have and spend in the present, and how much you expect to make and spend in the future. As people get more money it's very easy to ramp up your lifestyle and expectations to put more pressure on the future (instead of less). On the other hand, I know people who by focusing on what's important to them and adjusting their lifestyle feel fairly free without having millions of dollars. So (once you get to a decent threashold of earning) a lot of it is attitude as well.
This is linked IMO to the studies mentioned in this video, which find that motivation and drive at work are similarly not a monotonically increasing function of pay, but in fact there is an optimal pay rate beyond which drive begins to decrease.
There are a lot reasons why executive overpay makes CEOs perform worse at their jobs. Foremost among them is that it enables them to make short-term plays that are risky or harmful to the company in the long run. A $500,000-per-year job is one that an executive desperately wants to keep. A $25 million-per-year job, with four years' pay as a golden parachute, is one that can safely be blown up after a couple years. (No CEO intentionally blows up, but many take stupid risks driven by ego and status-based avarice that they would be less inclined to take if paid modest salaries and thereby more attached to their jobs.)
There are two reasons why executive overpay exists. The first is self-dealing by a small, socially closed elite. They do it because they can. The second is to motivate younger people who greatly overestimate their chances of ascending to such ranks: printing dreambucks, I call it. I would argue, were it not for the cultural corrosion the overpay causes, that executive pay is actually a very, very cheap mechanism for achieving the 2nd goal. Overpaying executives does motivate people to want to get to that rank. The problem is more subtle and cultural: what does it motivate them to do? Be more creative? No. Be more ethical? Certainly not. Be more ruthless? Sure, but "ruthless" is a hair's breadth away from psychopathic and workplace psychopaths (cf. Fiorina) can destroy companies.
If anything, I always thought the common criticism of big corporations is that they are far too risk averse. E.g., rather than taking a risk and betting it all on Maemo (an early linux-based smartphone OS), Nokia instead went the safe route and have now stagnated. Similarly, when problems arise, many big companies layer small fix after small fix on an existing system - it's much safer than investing $250M in a complete renovation.
There are a lot of risks that have a moderately large upside and a huge potential downside, that tends to be delayed, that a lot of CEOs are given a lot of incentives to take. Mark Hurd with HP comes to mind: it's pretty risky to cut payrolls, gut R&D budgets, and focus mainly on really high-margin products like overpriced ink. The upside is a big bump in profits, but the downside risk is making your employees hate the company and getting killed when someone else starts selling slightly less overpriced ink. The downside tends to be delayed a bit, though, so CEOs who make $25m and get a golden parachute don't need to worry about it.
Also, most CEO's incentives are medium to long term, anyway. Compensation is usually a mix of cash and restricted stock, all of which goes down the drain if the company tanks. Take Ed Whitacre as an example - his pay is $1.7M in cash + $7.3M in restricted stock. His fortune is strongly tied to the medium-term (several years) value of GM.
R&D project: if it fails, you paid people to do something that wasn't commercially viable. You have a lot of talent and knowledge under one roof. If it succeeds, upside potential is tremendous. You can move those smart people to another project that might have better odds of taking off.
Laying people off, not because you need to, but because you don't have the vision to make decisions you didn't study in business school: saves costs and usually pops the stock price for a few months, but causes the best people to leave when they can, trashes the culture, and fills the company with mediocrities and yes-men. Upside is minimal; downside is potential loss of the whole company.
With the R&D project, the CEO gets a big payoff if it succeeds, and loses only his stock options if it fails horribly and takes down the company. Big upside, no downside. With layoffs, the stock price pops for a few months and goes back down years later when the CEO's restricted shares are allowed to be sold. The upside to the CEO is truly minimal in this case.
You write as if the CEO is malicious and willing to lose money in order to ruin a perfectly good company.
On the other hand, cutting the R&D projects and saying that "unprofitable operations" (even if they were profitable) were slashed will pop the stock price in the short term.
You're naive if you think CEOs don't have ways to benefit from temporarily popped stock prices even if their restricted shares can't be sold until much later. If they want to be a bit sleazy and secretly sell early, they can ask a spouse or sibling to short-sell or buy puts on the open market. Or they can use foreknowledge of the pop to hand one-day gains over to their friends. Illegal? Probably. (The reason I don't say "yes" is that insider trading has a technical meaning that most violations of the law's spirit don't meet.) Unethical? Yes. Likely to lead to jail time? No. Common as dirt? Yes.
It's pretty rare for people to commit insider trading violations for their own accounts, because it's easy to get caught. Instead, they tell their friends what is about to happen as a means of favor-trading. With that, it's pretty much impossible to get caught.
I don't think most corporate executives are malicious, so much as avaricious and narcissistic. Will they help their companies if it suits them? Yes. Will they hurt their companies if it suits them? Most of them will. The "we are the nobility and you are the peasants" mentality prevents most of them from caring too much either way about their companies; they care more about themselves, their friends, and maintaining their social class.
Thank you. Degenerate risk-taking is bad enough, but criminal when other people will suffer most of the consequences.
Good risks generally have limited downside. For example, R&D projects and startups that, if they fail commercially, only cost the money put into them, are good risks. Bad risks are generally those that have huge downside and low upside, that are taken because the consequences can be pushed off onto other people. An example of this would be eschewing a $500,000 safety device on an oil rig under a mile of ocean, thus admitting (realized, thanks to BP) risk of ecological catastrophe.
Corporations are notorious for externalizing costs but where they really shine is in the externalization of low-frequency, high-impact risks that most people can't evaluate. They're great at that.
I think that corporate executives often find themselves in a place where boredom gets the better of them. In dysfunctional companies, a well-studied executive can add value. The reward for this is moving on to a better job at a better company. Eventually, the executive ends up as the CEO of a great company like HP before some awful CEOs did it in. Problem: the company is running well and doesn't really need a CEO. People are already doing great work without direction. Result: CEO gets bored. I know a day trader who increased his profits by refusing to work between 10:30 and 3:00. He could find good trades in the first and last hour of the day, but "boredom trading" in the bland middle injected noise and didn't make any money for him. Most big-company executives are bored traders: making capricious decisions that just add noise, just to feel useful and fill time.
So true. This reminds me Feynman's investigation of the Challenger crush.
No longer trying to speak for the GP here, but I think that for many of the people that hate 'golden parachutes,' it violates their sense of justice. The entire company faces negative consequences when a high-risk maneuver fails, except for the CEO that decided on the maneuver in the first place. When a startup fails, I imagine it's very hard for anyone involved to avoid consequences, for the same reason it's easy to tell who in a startup is creating what value.
Also, how many millions does a CEO have to make before it qualifies as a 'golden parachute'? The last CEO of Nokia (Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo) had a sallary of 4.8 million euros  and the current one (Stephen Elop) got a $6 million signing bonus along with his $1.4 million salary . Evidently, this amount of money wasn't enough, although I realize golden parachutes also involve severence packages that may not be disclosed at this point.
The real question on the effectiveness of golden parachutes is this: Are there any examples of large companies with golden parachutes taking high risks that paid off? Apple might count, but I'm not sure if Steve Jobs feared the consequences of failure after he had already been ousted as CEO once.
Lets say Nokia's chances of success are 20%, but you have the ability to improve them to 30%. Suppose your pay package is 100% incentive based, you only get paid if Nokia survives. Why would you take this job? You have a 70% chance of getting nothing. It's much easier to go back to MS, and get a guaranteed paycheck.
In a few years, it will be easy to blame Stephen Elop and claim it is unjust for him to be paid even while Nokia tanks. But it isn't his fault that Nokia is in trouble (he's been CEO for 13 days) - he might be their best hope for survival. If he wasn't getting paid cash up front, he would probably just turn down the job and Nokia would be in even worse trouble.
(Not trying to endorse Elop, I know very little about him or Nokia. Just putting a face to the situation rather than speaking in the abstract about CEO A and company X.)
At $1 million or more per year, you can get all the talent you need. I have more talent than 90+% of big-company CEOs in the US and I will work for less. What is actually being paid-for in getting a big-ticket CEO is connections and reputation. Don't misuse words like that, at least not the word "talent".
I'm sorry that, in spite of having more talent than 90% of CEO's, you haven't actually accomplished enough for people to trust your self evaluation.
How long have you been running this conservative/troll schtick? It's entertaining and I commend you for your excellent execution of it. Let me guess, you also post on Autoadmit pretending to be a biglaw partner, right?
The literal meanings are identical. "Ruth" is an archaic word for a feeling of pity, compassion or remorse.
At the upper tier of wealth you have people who aren't social climbers per se but are really competitive. Next down, you have most of the social climbers trying to turn their money into status (which begets more money).
1. Imagine a dude who just wanted to build something cool. Craig Newmark, of Craig's List fame, for example would fall under this category. He's got enough money to retire, yet he still works customer service, because that's what he enjoys.
2. Now imagine, someone who just wants more, more, more, more. It appears Donald Trump might fall into this category. I don't know for sure, but he seems to be purely driven by money and power.
You can become wealthy 'organically' in the sense that you didn't set out to be wealthy. You can so get wealthy from the expressed intent to get wealthy.
I've know some who want a Mercedes but hate the thought of paying so much for one and some who have taken out the motor and put in a Chevy motor to save on repair costs.
People with money don't spend money they have, people who don't have money spend money they don't have.
An unbroken pattern of severe wins and losses in the working world is usually corrosive to one's personality. Losses make people bitter and they either collapse or deeply desire, even at psychopathic cost, to win. Too many wins, especially those of the "windfall" kind and much less those that come from genuine hard work, make people shallow, childish, and impatient.
One set lives in a world where the assessment of one's work is extremely subjective and changes with political fads, a world in which 90% of the most successful (who are never the most talented or best) are social-climbing charlatans and cerebral narcissists who cultivate defective personalities in the hope that their flaws will be taken as proof of creative genius. This they do while creating elaborate fictions, plots, and intrigues, selling nothing of true use, while their products occasionally inspire heinous crimes and suicides.
The other set tries to sell you their books.
It's hard for me to be sympathetic about this. They forget that the non-super-rich have all their same frustrations, plus the day-to-day "concerns" (read: money worries).
The rich people could eliminate 100% of their stresses if they simply chose to change their lifestyle.
The super-poor can't really eliminate their stress by a simple change up their lifestyle, if the mortgage isn't getting paid, the car broke down and you need medical procedure you can't afford and have no options, then these stresses are WORSE stresses than the rich have.
The rich may have it worse, but it's their own darn fault for making it worse.
I generally agree with what you're saying, but how should they do this? They have reputations that could be ruined but can never be "given away" and friends with expensive tastes. How many people willingly uproot themselves, after age 30, and move to another country where they don't know a soul? Not many. Those who do may find the transition rewarding, but it's still stressful, and a lot of people would prefer to stay put. So the idea that rich people can just eliminate all their stresses with lifestyle changes is wrong. A lot of stresses aren't even financial. On the other hand, I agree that wealthy people who are willing to live more frugally can be happy.
“The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greatest fear is that they cannot stand wealth” - Brigham Young
"Men of wealth among us, as elsewhere, who command their tens and hundreds of thousands, who have their every want supplied, have more anxiety, care and perplexity than many of you, who have to struggle for a comfortable living. And if you were placed in their position you would be a great deal more uneasy than you are now." - John Taylor.
Money is much more dangerous and troublesome than most people realize. These three quotes testify to that, as well as most of the production generated by rich people. Wealth destroys many who finally get it.