This post is written with intelligence. No, not the “big data powered probabilistic guessing algorithm”-kind.1 The “what’s missing for more intelligent outcomes in this world”-pondering kind.
I’m reading Covey’s “The 7 habits of highly effective people”. The title rubs in the “another efficiency-god-life-hack sold to the desperate“-kind-of-way, but it’s an empowering book. It - among other things - proposes a methodology where the reader creates a personal mission statement. The mission statement is used as north star to rewrite one’s “behavioral program”. It’s implemented through defining personal roles, goals, and weekly planning. The idea is that the daily actions consider and propel towards the long term goals for oneself. Sounds familiar? Yeah, I’m not sure if I want to run my personal life like a software development company either. But no doubt: Establishing habits in tune with one’s long term goals is one of the most powerful tools for individuals.
Speaking of which: Something I’m happy to keep doing to act like a creative intelligent being is to walk as much as possible. Which is easy to do, since walking is naturally satisfying. My hot-take: Most individuals would act more intelligently, would we listen more to our instincts. Too bad we structured the world in a way that we suppress most of them most of the time. Not that we have any of that to spare.
Society / political
In the long term, there’s little more powerful to drive behavior change than incentives.
Intelligent policy would default to implementing the right incentives instead of forbidding things or other red tape.2 Liberals got that part right. It’s not clear why incentives and behavioral economics are such under-utilized tools in politics. Incentives are less drastic than rules and hence should be easier to agree on and enforce. I guess intelligent policits is too subtle for headlines or binding rage and fervor from voters.
The core incentive and signal in our socio-economic system is money:
- Just imagine veggies being cheaper than meat - one big sustainability and health quick-win in our nutrition would be reality in a whiff.
- Or imagine energy prices reflecting environmental costs. Man, that’d be the story of 50 years worth of change in the heart-beat of 10.
But wait, isn’t capitalism supposed to optimize around prices? Yeah, no, we all know, that market’s have a couple of defects when it comes to sussing out proper costs. Clearly going with free market incentives alone won’t yield the right results. Unchecked we’re stuck in an infinite broken loop of short-termism.
As prooven by:
- Feeding animals lots of vegetarian food to grow a little meat is apparently cheaper than growing the same amount of veggies directly, at least that’s what prices in the super-market convey. I guess no one had the awesome idea to burn rain forrest to cultivate paprika monocultures instead of soy for livestock yet…
- Or energy: Every country would have agree to tax energy by environmental impact. Otherwise, every country has to pass environmental import tarifs on every product/country combination to create a plain level field accounting for environmental impact. And I guess there’d have to be a lot of social spending to minimize social hardness caused by temporarily hiking energy prices. Oh wait, no that’s a problem we already managed to run into by choosing the cheapest energy for decades.
Good luck getting politicians world-wide to cooperate with each other in a peaceful way that benefits everyone in the long-term but forces to commit to changes painful in the short term.
Technical progress driven by corporations
Anyway. This article rightly and unsurprisingly points out that the big tech corporations are following the money incentive instead of acting mission-driven. Even when Facebook was focused on social, I felt it enabled more negative group dynamics like inducing pressure to “perform” a life creating FOMO in others rather than true human connection. But it did feel like Google was the Alexandrian door to infinite knowledge in a way that it doesn’t anymore. Or that Amazon democratized access to all goods in a way, with good tools to choose the right ones. Compare that to the ad-laden automatic feeds full of SEO spam of today. “Free” tools provided by big tech are unlocking tremendous value even in their current state. But the world would be a lot richer if these tools were provided by companies acting like they had a collective conscience. Too bad that Mozilla lost &/ already succumbed to pressures years ago. And too bad that AI - the first tech innovation hype bubble since the iPhone to actually change our lives in fundamental ways3 is largely driven by the same actors (or actors empowered by their money)…
Okay, this is depressing! I guess my takeaway is that the only area where anyone has enough souvereignty to make a meaningful difference for intelligent long-term outcomes is on the individual level. So get cracking on yourselves, y’all!
The A”I” nomenclature is purposefully as misleading as “Web 3.0”. Fuck hype marketing terms. ↩
Just look at Italy for how it’s done 🙃: Forbidding ChatGPT and lab-grown meat in the same week. Impressive! ↩
Haha, just remember the last ridiculous hype cycles… crypto, NFT, Web 3.0, metaverse,… 🤣 ↩