Monday, May 23, 2016

How to define success?

Coming up with the simple approach to money as a social IOU for a favor that is guaranteed by society turned out to be extremely useful to me. And that approach was one I posted back August 2014 and have been working with it ever since. While how I present the idea has shifted a bit, while focus on favors is constant, and helps explain why things like teaching or firefighting, or being a soldier can have pay problems as those involve things NOT favors.

While in contrast, someone favoring you with a beautiful song? Well that can garner that person millions of dollars or more if millions of others see it as a favor to hear as well. And the social IOU is guaranteed by society! That person favors you with a song, say at a concert, in exchange for an abstraction enumerating the value of that favor, we call money.

And money is best to keep up with favors from strangers, as people in communities do each other favors all the time, and the people who keep up with those very carefully? Can be kind of obnoxious. But a stranger can walk into a store, talk briefly to another stranger, and in exchange for social IOU's, have the favor of useful items or just wanted ones. In other words, you walk into a store, find what you want, and buy it. Seems so simple, as in much of the world, it is.

Looking back at ancient human communities knowing who was doing what was probably easy most of the time. You could see the leaders organizing the community around things like food gathering, caring for members of the group, and even if necessary defense. You were together with members of that community doing things. And people could have a rough sense of favors as well, who was doing what for whom. And also keep up with those not pulling their own weight.

In contrast with vastly larger numbers of people in our times money can give a number on value people are bringing to their community to some extent. And societies can grow to vast sizes, and it is very granular who is watching whom, so that an employer can look over work being done, to see who is doing what.

The greater value in getting work from strangers, as hiring family or close community can cause problems in and of itself, can help build social cohesion, give greater independence, and push human beings to be more communal on the large. Yes, some families will admit do apparently work well for each other as employees or bosses of each other, but society as a whole can see greater benefit in the linking of strangers by work bonds.

People are usually pushed by the need for employment to make connections outside of their family or close community.

Without the connections between peoples that money facilitates it's hard to see how modern civilization could exist.

However as efficient as it can be in principle, money does run into problems, like with things valued by community NOT favors, like teaching and caring for children, putting out fires or police work though I didn't mention that above, and also national defense. Soldiers are not doing you a favor by protecting their nation! And without perspective, societies can struggle to pay properly in important areas.

The favor system can also be deliberately broken by deceit. People can quite simply steal money, as the abstraction in hand in the form of the concrete like with cash can imply something that was not actually done. And on bigger scales entire nations can simply print money, running up deficits that can be more about politics than national necessity.

Thankfully the web, which allows me to push these thoughts out to those willing to read them around the globe easily enough, also helps us keep up with information that helps bring money back to its greatest efficiency.

That person who manages to use means harmful to society to get the appearance of value can be undone by an informed public.

People understandably prefer that money to be earned. And will accept inherited to some extent, even though there can be battles over how much should be passed to a next generation of favors earned not by them, or even won, like with lotteries, but few tolerate simply stolen, or counterfeited.

Money is a way to do a favor for a stranger, or receive a favor from a stranger in a way that limits social trust I argue. It is a great system, and can help see those who are helping society by being of use to others.

Still I'm sure that communities will also use the web to see those people who are great at organizing their community, regardless of how much paid, or very good in helping others, even if not amply compensated, as well as so many others who are NOT doing favors for social IOU's as successful as well.

And in fact, some of those who don't charge could be the most successful of all, not from the favors for which they are paid, but for the duty which causes them to serve.

Finding success I think is something a lot about what we see in each other, so will be so much about communities and what they value. And the fate of those communities?

Well that fate is what will happen, as decisions are made, and consequences follow.

The human story is always a work in progress. And that progress I am certain will always be so much about what people do for each other, and why.

James Harris

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Beyond the selfish gatherers

Most would probably agree our ancestors spent much of their time focused on basics like gathering food and having sources of potable water. And throughout human history the primary activity probably was focused on just those areas, with also gaining shelter, taking care of children being high on the list but further down. And then going down the line of priorities until there was time for things like entertainment.

As science and technology have increased predictability for so many humans, things have shifted and for instance in countries like the United States, where I grew up, very few people are directly working at producing food. Gathering it is as easy as going to a shopping market, which many take for granted.

I do not.

However, something else odd has happened. With money helping to fuel human civilization by allowing strangers to do favors for other strangers in exchange for a socially backed IOU we call money, human beings could move to many other things. Like today, a pedicure can be had. Theoretically a robot could someday give a pedicure, but I do wonder, what humans would want it?

If we focus on money as a way that humans interact with strangers, then there is no reason to believe human beings will not keep finding ways to employ each other, with contracts that allow limited social trust in that exchange of goods or services for remuneration.

So why so much inequity today in so many parts of the world that consider themselves well developed?

Simplest explanation will present--SOME humans apparently overly value gathering favors.

Like there are hoarders who will continue to pile up things in their living spaces for reasons that are gathering increasing study, I believe there are human beings who will gather social favors in the form of money, without regard to need. And they will do this gathering even if in so doing they destabilize society, and also do not give adequate return for the efforts of other humans.

Here I've noted the massive impact in US history of just one American who more than doubled the wages of his workers. Henry Ford managed to do something that shifted world history, and I think after him, others have been fighting a longer battle to reverse those lessons and nearly crashed the entire world economy in 2008, bringing the human story to a near stunning reversal which in the future may be seen simply as a sign of a mental illness prevalent with some not diagnosed.

Hoarding in a way that can destroy your nation? I think that qualifies as remarkable.

Why would a man fight for a billion dollars US as if his life depended on it if he already has half a billion? And convince himself his workers are worthless when without them he'd have nothing? Or that he shouldn't pay taxes at all, when without his country he would lack the ability to accrue his wealth? And then strut around like he's brilliant?

Few notice that relentless and ruthless aggregation of wealth has been promoted as a good, except to decry when it becomes the anthem of a movie. And finally maybe some were scared.

Greed is NOT good. And it never will be.

But face reality that today human beings in many areas suffer because other humans devalue their efforts, while accruing vast resources to themselves where it is dubious as to how that was deserved. Especially when you find that they view cheating as basic, lying as being smart, and have utter contempt for people who are destroyed by their behavior, when they trusted their society.

There is a basic faith I think most Americans like myself had that our country focused more on merit, gave opportunity, and valued its people. Which was shaken I think by some who were ruthless in exploitation of trust.

But that trust has gone. As a new political order begins to arise I think we will rethink how we value the efforts of strangers. How we decide who gets paid what. And realize that unlike our ancestors, desperate often for food and water, we decide our destiny in so many powerful nations.

So our communities have no excuse.

If there is plenty, yet so many are without even opportunity? Your society is corrupted, and I'm thinking you probably have people I see as parasitic lurking within your midst. Pulling resources to themselves--by any means they can without even a true enjoyment of it, as they are driven, like hoarders in ways they may not even understand.

Science will answer so many questions though. It's up to us to act on what we learn to be true.

James Harris