Bitcoin is far more than a payment method. Bitcoin is a political statement. It’s a global currency that doesn’t have the backing of a government – and it’s for that reason that it is better than other currencies.
Understanding Austrian economics is a great way to learn about Bitcoin because the economic background allows us to understand why it makes sense as a currency, why it makes sense as a payment platform, and many of the use cases for Bitcoin – such as international currency.
A currency is a means of exchange. Currencies get their value from their power to function as that means of exchange. In the most primitive societies, something like corn can function as a currency. It can be weighed and scored on quality and can be traded for any number of goods. A cow or a television can be measured in “pounds of corn.”
Metals were used as a means of exchange because they held value more long-term than corn. Silver and gold don’t expire or deteriorate as fast as corn, so they can preserve value. Paper dollars representing gold and silver emerged because they are more easily handled than precious metals, and can be broken up to represent more granular amounts without using a chisel and a scale.
Even when dollars stopped representing precious metals, those paper dollars were given value because people agreed they have value. That value continues to fluctuate – when more dollars are flooded into the market, we value dollars less than what they once were. That’s why bread costs $3 today instead of $0.25 like it may have fourscore years ago. Sorry, I’ve been trying to use the word fourscore for a while now.
Bitcoin is a currency that gets its value from this use. People believe it has value compared to other currencies. It can be viewed as more efficient than dollars because it can be transacted globally without exchanging to new currencies. Because there are a fixed number of coins that will ever exist, it stores its value longer than a dollar that is subject to the whims of governments – and those Austrians were fans of currencies that best maintained their value long-term. It stores its value better than gold, which had an undetermined unmined quantity.
The Austrians were free market people. They saw the most advanced societies as those societies that welcomed the division of labor, which means societies that welcomed trade of products and services from the widest ranges of people. A currency that must be converted risks transaction fees and governmental overhead than can limit some people from sharing products or services – especially across country borders. By eliminating those obstacles, a currency can welcome more contributors into the economy to produce and consume.
Last, there are use cases for Bitcoin that benefit the individual, and the individual is the most important player in the Austrian economy. Everything starts with the individual – the want to spend. The need to produce. That is where man finds meaning according to the school of Austrian economics. Individualism is the center of economic theory, psychological theory, and social theory.
Those economists want to remove obstacles in offset to best enable individualism. In addition to a global currency that is more efficient than dollars at enabling this, cryptocurrency offers additional benefits to the individual. Man can skip the administrative hurdles that exist to promote, but are actually limiters to the economic sharing that exists in the economy.
Austrian economics is an excellent starting point to learn about Bitcoin because it is through this study that we learn how currency gets its value, the characteristics of a good currency, and the importance of a global currency in a world that is increasingly global in its enterprise.
Everyone likes to argue, but few bring anything new to the table. Actually, I’m not sure everyone likes to argue. But everyone argues. Just say, “Trump should be reelected” and you’ll get an argument out of most people.
Most people have never had an original idea for two reasons: they don’t have the courage and they are told what to think.
People are told what to think
Not other people. All of us. We are constantly being told what to think. We are sold entertainment and products in commercials and conversation. We are sold ideas in movies, TV, celebrity award speeches, and conversation with friends that got an idea from the celebrity award speech.
Most people don’t want you to have a contrary idea. Contrary ideas can threaten our worldview and our ability to interact with the world in a productive way. More than that, a contrary idea could mean someone doesn’t make the sale.
If we don’t value their product, they make less money. Companies want us to think we need their products and services. They are incentivized to want us to think like their ideal customer. So they make their product attractive, and sell you on the idea that you will be attractive if you buy their product.
The company you work for wants to maximize their own profit. That is their ultimate incentive. So while they decorate the office with pretty lights and art and beer, they do that so you are more likely to stay late and make them money. They want you to think like the ultimately loyal and profitable employee.
There’s so much noise in the world, that it’s hard to decipher what’s important and what’s not. Everyone has their answer for what’s important. To have a unique idea, you need to step away from the noise. You need to ignore the psychological attractions that are included in the advertisements and latest internal company memo. Those are distractions from your own free will and ability to produce ideas.
Someone busy being filled with thoughts is someone that will continue to buy products and someone that continues to buy products is someone that continues to work for a company because they need to pay for products.
All of our lusts and attractions are noise. They keep us wanting without giving us an answer to the fulfillment we crave by indulging.
People don’t have the courage
It’s hard to have an idea. Our world is so full of noise. We have 24-hour news on TV, social media, and phone pop-ups. We have constant communication with the world through comments and message forums. We are surrounded by ideas, and we are rewarded, with money and promotions from our company and with material objects that bring us “status” (as depicted in the commercial) from companies we buy from.
To say “no” is to reject needs. Companies sell us needs. If we don’t need, we are infinitely powerful, yet we are outcasts in our social groups and dating markets and everyone that does give in to the “needs” they are sold. Which is almost everyone. When we have a contrary idea, we say no to almost everyone.
It’s scary to say “no” to almost everyone. We’re hard-wired to want to be included in social circles, to be attractive to the other sex, and to not be “weird”. Our primitive brains see those things – social circles, sex, and status as the ultimate virtues. Those are what survive and replicate in the animal kingdom.
But we’re humans. And while we are animals, we’re better than all other animals in that we can choose not to give in to the passions and enslaving ideas that are thrown our way. Not only do we say “no” to others when we summon the strength to go against the grain, we say “no” to our own primitive brains.
To have an idea means to do something different – to view the world in a different way. To view the world in a different way means to view it different than our primitive brain and all the stimuli we come across – which all has its own agenda.
It’s even harder to share that idea.
Have a unique idea. It’s probably in your best interest.
Most people, whether by students or not, learn only by mimicking what other people are doing. We see people doing something, and we try it until we gain proficiency. These activities range from the simple – following a step in a standard operating procedure or pressing the green button, to the more complex – racing a car around a track hoping for the best time.
We are hardwired to learn by mimicking. Toddlers learn to stand upright and walk by observing others. Even our animal ancestors learn by mimicry. In fact, mimicry is one of the only ways animals learn. Monkeys learn to climb branches by watching their parents climb from branch to branch. They develop the hand and arm strength over time. They learn which branches can support their weight. And they learn to depend on their tail for stability and security instead of relying on mom. There’s a saying for that.
Humans aren’t too different. We have many more resources available to us. We can read any subject, most college courses are available online, and we can talk about our experiences and ask questions. Despite all these advantages, most of our learning happens by mimicry.
I learned most of what I learned by mimicking others. Even reading and writing – I started these because someone I looked up to said I should read and write. He was a cool dude that got attention from when I didn’t. I wanted attention from chicks, so I decided I’d follow his advice. So, I developed the habits of reading and writing. Fortunately, I liked reading and writing, even though the habits didn’t get me too much closer to having sex with women.
I still wanted to get laid. So, I followed people that spend their lives trying to understand women. I became a student of Patrice O’Neal (a comedian) and Julian Blanc (a “pickup artist”). I learned how women think from Patrice O’Neal and social skills from Julian. I behaved like Julian, and I studied like Patrice. I went out in the world and interacted with women with the two of them in mind. That worked. I started to understand women, and I started to have sex with them.
When I turned to more virtuous endeavors, I followed intelligent, virtuous people that had done it before. The Thoreaus, Petersons, and Senecas – these became my teachers and my lab partners. I studied what they said, and I did what they did. And I found (and continue to find) virtue.
I wanted to be a podcast host. So I followed Anthony Cumia and Geno Bisconte. I talked like they talked. I structured my show like Geno structures his shows. And I created a podcast I was proud of.
Mimicking others is a great way to learn, but it requires two things. It requires following the right person, and it requires understanding what I want to learn.
I choose people that are both experts and people I want to be like when I set out to learn something. Geno has a podcast I love, so I chose him to emulate instead of a generic article online that explains how to host a podcast. Patrice and Julian have lots of sex, so I followed them instead of listening to the latest movie that shows two people falling in love and having sex. The reading and writing I fell into for the wrong reasons, but I emulated the man who could choose what he wanted – and even though I wasn’t searching for that, I found that by reading and writing and emulating his habits. If I never picked up reading years earlier, I never would have got into Walden or Peterson’s lectures.
I needed to understand what I wanted to learn. Each time I picked someone to emulate, it started with a goal (usually sex). From there I could pick someone that is an expert in that field and study from them.
Too many people don’t align themselves with a goal, and many that do don’t align themselves with the right goal. For instance, many people envision success as fame and money and women. So, we choose people to mimic that are celebrities that have those material things.
Athletes and actors end up being our role models, but not because we want to be the best at throwing a football or acting in a major motion film. We emulate them because we want their results.
Athletes and actors get women and fame, but those are results. They aren’t experts in women and status dynamics. Patrice O’Neal and Julian, who studied women in an academic setting and in practice, are much better people to emulate because they know the exact skills and knowledge it takes to accomplish that result.
Most people only learn by mimicking others. The information learned in textbooks rarely translates to real-life activity. Real-life activity is learned with the motivation of achieving the results of the people we choose to mimicking. This style of learning is hard-coded in us, and can be effective if you copy the right people.
College gets a bad rap from my circles of friends and the people I interact with online. Viewing through my different lenses: my economic lens says: “Colleges are institutions that create debt and turn you into a corporate consumer” (which could be good depending on your motives). My productive lens says, “all the skills I apply to my job, hobby, and business I learned on my own. College didn’t teach me those skills.” My conservative value lens says: “Colleges promote liberal politics and force that into the curriculum.” My sexual lens says, “College promotes sexual exploration which leads to the degeneracy of the soul.” Maybe that’s more of my conservative value lens. The lenses overlap.
All of these arguments have merit to them. There’s a strong case that colleges have become politicized and don’t teach practical skills and leave the skill-less graduates in debt that they are unprepared to pay off.
However, there is one skill that colleges still teach in 2018 that is more important now that at any time in history – how to learn. To learn on your own is to be an autodidact. When you can teach yourself any skill, you can, in time, do any job that is given to you. You may face a learning curve and be unproductive initially, but in time you will become more productive for your company and for all the goals that you apply yourself to.
Without going to college and facing the structure those institutions have in place, it would be hard to learn that. It’s hard to pick up how to learn from books or from talking to others. People can communicate the importance of learning. Books and Google can contain all the information required to master any field. But it’s still college that gives a structured approach to learning.
Every college curriculum starts with the 100-level classes that provide a high-level understanding of the material. These familiarize students with the authors and experts in the field and give students an understanding of why the material is important.
The 200 and 300-level courses go into the details of what is important. Students memorize information and learn details that will make them conversational on the subjects in any environment – a job interview, a bar conversation, or a final exam paper. We take tests and write papers to ensure we understand the material. We take labs to see apply what we’re learning in real-world situations.
College curriculum dives deeper until you are in the 400-level courses that get into the expertise of the niches within the field of study. At this point a student is expected to be conversational in not only the why and the what, but also the how to apply the information in the world in order to bring that expertise to the world to hopefully make the world a better place. We take more tests, write more papers, and (hopefully) write a thesis that gives us a chance to structure our thoughts and prove expertise in our field.
This is how we learn skills and information. Even a skill like driving is picked up by having a why (need to get somewhere), learning the what (laws, rules of the road), and the how (how the car works, what the pedals do).
Driving and other “essentials” are picked up by applying this process intuitively. Driving has a tried-and-true method of teaching. It involved classroom instruction, behind-the-wheel driving, practice hours and tests. The structure is very similar to the typical college curriculum described above. College courses are another example of well-defined material. The course education is approved by a committee which means there’s some level of standardization of the material.
Learning skills and information becomes more difficult when there is more ambiguity involved. When a job opens up and there isn’t a formal training for that, or if there is a new technology that must be learned, there often lack the structured education of a college course. It still requires the same process to learn the skill, but many people won’t be disciplined to follow through with the why, the what, and the how.
College makes all these activities – the introduction, the details, and the proven expertise – a requirement. We fail if we don’t do these things.
Even in the least academic fields, take sociological gender studies as an example, we need to go through the rigmarole of tests and papers from 100 to 400-level classes. We become an expert in something – even if it has no application in the workforce, and diminishing credibility in academia. By doing this, we learn something.
Without following this structure, we risk missing something. We risk diving into the details of how to do something without understanding the high-level understanding that would relate our expertise to the world. Or, we risk learning the whats or the whys without learning how to apply it to the real world – like memorizing facts from a book or Wikipedia page.
Without understanding all of this – the why, the what, and the how, we fail to understand information in a way to apply it and make sense of it to others. The information is not useful to the rest of the world, even if we do learn a couple things that we can apply in a game of bar trivia.
Without going to college, we risk never going through this structured approach to mastering a subject. Without that, it is hard to understand the time and discipline it takes to truly master a subject. Learning on the job is hard. It’s much harder when we don’t apply that structured approach to learn a subject in its entirety – a structure college gives us.
Even the gender studies expert, with no real-life skills and decreasing credibility as an academic field, can apply the process of learning to any skill they seek to learn. And that’s why it’s important to be an autodidact, and that’s why college is valuable.
Thing is, once we start buying things, we don’t stop. We become addicted to the chase. We have goals we must reach – at work and at home, in order to become “successful”. We become successful in relation to the goals we set. We set them against coworkers (getting the promotion or the biggest bonus) and against ourselves (lose pounds).
Becoming successful never means accepting the status quo. Goals are only reached by changing the status quo. Companies know that and companies must always be changing. They must always be growing. If they don’t, they lose and they die. Companies we work for are always telling us we must achieve more. Investors can always leave to the competition. Companies we don’t work for are always telling us to get more. Contentment is the enemy of success.
Success in the dating world is similarly competitive. It takes the “right” appearance and attitude to attract someone sexy. We must be in a certain stage in life to think about having a family or getting married or “being serious”. We must reach that level in our careers or in our personal lives before we can be seen as “suitable” by potential mates. At least, that’s what we’re told.
Striving for something gives us meaning. When we don’t find that meaning in ourselves, we look outward for something to provide us that meaning. And everywhere we look, we are promised an answer to that. Our company wants us to work harder and longer. Other companies want us to get more stuff. They tell us we will be fulfilled if we do these things.
The church tells us if we say our prayers, go to Mass, and behave like Jesus that we will be rewarded in the afterlife and on Earth.
Teachers and companies tell us to get good grades so we can set ourselves up to work and pay for things.
Hobbies give us something to work towards – a new song we can play or a new dance to learn or a new mountain to get up and down.
We seek meaning in all the things we do because we are told to find meaning externally. And all these external things have their own motivations for wanting us to continue. Their motivation is rarely our freedom. The hobbies are industries. They want us to buy and to return. Our companies want us to make them more money. Our schools and governments rely on attendance and taxes and endowments so they want to maximize that. They don’t want us to be free.
We seek freedom from all these sources that are built to not give us freedom. But we do it anyway because it is an answer.
Thing two is, it’s scary to not do what we’re told. Doing what we’re told provides us with an answer. The answer may come with some glory attached to it if we achieve our status and reach our goals. We are told we will have the beautiful house and beautiful partner and then we will be happy. And sometimes that works out. At least, it can. Our boss seems happier than us because he makes more money and has a hotter car and wife. So we want to be the boss to find happiness in those things. Women aren’t things yeah yeah…
To challenge this takes courage. It requires saying “no” to, potentially, everyone in our lives. Our teachers, our friends, our politicians, our priests (sometimes), and our boss who is responsible for our next paycheck.
To say no requires us to find meaning in contentment. To reject the motivations of everyone else and to find meaning in our own lives. And that’s a mysterious place to look. What is success if no one tells us what success is? What is freedom if it’s not at the top of the next mountain, or after a race to the bottom? Will someone love me if I don’t have things? Or status?
It doesn’t matter. Would you rather love someone because they love the things you have or because they value you, without all those things? What if she’s less hot than the boss’ wife?
If you can find freedom without relying on someone else telling you how to be free – someone who has ulterior motivation for telling you what to do, then you can truly be free.
This freedom is more meaningful than reaching any goal will ever provide. This freedom cannot be given to you by someone. You have to take it. You take it by rejecting the things that promise freedom and don’t deliver.
If you reject all the things that promised freedom, you may find freedom. You may also end up poor and alone. And maybe it’s only in poverty and aloneness that true freedom really exists. And that’s frightening to many people.
But anyone can be free. And anyone can be free now.
Most people want to be herded through the world by systems created by sociopaths. To go against the sociopathic systems means to risk loss of employment, status, and attraction from the other sex. Many people claim they want freedom, but all their actions remind the sociopathic systems that what the individuals actually want are employment, status, and attraction. The systems are happy to sell those things.
Most of us are lemmings.
Most people have far fewer influence on their own actions than we assume. Our behavior is the result of the function that includes all of our stimuli and experiences. Most of our experiences and stimuli have been forged not by conscious thought, but by impressions made by others.
We are being forged all day. We turn on our phones first thing in the morning and we check for updates from friends – regardless of whether the people on our social media truly are our friends. We compare how we’re doing to them. Are they doing something we want to be doing? Do they own something we want to own? Mark’s new watch is awesome. And girls like Mark. We begin the day with wanting.
Then we go to work. We put in 8 hours working for our company so that we can afford our rent or mortgage, Mark’s watch that we saw on social media, and anything else that comes up – either emergencies or new-found wants.
Our job is to create and sell products or services to other people and companies so that our company makes money so that we don’t lose our jobs. We do this by creating demand for our product (through marketing and advertising) and by filling that demand (by creating quality products and getting it to our customers). We create wants. Every other company is doing the same thing. They need to sell, or they die.
When we go home, we turn on the TV. We watch the shows our coworkers are watching so that we will have something to talk about. We subscribe to the networks (Netflix) so we can watch those shows. We see the lives of the TV stars and imagine how our lives would be if we had a beautiful girl and a house with glass walls.
We check for deals on Amazon for a watch similar to Mark’s. It’s not that expensive, so we buy it. We go to bed looking forward to our new watch we can share with Mark and the coworkers.
Our reality is shaped by sociopaths.
The owner of the corporation we work for has a lot to consider. He wants to make money so he can do everything he wants in life. He wants to leave a legacy. He wants happy employees. He wants to be liked. The CEO’s first responsibility is to the shareholders of the company.
If shareholders don’t view the company as more valuable than the competition, they will leave and invest their money in the competition. If shareholders invest their money in the competition, the competition will have more funding for projects, new employees, and growth. If the competition grows faster than your company, your company will die. If your company dies, the employees will be unhappy, the CEO’s legacy will be ruined, and he won’t be liked. He may make a lot of money, but he will have failed, and he doesn’t want to fail.
So, the CEO must maximize shareholder value, above all else in life. Your needs and my needs, as workers, are far less important than maximizing value. If value means growing in one segment and shrinking in another, we better hope to be in the former. The CEO’s job is to not prioritize the workers in the shrinking segment of the company. His job is to prioritize the value being presented to shareholders. The CEO must be unemotional in his decision. He must be firm and decisive. If he considers the employees in the unproductive business units, he will keep the failing unit and lose to the competition. So, he doesn’t consider them.
The CEO is unempathetic in his behavior, even if that isn’t what he is thinking. He is a sociopath, even if he aches for the employees that are let go. A true sociopath – an individual that doesn’t have empathy for others, will thrive in this environment, and a sociopath with ambition often does end up at the head of companies for this reason – he’s willing to make decisions that influence others, and he’s willing to do this with his intentions in mind. At a CEO level, these intentions often align with shareholders. Even when this sociopath isn’t in control, the role dictates sociopathic behavior in order to succeed by maximizing value.
A little more on this. I argue that it is more likely to be an actual sociopath that ends up in these positions than normal, empathetic people ending up in these positions where they are forced to make sociopathic decisions. Psychotherapists estimate that 4% of the population is sociopathic. Of that 4%, a much larger amount end up in positions of power. Sociopaths are willing to make social sacrifices that others aren’t willing to make. They are willing to compromise their relationships and status within one social circle that individuals who have strong empathy are not willing to make. The sociopath is willing to make difficult decisions without batting an eye – and makes them in his own interest. This is a good quality for an executive.
When companies need to grow, they need to sell more products or services. To sell more products and services, they must create that demand so that customers realize the need to buy. To create a demand, corporations target the psychology of individuals.
People are susceptible to emotional decisions. Emotional decisions are how products are sold. We don’t have a physical need for clean clothes, a new car, or a watch as beautiful as Mark’s. Companies make us want the car and the watch by making us fear.
We fear what would happen if we were ridiculed for having dirty clothes. We don’t want to look silly. So, we buy clothes. We fear dying alone, or being stuck with a life partner that isn’t our equal. We buy the watch to show our status. It’s status that gets the hot chick in the movie. So we buy a watch. We are sold an image of a happy family waking up on Christmas to the new car with the oversized bow and a puppy. So we buy a puppy. And a car, with a large bow. The puppy needs the latest toys so that he doesn’t seem inferior to the other dogs at the dog park.
We constantly chase status because we fear the consequences that would result if we aren’t seen as filing that status. We have fear because the sociopathic companies instill fear so that we will buy more products to settle our insecurities, because the company needs to sell so that they don’t lose to the competition.
If we don’t play this game – if we don’t get the watch, the car, the clothes, or the puppy, we are “losers”. We are rejects that can’t keep up with the Joneses. We fail to get the status that is sold to us. When we don’t have the status, we “can’t” get the girl. We “can’t” have the happy family. We “can’t” be happy.
This is what corporations want us to think. The amoral systems with sociopathic leadership don’t want us to be fulfilled and not want things. Because then we won’t buy things. We are sold the images of happiness. We are sold the idea that if we buy this one thing, then we will be happy. If we aren’t happy, it’s because there’s “one more thing” that we need. Surely it’s not because we haven’t confronted our own insecurities and absolved ourselves from needing things. Right?
Most people are lemmings being herded along through a fake social reality that has been created by sociopaths. We are wired to follow the safe, proven road, and it’s difficult to go against that. The safe, proven road, is often the manifested idea of unemotional, unempathetic systems that benefit a few individuals at the expense of others.
The advertising industry as a whole should be disrupted to the point of bankruptcy. The advertising and marketing industries are largely to blame for the collapse of the modern world. The efforts of marketing and advertising have led to a decrease in individual happiness, decrease in family stability, and decrease in marital options for individuals. Because of this, the industry should be disrupted.
It is vice that leads to the decline of empires, as witnessed in Rome. Vice leads to distractions from the values that hold a society together at every unit level – the family, the community, and the country. When the people no longer recognize the values the hold a civilization together, the support structure crumbles.
What we’re seeing in the West is the first-time private enterprise has been responsible for the moral decay of a civilization. Previously it had been governments – usually governments that turn to socialism or some similar totalitarian form which leads to the moral falling-apart of the citizens as they turn away from industry and more towards the handed-out bread and drug and sex.
Now it is the tech companies and the marketing departments leading the way towards moral decay. Products sell status, they sell an easy way to conquer inhibition, and they sell the easy way to achieve joy. It’s all momentary, and it’s all monetary.
Marketing departments sell two things. They sell their product over the competition. And they sell you on the need to buy. They create demand for products. Marketing departments appeal to human’s innate choice to be lazy. We always want the easy way.
I propose that marketing departments should sell the features and leave out the psychological emotional appeals. And that’s most of the work that advertisers do. Product people create features. But people are motivated to act based on the psychological appeals made by advertisers.
Advertisers prey on insecurities of individuals. We don’t buy things to make our lives materially better. We buy things to fill insecurity holes in ourselves. These holes are, largely, created by the advertising industry.
We need the expensive watch to get the girl. We need the SUV with all the features if we are going to be responsible parents. We need the expensive liquor in order to be a ‘man’.
In practice, these material items have almost nothing to do with our ability to find love, to be a caring parent, or to get along with other guys in a social setting. People don’t need things to get these results – they need to go out and work to get these results.
We need to build our social skills to interact with men and women. We need to put time and thought into our parenting to make sure our kids turn out ok. We don’t need things. These insecurities are resolved by consciously putting in work in the part of our life that needs work.
These material things not only don’t address the real problem – that there is a part of our lives where we lack of skills or knowledge to succeed. Instead, the propose an easy solution, and one that skips the actual need to acquire the skills and knowledge.
Not only does this not work, but it actually makes it harder to then acquire the skills and knowledge to do these things. Once we start buying things, we are rewarded with the perceived status from people. Women do notice the watch. Soccer moms do give a thumbs up to the SUV. And the dude at the bar recommends his expensive brand of whiskey to compare to yours.
When we reach the point where we struggle in conversation or our kids get into trouble, we are reminded of the short-term thumbs up and are more likely to try to solve our problem by spending money on another short-term, material fix.
It’s easy to get stuck in this repetitive loop of spending money to try to fix problems instead of working on the problem. Work requires time, knowledge, and the risk of failure. Material purchases offer us an out. We can blame the thing, instead of blaming ourselves – the real culprit.
This mechanic of advertising is an evil akin to socialism. Both destroy the individual’s ability to think freely. Socialism does that by forcing the collective value. Advertising is more clandestine. It destroys the ability to think free by targeting insecurities, giving false answers, and rewarding the individual for spending on fake, short-term solutions.
Without advertising that gives us insecurities and then offers a solution, we would be, necessarily, more likely to take the blame for our shortcomings. From there it would be up to the individual to do something about it or to willingly choose to ignore the problem.
When faced with a problem, human nature will often seek the easiest solution. When buying something can fill a void, that’s easy. When we eliminate that easy option, we have fewer options to choose from to try to solve our problems.
By destroying the ability to target insecurities, quality of products and services would likely increase. Companies would have one less tactic to sell their services if they couldn’t target insecurities. They would have to differentiate based on other factors than their emotional appeal. Quality, price, and number of features would be much more important than they do in our modern marketplace.
The advertising industry as a whole should be disrupted to the point of bankruptcy. The only way I see this happening is government regulation of the advertising industry. I’m usually against government regulation of markets, but for the sake of social good, quality products through competition without appealing to emotions, and increased competition on those product-related jobs, this would solve the problems.
It is important to be a generalist and learn a broad swathe of knowledge in order to succeed in the Information Age we are living in. Technology is becoming better and better. When technology becomes better, it increases the speed in which new technologies can be introduced. Technology is not linear; it is parabolic. We are deep in the parabola.
Because new technologies are introduced frequently, niche skill sets become obsolete at a rate which never before happened. The new technology ten years ago is useless today. The service that was hot five years ago is cold and slow today. Think AOL, Myspace.
To thrive, we must adapt at the same rate of our technology. We need to be able to learn new technology and new skills. Having this ability is far more important than learning any individual skill or service.
In the age of information, it should be easier to learn these new skills. We have access to every library in the world, online courses from the best colleges available for free, and videos and forums that answer specific questions. It has never been easier to learn at any point in history. It has also never been more difficult to learn how to learn.
Learning how to learn requires discipline. Anyone used to be able to make deductions and draw insight from a group of data. Then, that became more challenging as people had more facts available to them. It became less important to be able to draw insight because other people had been insightful. People didn’t have to. At that time anyone was able to memorize what they needed and regurgitate it.
These days even rote memorization is hard. We have so many distractions, and such quick access to information, that it discourages both insightful thinking and the ability to memorize. We don’t practice either. Insight is discouraged because we have a constant stream of other people’s thinking being thrown at us. We don’t have time to think. We get the constant stream from our television, which now has Netflix and other sources we can turn to for entertainment of any kind, anytime. We have our phones, which also have Netflix, in addition to social media which floods us with content from other people, some insightful and others that just regurgitate thoughts or statements.
We don’t memorize because we have such immediate access to information. All that information being thrown at us that keeps us from being insightful is saved to the internet and tagged for future access. We can access anything, anytime. We just need to “Google” it.
We learn how to learn by practicing. We learn skills, and then we learn higher-level skills. For instance, we learn the English language so that we can then learn the higher-level skill of marketing so that we can learn the higher-level skill of sales. Sales makes money. Once you learn to sell, you can more easily sell in another language, or to a new market. You’ve learned how to learn.
Another reason to be a generalist in this Information Age is to appreciate the arts and find wisdom in philosophy and history. By learning philosophy, we learn that we can reject the materialist need to compete and acquire things. The philosopher can find meaning without work and without obtaining things and experiences.
If an individual seeks meaning through things and experiences, he has no choice but to become a generalist that can learn new skills. The world is evolving too fast not to. You need to be able to learn, or need to understand philosophically that meaning can be found and happiness achieved without participating in trade. Even to get to that level of freedom – where you can be philosophical, will often require a baseline of comfort so that abstract thoughts can be explored.
There are some professions that do not require technical understanding. These include the business programs – management, sales, marketing. Everything else is being disrupted by technology. Why would these expensive jobs be spared from going digital? These jobs will move and they will move fast once it begins to happen. Programs already recommend optimum decisions. Google Analytics recommends ads based on what’s relevant to me. The next step is to create ads specifically targeted to me.
It’s these creative positions and jobs that manage decisions that affect people that haven’t gone digital yet. But people aren’t good at managing people. Machines will be the efficient, inexpensive managers that are reported to. It will seem inhumane, but that will only last until the jobs that are being managed are turned into technology. That won’t lag far behind.
I should create a management technology. Something that assigns people work, checks progress, reports that progress compared to others, compared to the self, identifies areas of weakness, and makes decisions based on the data. The next wave of great managers won’t be people.
It is important to be a generalist and learn a broad swathe of knowledge in order to succeed in the Information Age. The business people may have a leg up on others. They have been working on projects in different industries since they graduated. The sales skills they developed have not been specific to one product or industry. They know how to adapt to a new environment. That’s what they will be doing. They will have to develop technical expertise faster than they have. But it’s not new.
The most important thing for young people to learn is how to modify their habits. If they can modify their habits, they understand the importance of change, and they understand how to make change happen.
The ability to change is the ability to grow. If we don’t change for the better, we stay stagnant, and in relation to others, we atrophy and become worse. People have to change for the better, or they become weak until death.
To modify a habit requires conscious change. Changing habitual behaviors requires self-awareness and the strength to make something out of that awareness. Self-awareness means knowing our own strengths and weaknesses – both as the outside world perceives them and internally.
Habitual behaviors are necessarily hard to change – these are the behaviors we engage in frequently. The more we do something, the harder that is to change. This is especially true for behaviors that result in feelings of pleasure. Drinking, gambling, drugs, sex – changing habits related to vices is incredibly difficult. Not only does repetition give us an answer for a way to do things, and humans are lazy creatures that don’t want to change, but repeating pleasurable behaviors rewards us psychologically for doing these things.
It’s important that we recognize when we engage in repetitive behavior when there is a better way of doing things. Better can come in multiple forms. Better can refer to efficiency. For instance, if we open a new Excel sheet every time we create a budget, we could save lots of time by creating and using a template, or a program that does the work for you.
Better can refer to health. If we smoke cigarettes every day, that’s going to take a toll on the lungs, decrease our athletic and cardiovascular ability, and increase longer-term concerns like cancer. If we have sex with many partners and are left wanting more, or we accumulate things because it feels good, then we risk short-term dependence on those feelings and the want for more, and the long-term solidification of those habits. These are more mental, psychological health concerns.
Change requires action. Once a habit is identified that should be changed, it takes commitment to action to make that actually happen. It takes opening the Excel template over and over instead of the new workbook. It may take closing an already started new workbook. It may mean staring at dessert as everyone else continues to eat.
The ability to change is the most important skill because it is so difficult. This ability also paves the way for future learning. If you can learn to be self-aware and learn what skills you are lacking and those that would benefit you, you can go and learn those things and accomplish your goals.
Stubbornness prevents change and acceptance of the reality of the need to change. When we are locked into our habits, and either refuse to change or refuse to go through the self-examination required before changing, we reduce our ability and our likelihood of ever changing or being introspective. We will continue on with our further-defined habits, regardless of the costs. Stubbornness is reinforcing.
We can learn from others. Just like learning from a teach in school or a mentor at work, we can learn how to modify our habits by watching others who have become proficient in modifying theirs. Because this can be learned, it can be taught. Teaching this requires making the audience willing to change.
Psychotherapists do this. Psychotherapists make their patients comfortable, then willing to change, then open about their strengths and weaknesses, then prescribe a plan to change.
I don’t recommend a course on psychotherapy be taught to all high-school students, but I recommend some of the lessons from the practice be taught at the high-school level. Students should be taught and made to go through the exercise of changing a habit. Start with their studying skills, or note taking, or reading. Destroy the old habits and replace them with new skills that will be valuable for the rest of their lives. In the meantime, teach them how to change.
These students are about to go to college – where they can enter with an understanding of how behavior is modified and an analytical approach to modifying theirs, or they can become the next wave of brainwashed, debt-burdened employee robots. The individual doesn’t benefit from being a debt-burdened employee robot.
Not being a debt-burdened employee robot is only one benefit to instilling the ability to modify habits in young people. From the ability to think freely and understand behavioral changes, people will be less likely to blindly follow an ideology. Political discussion these days is a shouting match between Republican and Democrat. There’s no nuance or compromise or standing up for individual beliefs – it’s all about following the prescribed ideology. There’s no thought in politics.
There’s no thought in corporations. The debt-burdened employee must do what he’s told in order to pay off loans. This ingrains the servant behaviors which make “good employees” that rise the ranks in a corporation. It doesn’t innovate or look out for consequence outside of shareholder value – which is what shareholders want.
The most useful thing to teach young people is how to modify their habits. The ability to modify habits will make people moral, courageous leaders of companies and governments, healthier and longer-living citizens, and unique contributors at dinner parties. Changing habits is, by definition, one of the hardest things people can do, but it is the most important. Without changing behavior, we become stuck in our skillset, our status, and our current spirituality. Start changing habits today.