The problem is, the actors with money don't spend it with the intent to maximize the benefit to society as a whole. They spend it 'selfishly', to maximize their personal interests. There's nothing wrong with that, it's how capitalism works. But if everyone spent their money to benefit society as whole, then there would be an extremely strong correlation between how much a job pays and how much it 'matters'.
I feel that in the long run the markets work just fine and does act to benefit society since people are generally ethical. But it doesn't act to 'maximize' the benefit to society. I mean why did it take warfare for us to take space exploration seriously? And why did the internet start as a military network?
I think capitalism is a pretty decent system. But I wish we did a better job of pushing research and innovation for their own sake. Not as a reactive measure to beat the competition or get an upper-hand militarily. I think nearsightedness on what's best 'now' and 'for ourselves', leads to a lot of work that feels like it doesn't matter.
if it was possible to determine ex ante what benefits society the most, it wouldn't even be a contest, of course we could all agree to do that, it's almost tautological.
the problem is that in 99% of the cases we don't know. should i pay 50 cents on a banana, or is 1 euro a fair price. will 2 euro maximize aggregate welfare?
and who actually is "society as a whole"? is it just the most people, or should we stratify? is one group better or more worthy than another?
The prisoner's dilemma is a simple example of a situation in which cooperation would be the ideal solution for everyone, nonetheless players tend to behave selfishly.
The problem is that the selfish actions of some actors(the figurative 1%) count for overwhelmingly more than others. And a lot of actors don't have any say at all(those below the poverty line). In such a system, the selfish 'demands' of most other actors don't matter.
Say on HN, there were a few people (type A) that could instantly give 1,000,000 points to any comment or post and everybody else could give only 1(type B). A post could provide value for 100,000 type Bs and yet some other post that type A liked would always rise to the top. If this were true, HN would be a very boring place to be.
The goal should be to empower all actors to act selfishly - perhaps not equally, but atleast in a 'reasonably' proportionate fashion.
This holds for rare, luxury goods and limited markets (like housing). But the concentration of wealth in a minority AFAIK doesn't seem to bid up large markets like corn or paper.
What if besides having a disproportionately high number of points on HN, you had the power to influence the creators of HN so that a percentage of all the points on HN went to you? Or, what if you had millions of points on HN and were able to convince the makers of HN that you should be able to vote on HN with only 0.5 points per vote?
When you extend the concept to society as a whole, we are all players. No one is outside it. That's why I agree with HSO that it's not possible to state absolutely what would best benefit society.
Wait, are you suggesting that cooperating in the prisoner's dilemma is the correct strategy then? Because in fact defecting is always a best response to any of the opponent's choices, even if you are aware of the rules of the experiment.
What if we divorced 'demand'(what creates value for each person) from money (payment for value created) and gave all actors an equal right to determine demand irrespective of their ability to pay? We are working on building such a world.
Demand is already divorced from ability to pay - anyone can "demand" anything. The "problem" is that suppliers don't care about demand. They only care about being paid.
If a million people demand X but are unwilling to pay for it while 10 people demand Y and are willing to pay for it, why am I going to produce X instead of Y?
We are already beginning to see the early stages of such a system. All freemium services are in essence an example of such a system and therefore by extension most startups.
Gmail satisfies the demand of millions of customers for an email service but doesn't ask them to pay. This doesn't mean gmail doesn't make gains.
Currently, the primary funder of such services are ad and brand agencies.
What if we lived in a world where any individual could basically play the role that ad/brand agencies play in supporting freemium services today?
No, they aren't. They exist because sufficient people pay.
> and therefore by extension most startups.
Do you really think that a significant number of startups are freemium?
> Currently, the primary funder of such services are ad and brand agencies.
Not at all. They're funded by "heavy users" - see dropbox.
Ad supported is not freemium.
No. Freemium divorces payment from SOME direct beneficiaries.
However, the total cost, and then some, is paid by other direct beneficiaries. Is your scheme any different?
Note that freemium doesn't always work. For example, a freemium automobile company is unlikely to work. Advertising supported "free to end user" automobiles won't work either.
So, how does your proposed model work? Be sure to explain when it works and when it doesn't. (If you claim that it works for every product/service, you're wrong.)
I would like to see inequality reduced, but it seems like the 'right to create equal demand' has been provided already. There's always more work to be done, I guess.
For the majority of my life I was very goal oriented and would make sure every hour of the day was filled. Everyday was a todo list. I scheduled the occasional leisure activity but even these were part of some goal such as 'travel to 5 countries in 1 year"
Recently I just decided to give up any goals and any expectations. What I found out was that goals were stressing me out. It made me unhappy. I seeked my identity on some future achievement. It's something I think a lot of entepreneurs experience too... Now I just live life and experience whatever comes my way. I still work towards things but if a friend asks me to skip a workday to catch a movie, I no longer give them the "I'm busy" excuse.
I've tried it both ways. Without goals is fine for a year or three, especially if you've been living "with goals" your whole life... Indeed, it can be very refreshing.
...but then, once you've hung out on the beach enough, or read enough books, or watched enough movies, or built enough fun little programming projects just messing around, you realize that you're not building to anything long-term, and you're only on Earth for a few short decades.
Goals are necessary so that, ten, twenty, thirty years from now, you're doing the things you want to be doing. For example, changing the world for the better, if that's your thing, or contributing to cutting-edge biology, if that's your thing.
2011 was a great year. I met my future spouse, bought an RV, and we went traveling together. It went so well that I didn't set any goals for 2012, either.
Now I have a daily list of things to do (how I write that and what's on it is vastly different from most people's--that will probably be my next blog post), but I don't really set over-reaching goals. I don't need to. I know that what I need will show up when I need it--and that provides me a sense of peace I haven't had until recently.
My business is more successful, my blog has more readers, and, most importantly, I am happier without goals.
And yet, recently, I'm compelled to set myself goals, to live up to expectations, because only ambling around gets old after a while. I suggest that as always in life, the golden path is somewhere in the middle.
Yes, being eternally 'busy' and obsessed with goals is probably the quickest way to turn your life into a vortex of depressing bullshit, well, aside from prison or hard manual labor.
Take it easy, enjoy life and get a few hours of good quality work done most days of the week.
One of my most elightening periods ocurred when I was packing a product at a factory. If you keep your body busy with repetitive and tiring work, your mind can do wonders.
Not forever, certainly, but once you are accustomed to chair gymnastics, a day of tiring physical work after another really puts things in perspective.
I was being flippant in my above comment, and more referring to the back-breaking, soul-devouring variant of 'manual labor', the kind that drives people to drink and ruins the creative spirit.
Otherwise, I do agree, sometimes it's good to do some manual work, put the body on auto-pilot and let the mind wander. Personally I seem to get most of my best thinking time when I'm either walking, scrubbing floors, loading a van, etc...
So instead, each day, I try to find beauty and contentedness in the world around me. Creating smiles where I go, absorbing late afternoon sun on my skin, etc. That mindshift made me reappreciate the place I've lived in for 16 years. The mountains were suddenly beautiful, the people, etc.
That doesn't mean I still don't have goals. I've just made them realistic, asking myself why I want to achieve that goal. It shouldn't be to fill the "emptiness" that the author talks about. My new years resolution for the year for example is to run a 10km race (getting close!).
My current goals include code that will hopefully contribute substantially to the ease with which I can do my job, and to the happiness of our customers.
This is achievable, and a great way to maintain focus.
"Man, we are so busy there is no time to load the damn things!"
Bertrand Russell - In Praise Of Idleness
Then why are you getting paid for it? Clearly someone cares about it, roughly in proportion to the amount you're getting paid.
Consider these three jobs: making nails for local carpenters, operating machinery in a nail factory, designing machinery for nail factories. Designing machinery for nail factories helps carpenters the most, but feels least helpful.
Surprise surprise, reading children's books is not a good way to estimate the value delivered by people working in various occupations.
Now take working at a teenager magazine, something like Seventeen. Really, you are producing a level of writing and entertainment that 14-19yo girls will read, probably paid for by their parents. Most of it will probably be idle thoughts and advice borderlining on turning girls into sluts who buy too much make-up. Really, your job is to provide a way to hide advertisements.
Not very valuable if you take a step back and look at all of humanity.
Great articles like this are the reason I pay up for the NYT.
I was a little embarrassed how the article reflected much of my own life style. I am visiting my parents and I was talking with my Dad earlier this morning about my working more than I need to and my desire to cut back even more from consulting to have extra time for my writing and outdoor activities. I also realized that I brag about being "busy" - in an odd way wearing busy-ness as a badge of honor.
I understand that the article is trying to get us to think about busyness for busyness' sake, but in a way, when water,food and shelter are taken care of, you don't REALLY need to do anything else. But then what do you do for the rest of your life?
I would say keep busy, take a little stress, but when it becomes bad for you health and the people around you, back off. You'll be dead soon, don't waste it.
I think this is the question you're forced to answer with earnest when you stop trying to be busy for busyness sakes. It might be by being too busy, we don't stop and appreciate the present moment, and everything we already have.
I have way too much time to think (and to think way too much). I don't meet that much people, and when I talk to my friends or new encounters I don't have much to say. And I feel like I'm wasting my time not moving forward with my life (personal and professional).
I even googled "How to get busy".
I know it can be a trap, but being busy is GOOD. Meet people, do things, learn things, gain experience, be active.
Also you'll become someone more like-able. Someone who is busy IS attractive (socially and romantically).
Or do things you actually enjoy doing, without caring much for the end result? I think the latter is healthy, but the former is not. Busyness caused by doing things for egotistical reasons, or because everyone else is doing it wears you out.
Is there opportunity to develop your job description to take on needed roles that are not filled?
If the answer is no, then maybe you should consider moving on.
No idea how I'm going to prevent getting re-hooked in the fall, but I'm definitely going to prune that back while I'm on vacation.
This article will make no sense to inexperienced heads who think they can force their will on anything.
Life presents itself first and foremost as a task: the task of maintaining itself, de gagner sa vie. If this task is accomplished, what has been gained is a burden, and there then appears a second task: that of doing something with it so as to ward off boredom, which hovers over every secure life like a bird of prey. Thus the first task is to gain something and the second to become unconscious of what has been gained, which is otherwise a burden. (..) For if life, in the desire for which our essence and existence consists, possessed in itself a positive value and real content, there would be no such thing as boredom: mere existence would fulfil and satisfy us.
This obsessiveness with appearing as you are always busy is kind of sad. I think it's largely an age related thing. People in their 20's and 30's equate their worth, or value with how much stuff they are doing or making. I'd love to talk to an old friend and ask them what they're and have them say, 'nothing much, just hanging out'. Thats usually my response.
But of course, if you're busy just for the sake of being busy, you'll feel worn out and tired all the time. There are people who enjoy being busy with anything, though, and being busy working on something you're passionate about is probably the best feeling in the world :-).
- John Wooden
Of course all I've done so far today is eat breakfast and surf the web, so it's not looking so good.
The "I'm busy" shield is a way of rejecting people without rejecting them. It's the ultimate in indecision. And most of these "oh-so-busy" people spend as much time on stupid shit (or useful work, but done inefficiently) as anyone else.
But I don't think of it as social ineptitude, only because when I commit to doing things, I can be "on" and meet people and have a great time and all that. Beforehand, however, the thought of getting into that mentality and doing all that stuff seems like "work" to me, and I just feel like I don't wanna do it.