Alright, so the problem is:
1. Greed. Greedy people can only get rich if they suck money out of you. The more money they have and the less everybody else has, the easier it is for them to buy off competitors, shut them down, and exploitatively force up monopolistic prices.
2. Power. Power hungry people can only get power if they manipulate people into thinking the powerful are better at making decisions than you are. But if they use their power to fix the problem, they will not have any excuse to justify staying in power. So to get even more power, they use their power to make more problems they promise to fix if voted in.
No matter how many times you play this out in history, truly good kings get stabbed in the back by their power hungry brother, and the everybody population will always be lead to believe the world is on fire and about to end.
This is the cycle of “0-sum” games, where gain must come at loss.
Unfortunately, this is how physical reality works. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, and for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – things balance out to a 0 sum.
How do we stop the perpetual cycle of world end paranoia?
A) Give. Give to those in need. Forgive people’s poverty; forgive people’s richness. We’re all human and sometimes we’re down on our luck, and we need investment not extraction. If you can give away something that you do not need, that you no longer use, that has relatively little value to you, or that will go bad before you can finish it, then donate it directly to people who might need it.
B) Help. Help communities, create communities, and most importantly, connect people from different communities to create overlapping commons. Take initiative when you see a problem, fix it, and explain to the community how you did it.
But surely, how can small-scale decentralized impact challenge the global political industrial monopoly forces? Won’t we get crushed?
How We Got Here: Using Technology to Scale Up Humanity
There is a misalignment of greed & power with giving & helping. They are at odds with each other because they operate at different scales. Before the agricultural revolution, many tribes prided themselves in gift giving and hospitality, even to foreigners. This was cultural currency of reputation, and it worked because there were only so many people around. Knowing who was who, whether they were friendly or not, was the economic status of the day. And no better way to learn gossip and make friends than by lavishing them with it.
This quickly changed with the agricultural revolution. It was no longer a communal sense of surviving against nature. Instead, people could change nature itself, and food could be stored – wheat & rice in particular.
The enemy was no longer nature, it was who touched your crops. That crop could be valuable for you and your kin during a dry season. But before, meat would rot if not eaten right away, so giving away excess came at no loss to yourself, and only increased the chance others would share back if you failed to catch your next hunt. But now, sharing your hard earned wheat could be at a loss to your future well-being. The agricultural revolution changed the dynamic from nomadism to ownership.
The Invention of Debt
It also caused a population boom. And with that came difficulty of tracking who was who. So a new technology was invented: The IOU, debt. This let “sharing” go from your first degree of friends, to secondary and third connections.
A friend’s good deed to you, if you had an otherwise reputable store of grain, could reliably be passed on to a stranger. So rather than giving grain back to your friend, they’d say give it to whoever had the IOU. Money became a mechanism of tracking “reputation” when the population was becoming otherwise too large to remember yourself.
However, it is not difficult to forge documents, and with a surge of excess people, it became increasingly easier for some to hunt for stores of grain rather than harvest it or hunt for meat. The strategy was simple, arrive with your hunting men at a plantation, demand your forged IOU be redeemed, and if not, threaten their reputation and livelihood. Creating difficult to forge IOUs would reduce this incredulousness, however you’d still need an army to enforce it. So the most clever robbers came up with a gold standard: Any farmer that used only the “feudal lord’s” IOUs could redeem protection from other robbers and their forged IOUs, if the farmer “paid” a seasonal fee.
Now there was a marketplace of gangs to hire. A farmer in their right mind would not trust an upstart that could be out-armed by a bigger badder robber. But the biggest and baddest of robber are also the ones who can steal what they want with the least amount of effort tried.
Even they do not want to be the villain of their own story. Instead, could they contrive a tale to make themselves the heroes? Quite simply, they needed to be big enough to squash competition from within, but inspiring enough to make the farmers fear invasion from afar. This turns the narrative of history from “us versus nature” to “us versus them” – and nation states arose, with sadly, plenty dying.
Peoples who once bragged of hospitality, now bragged of war. It is hard to house millions when it is so easy to burn them for profit. But in a game of war, it also becomes harder and harder to win – to power your machine, you need more than just a militia. And so some clever farmers capitalized on this. They turned from harvesting crops to manufacturing weapons. Now the king had an IOU to them, not the other way around. Without weapons, the king’s supply chain for a foreign war would be broken. And so greed and power dance a vicious cycle until the Industrial Revolution broke the technological ceiling like how the Agricultural Revolution had.
The game was different this time. Much, much different. Even the most clever robber still had to colonize other countries. A merchant however, all a merchant has to do, is seduce them. Rather than printing spears to plunder, why not just sell toothbrushes and deodorant for profit? The enemy is no longer a race or nation, thank goodness. It is the bacteria in your tooth, the fragrance of your armpit, the disgust of your natural hair oils, it is everything that makes you indifferentiable from other animals, rather than artificially and synthetically made in the image of the sales person. The enemy is you.
From “Us versus Them” to “Us versus Me”
While tumultuous, debt did let society scale humanity to the point of privilege that every pore needs pampering. But now, the only thing that needs popping is debt itself, before it extracts the final frontier: The you, the brain and identity inside of your now plastic shell. AI is ready for you, buy this, deliver that, think this, vote that – else, consequences forever immortalized into the blockchain of public record.
What the capitalist maybe didn’t realize is that politicians are far more experienced at this part of the game than product makers. One knows how to sway vote, the other on dollar. One evokes fear, the other tempts conveniences. Now we have a society that isn’t just afraid of their own sweat, they’re afraid of their own thinking. Stay silent on social media? Never gain power in an audience. Say the wrong thing on social media? Lose your advertising revenue. Shut up or signal.
And we wonder why it is the end of the world. The world isn’t dying, its our brains that are dying. One by one, we’re being popped, like stress on a pimple. What for? Extraction in the name of greed; votes in the name of power. Whatever you must do, you’re told, the situation is too dire, that you must choose what is recommended for you, and of course, take the drugs prescribed to keep you healthy, happy, normal, and beautiful in photos on Instagram. There is no you left. To a brain, that looks like death.
The world is on fire, and it is all in your head. If it wasn’t, you’d be free. No? The world is on fire, so that way they can be in your head.
So here is how we stop the end of the world. You don’t need to leave it to others to give or help for you. Whether you’re rich or poor, we have much more valuable things to give others than votes or dollars: Our hospitality, companionship, sharing resources, skills, time, and goals.
The scale at which debt exists seems un-overcomeable, especially if gift economies only worked in small communal settings. But a new technology has changed that. It’s called the internet, but it has been used to hijack our brains for debt collection. That is the obvious conclusion people will repeat to you, endlessly. Information overload, worldwide tragedy fed to you in realtime, manipulative propaganda, it’s as if the whole world is a village again. That is scary in a time of gossip, but technologically, it is the same mechanism that removes the need for debt.
Vote for yourself, buy for the hospitality of others. This is not a 0-sum game anymore, but they are still trying to play you in it. The world is just beginning, and we’re at a brink of catapulting humanity into a post-scarce multi-planetary species. Or we can choose to burn our identity down in our existential crisis of bringing debt online. If we do, our brains will become silicon just like our bodies became plastic. And there is nothing more disposable, than the artificial.