Arbitrary Conviction

Karma optimization has a built in crassness to it’s connotation. It feels a bit gross to maximize, optimize, perfect the goal-centred, utilitarian approach that Dev and the Church of the Karma Bureau demand from us. It feels robotic. It feels algorithmic. Like you said, there aren’t just a finite set of problems that we can identify, quantify, and conquer that’ll bring us to this utopic land where Dev and the Bureau can retire to the back 9 and a life of beer by the beach. This perfect world impossibility is a reality we need to actively confront when embarking on any sort of ethical discussion. In the past, this kind of realization has left me in a gridlock of moral paralysis. If I am to optimize my karma, and even in the best case scenario, the whole world optimizes together, this utopic sustainable land will remain a fabricated dreamscape. So I’d ask myself the ever circular, almost annoying nihilistic adolescent question, what’s the point? Why even bother? How do I navigate this seemingly impossible ethical world, somehow balancing my selfish interests, without condemning myself to complete self sacrifice, all managed with no easy black and white moral compass to direct my behaviour? The short answer to that question is I don’t know. But, it’s more of a “I don’t think it’s possible to know for certain”, type of I-don’t-know. Before I spring off the diving board to a deeper conclusion to that question, I feel a bit obligated to say that I was definitely oversimplifying the moral duty to charity in my first post. It was a good exercise to try and understand the extreme side of the consequentialist perspective of charitable duty.

Now why I say it’s not possible to know for certain lies in a sad realization about our friends Dev and Slav. Whether you’re inspired by a form of empathetic guilt, or enriched by the euphoric bubbles of altruistic compassion, or are striving to be a “good guy”, there isn’t a real Karma bureau accounting for your efforts. There isn’t a Dev, the Accountant, or a Slav, the Auditor out there. Taking a deep dive into some cinematic cheese, there is, however, a Dev and Slav inside your heart. And that internal Dev and Slav should be consulted upon to figure out the calibration for the compass, to figure out what makes you feel good ultimately when it comes to charity.

But how do we actually end up acting on this internal reflection? The deontological perspective, as you brought up in your post, may help us find some answers here. What’s rooted in this perspective is an embracement of a series of human evolutionary tendencies when it comes to morality. There’s a natural admiration of the virtuous individual, with an empathetic ear,  with a strong sense of duty, with a conviction of yes and no answers to difficult questions. There’s a reassurance to the finality and clarity that it gives people. And apart from this role model “good person” ideal that’s easy and natural to strive to, the deontological perspective gives clear answers to people to make decisions and act on them. As for the world of the morally grey, they’re stuck in a gridlock of indecision with no exit in sight. Even if the truth is actually grey, how do you become operational and stay out of the purgatory of moral paralysis of analysis? My answer here is to embrace the arbitrariness of the moral grey by making a new rule. The “Time-Sensitive-Aribitrary-Deadline-Decision-Making” rule. TSADDM. The name is still a work in progress. But what this means is that I fix some arbitrary deadline, “one week from today”, spend time having the continued analysis that I’ve been having, then after the deadline arrives, make a decision, and follow through with it. Period.


Dev, Karma Accountant

Meet Dev. Dev is an accountant. He doesn’t work at KPMG, or for the Canada Revenue Agency. Dev doesn’t work at a traditional accounting firm at all. He is a karma accountant. He keeps track of all conscious moral agent’s behaviours and their moral tallies. You use the right shoulder lane to pass other people -1, you give a homeless guy the change in your pocket +17, you adopt a kitten +38, you spend $3337 of your disposable income on a TV and don’t spend it on saving a child’s life in Africa -1000.

You get your Karma report at the end of the month, and see this giant negative integer staring at your emotional gut. You don’t feel like a bad person, but yet your purchasing history tells you otherwise. You submit a formal Karma Claim to Dev. Dev responds:

“A moral act now is different than it was when you were developing as a moral agent. Perhaps 100 000 years ago, caring for your local human community with compassion and kindness was enough, but with the current accessibility of a global currency, and honest charitable organizations, we, here at the Karma Bureau, expect more of you.”

Morality doesn’t scale well. Our evolutionary history, as Dev described, programmed us in a limited capacity to naturally extend our care to small numbers of people, often in your local social group. Guided by our empathetic compass, we often reach out when we can try and put ourselves in the person’s position. It’s easier to help someone you see suffering, feel their pain viscerally, and then relish the high when you assist in alleviating that pain. Who starts cancer charities? A loved one that lost someone to cancer, or a survivor of the disease.

Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University, argues against the use of empathy in our approach to charity. Apart from it’s inherent biases of empathizing with people that you share similar characteristics with, Bloom argues that an empathetic guide to kindness can be debilitating. Feeling another’s pain, really living through the emotional exhaustion of the experience of their world, is exactly what it sounds like, painful. And after a certain point, it becomes difficult to keep up with the kindness. Selfish mental health control mechanisms, which are often unconscious, overtake and end up halting the empathy kindness train. What Professor Bloom suggests otherwise is compassion based kindness. A kindness that extends by feeling positive about the act of helping, without the need to emotionally empathize. And this approach, produces better long term results, while not discriminating who to help, regardless of relatability or physical distance to oneself.

As you alluded to, the consequentialist perspective, may be the correct ideal to work towards.  With results at the focus, and using the active tool of compassion based altruism, optimizing your monthly karma report is not only possible, but has selfish positive feelings at its core. And while charity isn’t natural, and helping a child drowning in a one foot pond of water 1000 miles away isn’t either, as Dev described, the human being as a moral agent needs to graduate and move past what’s natural, and move into what’s logical, effective, and morally responsible.


Small Scale Fame

After spitting fire into another’s trite musings, one is supposed to drop the mic. So let me pick it up, and abscond both your ideas, and use them to arrive at my own meaningful conclusions. Bitches. In other more affable words, I’m going to loosely summarize your discussion before diving into my own thoughts about the spotlights of our reality. Trying to fuel some sustenance in this three way writing orgy.

Valentin, the evolutionary predisposition to leech onto a celebrity, and feed our social bonds couldn’t be more spot on. The thirst of people and their need to strengthen relationships via gossip is most palatably done through the world of celebrity, avoiding the potentially toxic effects of gossip in local social circles. One addition I’d make to this evolutionary understanding of our relationship to celebrity is it’s purpose in filling our God deficit. Celebrities can become mystical demigods that fill the worship hole for people who need to find meaning as a follower of something grander than their life, as a disciple of the divine.

Hershal, I’m going to narrow in on your thoughts on your own pursuance of fame, and specifically skilled-based fame. Sorry, no demigod worshipping of your girl Kim. I found it interesting in your self reflection on the pursuit of prominent writer status, you mentioned your motivations not being at all pure. I would take with some issue with the “at all” sentiment, but lets leave that to our in person trite musings.

Rachit, what you’ll want to focus on instead, is the nature of pure motivation of a skill, or rather more specifically, an artistic skill. You’re going to be highlighting the initial, small scale stage of fame, and it’s relationship with the different types of skills.

Ok so now that I’ve unclenched my need for order in this orgy, lets get into this discussion by first defining what I mean by artistic versus non artistic skill and it’s relevance to this conversation. An artistic skill is one that has intrinsic value in its expression. Music for the sake of cathartic emotional expression, writing for the creative expression of one’s thoughts, and linguistic choreography of words. I can go on, but ya feel me.

On the other hand, non-artistic skills lack this obvious intrinsic value in it’s expression, without additional romantic spin. Let me dig a bit deeper with some examples. A physicist, or any scientist really, conducting research can have a “purer” stem of motivation, if their research is conducted in the lens of pursuing truth. A little more difficult to find intrinsic value compared to the immediate feedback of an artistic skill, but still plausible. But there are non-artistic skills that are even more difficult to produce romantic spin. The mechanics of being a solid accountant can may be, possibly, if you try really hard spun as “my organization and scrupulous spreadsheet skills keep society honest, and the economy bumpin”, perhaps? Emphasis on perhaps.

And not to say that there aren’t other motivations for why one does what they choose to do, practical survival reasons being the most obvious one. But why do I differentiate these minute differences in skill & motivation in reference to fame? Because even on a small social group level, being famous, or a term that can be conflated with small scale fame, being successful, shares similar characteristics to what fame at large scale gives – a good reputation amongst peers, recognition for your skills, tons of fist bumpin, monetary success, romantic pedalation. It ties into the very nature of purpose, as a human being in the context of his or her role in society. Am I good at what I do and does that mean something to society?

But back to artistic skills for a moment, and pure motivation. Well lets call it a pure motivation spectrum instead, because even in this realm, many hit songs, beautiful pieces of art, have been created with some combination of pure intentions and some less-pure ones: ego inflation, money, women etc. This wouldn’t be NFC if I didn’t go on to say that there is probably some healthy balance of the above variables, understood with some hindsight analysis. But in this world, people, and I mean all people, the ones who suck and don’t suck, have the opportunity to channel in pure motivation, and reap the rewards that it brings. And that reward is in the value of self expression, creative exercise, aesthetic gratification, which are often (where applicable) embraced with notions of ephemerality, as to emphasize the act itself and the fleeting moments of satisfaction they bring. And typically, when you see someone who has “made it” and is regarded as genuine in their intentions with their craft, this intrinsic satisfaction seems apparent. So I would say it’s something to try and tap into and be genuine about, whether or not you’ll be famous, or whether or not you’re even good or bad.

Having said all that, it’s a lot easier said than done in practice. Especially when considering if you’ve decided to make a career of said artistic skill. And I suppose this is an opportunity to play an anti-cliche card, which is slowly coming full circle into normal cliche-hood: “Don’t make your passion your job”. It’s why I think, Hershal, you may be becoming more cynical in your reflection on whether your intentions are at all pure anymore. The idealism of a teenager dissipates when practicality, and surviving becomes part of the equation.


I hate to use the fist engaged, knuckles pressed against my hips, head slightly tilted, eyebrows raised, lips pursed version of the two words I’m about to spit, two words that likely start arguments in couplings across everywhere, but you make me tap into my inner snoot…

Well, actually … I said abstract dichomoties are cool, and reasonable praise be to the Gods of moderation and Balance – all I was saying was to just give me a little more sprinkle of your take on whatever we’re discussing, or your contextualization of some supposedly smart person’s take on it, along with asking the right question. A little bit of hindsight calibration, ya feel.

But, back to the branding problem you bring up of Minimum Guaranteed Income, or Poverty Protection Grant, or as I referred to it, Universal Basic Income.  And that’s probably a good starting junction for a quick little marketing analysis. What’s a better acronym? “Minimum” springs to mind connotations associated to minimum wage, which is controversial in it’s own right. “Poverty” has a pejorative feel of classism that I feel the idea behind MGI/PPG/UBI is trying to be detached from. Universal has some soviet communism feels to it (no offence to yo peeps) , but I do like the idea of the word basic, tying into Maslow’s Hierarchy of “basic needs” of existence. But beyond the acronym, I think there probably needs to be a reality check on the limits of capitalism. The implementation of that would be kind of weird. Other than in the political arena, is there any way to have a rational educational understanding of the economic limits of capitalism? Because, we’re going to eventually start nose diving to these bottom limits of our otherwise better than all alternatives society structure we call capitalism.

Speaking to a friend recently about this idea, he brought up an interesting point. Where would people live when most jobs won’t be needed? Think about how you got to live where you are right now, or your family and friend’s choice of residence. A huge chunk of why you live where you do is tied into your career and your job. With the automation of food, delivery, and in general the more economically sound allocation of resources, where will people flock to? Although I do have a perspective on it, and with questions of integrity in check, I’ll save my exploration of this question for our upcoming podcast. Here are a couple more softballs to get our feet wet on Friday:

Fast forward 2 years, once you’re done your PhD, Universal Basic Income gets implemented and you can make a good living without needing to do anything, what would you do? And even if you would still want to work, lets say you didn’t for the first year, what would you do?

What are two possible specific high level pursuits that you could see yourself pursuing in the life of Valentine Peretroukhine? Same question with low level pursuits.


The Utopic Jiro Dream World

“If we were all sceptics, there would be nothing to doubt (since no one would think of any ideas). Yet, if we’re all idea generators, then we can’t meaningfully communicate and share important ideas.”  Both. This binary juxtapositioning of having to choose one versus the other abstract extreme is exactly what I called us out on before. Instead, I would position this potential future topic more along the lines of: what is more important / when is it more important / how does one implement the difference of importance of being a skeptic versus idea generator. You rightfully expressed the value in positing the right question to stimulate initial discussion and clear the haze of ignorance. In that spirit, lets get past the binary phrasing, to which the answer is almost always both, but move towards, it’s both, but who/how/what/when/ is one more than the other. And, even when posing an important question that welcomes discussion, I still think we need to offer perspective(s). If you don’t quite know what yours is, maybe offer a perspective of someone else, or multiple ones, and try and offer an opinion to why you are confused.

But moving back on to our discussion, and before discussing choosing what to do in this automated economy, lets first consider the implementation and transition into this Brave New Robot World. We’ve discussed the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) a few times in conversation, and I think, more than anything, it would be a needed component in this transition. The beginnings of this new economy would unhealthily shrink wealth to a smaller group of rich folk, countering the merits of a thriving capitalist society that needs a strong lower and middle class, without which the consumerism of wealth distribution would become impossible, leading to widespread poverty and societal collapse. So how do we live & work, or live & not work in this new world? Consider two ideas before making these decisions: the paradox of work and the paradox of leisure. “The paradox of work is that many people hate their jobs, but are considerably more miserable doing nothing.” And akin to this sentiment, the paradox of leisure shares similar diminishing returns, but rather, sinking into a mind mushing numbing of entertainment overload.

So how does a society balance out these conflicting problems? Well for one, the idea of a “full time job” may become that of history. The people that work, will work less. The German government already provides tax credits to companies that shrink hours instead of firing employees in times of economic lows. Another mechanism would be to support and incentivize entrepreneurship. In this new economy, if people can come up with sustainable businesses that create jobs, and are functioning within the new automized world, it should be rewarded more than static accumulation of great wealth.

But what about for the ones that don’t want to work, or do not have the proper skills to work in this new world? Well, I think this is where we have the opportunity to approach a more utopic society, full of Jiro Dreams, and the sushi fruits of the labour. In this world, education, as it already is becoming, would become a lot more readily available and accessible. People would be free to learn what they please, possibly even economically encouraged to do so, pursue and contribute to society through these Jiro types of low level approaches, from pursuing the arts, to help facilitating local community hubs. All of these types of hobbies, or bits of leisure would be incentivized to create wellness in the given community, and promote healthy desired behaviour.  Through these activities, people possibly would have the opportunity to earn a bit more basic income by small artisanal contributions to local communities. Of course, this life of an artist is at a simplistic level of necessity, so the American Dream of buying a bigger and better house than your peers, and winning the rat race remains square on the table; it’s just not the be all end all, as it seems to be in society currently.

So if we can shift gears when the time comes, and achieve this utopic-esque dream world, before letting the wealth collect in small bubbles to catastrophic ends, I think the “forever-tweaking-hindsight-driven-utilitarian-analysis-tool” I mentioned earlier, will have a lot more room for risk taking to explore individual curiosity. Sounds like fun.

The Forever Tweaking Hindsight Driven Utilitarian Analysis Tool

Before I start with my incessant ramblings, I need to call you out on something, well, call us out on something. If we were to give NFC some kind of modus operandi, it would go as follows: write about a non-linear idea/concept/issue, often creating abstract dichotomies that lead us down a path of discovery to some feng shui conclusive balance. And the balance is not binary, it’s a weird hindsight driven understanding that is often individually specific, and sometimes engrossed in a meta layered dichotomy. And that’s cool. And fun. And mostly, it swims in truth. It approximates the grey nuanced world we live in. But, what I’m hoping we can graduate to, is skipping the posts that establish these dichotomies & asks the open ended questions, without an attempt to give a perspective on it. Get into the nitty gritty, write an extreme version of a perspective only to highlight the values of the opposite, or just you know, your own perspective. So on that note, lets dive into the trenches..

Well you sort of answered the question of pursuing high level versus low level ideals from the beginning of your post, it’s both.  But yeah yeah yeah, enough of the possibilities of the equation, lets try and answer it.

What tool do we use to determine the hyper individualistic answer to the equation? But of course, the most utile tool of human problem solving, utilitarianism. The use of this tool starts with your projections of satisfaction of each perspective – does the feeling of making perfect sushi bring me more happiness or the satisfaction of pursuing a utopic societal ideal by means of charitable work. And that’s just the initial step of the tool. What it ultimately comes down to is trying things out, small attempts at a time, taking those risks, and doing a post hoc analysis in order to recalibrate the projections and then rinse & repeat. People typically have expectations of trying to figure out what their true “calling” is by a pros and cons list, stuck in the initial projections, without realizing most of the work is done by taking the needed risk, accepting the possible failures involved, and gaining the new perspective of their own satisfaction equation. It’s the forever tweaking hindsight driven utilitarian analysis tool.

Beyond this though, the idea of finding one’s “true calling” probably needs a reality check, or an expectations calibration. In any sort of civilized society, we’re going to need the “dirty jobs“, the service oriented jobs, the maintenance jobs that may not be on paper ‘fulfilling’. The romanticization of finding your “true voice” through this idealized career where you’re engaged intellectually, while contributing to some high level ideal, or whatever the perfect set of variables are, is almost an impossibility. We need to sprinkle some nutrient rich practicality into the stew. And I’m not saying pursuing this individual ideal career is wrong, it’s more of a ‘no big deal if it doesn’t come to fruition’ approach. Or just, no big deal if you treat your work practically as a means to an end, and pursue your high level / low level ideals as hobbies. And recently, with the advent of the internet, access to education, hyper specific markets, and reach to people around the world, fulfillment through part time hobbies with a practical career that support high level & low level ideals (*ehem*, NFC)  are more possible than ever.

Take some risks, and get back to me.

Kontext King

Yes, political correctness comes from fear, and ignoramic dissonance, but also, one other fundamental human characteristic. Laziness. And not necessarily, but a little necessarily, the laziness of the individual, but mostly the laziness of the categorical boxes of language that suffocates said individual’s speech. The stem of this problem exponentiates, like the invite list of a high school house party, when shining a light on the human tendency to organize the world (jocks and nerds rejoice), and the linguistic limitations with the categories at hand. Most people don’t come up with new words, or phrases, or categories, or constructs. They follow. What’s the latest insta-gentrification filter? And it doubles down when considering the satisfaction of putting an object in it’s correct box. Tick. Job’s done. Ah, I solved the problem. Su Do Ku finished. Rubik’s cube solved. Proof QED. And it’s built into language. We say “this is that”, or “these are this way”. We don’t say, “given X, Y, and pink bananas, this has a 95% confidence interval of being correlated, while causational connections cannot be drawn”. Grey, nuance, contexts of situations, and complexities of concepts, are challenging, unnerving, and don’t lead to a happy neatly wrapped up world that can be tucked into the universe of blissful calm sleep. It leads to more questions, discomfort, and sometimes, actually most times, a feeling of injustice. A feeling that needs to eventually become a comfortable one, or at least accepted, when dealing with the nuance of seemingly everything.

This sparks an earlier discussion we had on the free will continuum (briefly: most behaviour is explained through environmental genetics, and genetics genetics, and less so through free will, existing on a continuum rather than a binary of determinism v free will). In the year since we swam in those thoughts, I’ve tried to internalize that sentiment and give less credit to free will and more to the aforementioned factors, and in doing so, it has allowed me to become more of a passive observer, seeker of context in people, environments, situations, etcetera. And this is where I think the solution to political correctness is, the seeking of context. Hey, so you notice an uncomfortable trend across a certain subset of the population. Maybe find out that there are underlying historical reasons to explain said behaviour, or the interminglings of local individually specific reasons, perhaps in concert with historical reasons. (And of course the duh, the trend doesn’t include everyone in the group, duh). If you accept that most behaviours don’t come from a conviction of free will, and often is explained with context, political correctness resolves as an unnecessary overreaching disguise that leads to fearful sentiment, and unsolved questions. Open free discussion of context is king.

We’ve taken tons of jabs at political correctness, so lets take a moment and ponder the roots, and find some *ehem* context of the stems of it’s usefulness. One fundamental problem that it addresses is stereotyping in institutionalized power domains.  Here’s a quick example: a 2009 study that asked black, white, and latino participants to send out identical resumes to a variety of entry level positions. What came of it, “black and Latino applicants with clean backgrounds fared no better than white applicants just released from prison”. Throwing aside outwardly abrupt, idiotically ignorant HR managers, what’s most enlightening in these situations is that the HR managers are being racist on an unconscious macro level. And lets look at that word ‘macro’ for a second. The use of that macro word highlights the trend of stereotyping, without necessarily blaming individuals for it. When pressed, I’d guess the non-abruptly-ignorant HR managers would be appalled at the thought of this discrimination.  Political correctness of thoughts here is almost a self reflective mechanism of “hey, was I being unfairly judgmental without knowing it?” or “what are my predisposed biases and how do they reflect my decision making”.




When spewing in the arena of idealism, refreshing yourself with a reality check, or an expectations calibration, is as necessary as wiping your butt after a gleeful number deuce. As much as I preach about being a Kontext King, a reflector of your thoughts & biases, the underlying madness that lies beneath any idealistic mumblings is the ugly nature of our reality. And this is most poignantly reflected through the lens of the attractiveness bias. As in any general advice thread we’ve seen on reddit, Step 1) Be Attractive. In a species, even an intelligent one, arrived at through billions of years of sexually charged evolution, the playing field of privilege will never be fair. Accepting that fate at least allows the nuance of context to be swallowed with a gulp of expectation, rather than harshly down, mean and jagged. Political correctness can’t solve that.



Ugly Change

It’s been a while, so I’ll start easy, with familiar territory … a big bad B word that we love and hate. But before we get to exploring the intricacies of the question you raised of how to observe with precision without being mean, lets begin with discussing a pressing divide in the discussion surrounding political correctness. But even before then, as scarily difficult as it was to write the two sentences above, it’s nice to be back on a no concentrate diet.

This divide I eluded to earlier separates the people in the game of democratic politics, and the average citizen participating in the socio-economic framework of a free market society. The former deals with political correctness as a set of rules to a game, to please the masses, to not get caught in a bad sound bite, and ultimately to collect delicious votes when the time comes. The rules of what is PC and what isn’t may change through time, but in the world of politics, it will always continue to be a game of whoring to the populous and not offending a large demographic voter base. The latter part of the divide is far more fascinating. It involves how the average citizen interacts with the rest of society and the inner-workings between the marginalized and privileged. Part one of this video on the philosophy of South Park perfectly articulates this. A theme in the video that I think is central to the component of PC culture is inclusiveness. The point he makes is that false inclusiveness of PC culture only provides a means to appeal to more demographics, and also to shed a sense of guilt of the privileged, rather than to actually include and solve underlying problems. A quote from South Park itself:

“What is political correctness but a verbal form of gentrification, spruce everything up, get rid of all the ugliness in order to create a false sense of paradise”

While I think fundamentally this is true for the current state of our Western populous, what it doesn’t take into account, is the benefit of that this false inclusiveness will have for generations to come. Although it may not solve the underlying problems of marginalized populations, and even if PC culture is a hot commodity to market to the privileged, what currently is a token inclusion, will end up being a normal occurrence. Although the change is ugly, at least it’s change, and for the same reasons that people stereotype to begin with, if the norm is inclusive, the stereotype will be too.

Motivating the Nihilists

Valentin, you forgot to mention to Hershal the ever-pervasive, sometimes oddly positive, but mostly dwelling theme of nihilistic spiralling we have around at NFC. And in this theme of pointlessness, I believe lies the preservation and perseverance of procrastination.

When people are driven with sheer purpose in life, especially a grand purpose that stems from a strong willed faith, it’s easier to get that stem of motivation to get things done to coincide with that purpose. And when I say strong willed faith, it’s not necessarily referring to just believers of a higher power, a life after death, or any real purpose beyond the limits of the human experience, I also include people who operate under goal centred ideals of motivation in their current existence. When I graduate from law school, or help save the world, or raise a great couple of kids, or buy a beach house, or finally turn that one pack into a 6 pack, I’ll be happy. That faith in the gratified future you drives you on those nights where you’re running on low motivational fuel.  And the closer you are to believing the satisfaction in the end destination of that goal or the blinder your faith is, the easier it is to make those tough calls on those nights.

So what does this mean for the ones prone to nihilistic spiralling, the ones that can’t staple meaning on an idea for longer than a rat can wait to hit an inconsistent food lever? I think this is where we channel the inner Lykovs in us. Instead of relying on passion to drive our career choices and motivation, dial it back a generation, and just accept that a job is a job to survive off of, to put food on the table for you and your family. So long as you choose to be a participant in society, i.e. you’ve decided not to kill yourself, treating and programming your career as a job to survive in the world makes the whole thing a bit easier to not procrastinate. And of course it’s not a binary thing, it can be a mix of passion and survival. So I suppose it’s more accurate to say prioritizing survival over passion motivation might make the productivity to procrastination window a little more clear in our nihilistic spectrum of the world. And as for the rest of your hobbies and creative pursuits, I think as you said Valentin, embracing the spice of procrastination is to embrace the curious nature of the universe around us.

Slow down, man

It somewhat fitting that our topic of productivity is delayed by a slew of procrastination on my part. So in that spirit, lets talk about delicious, yummy procrastination. Whenever I delay, avoid, or push things to future Rachit’s problems list, I find that all the distractions are that much tastier. I remember reading an entire book (Richard Branson’s autobiography) during an exam period, and have a fond memory of the experience and the scrumptiousness of the words. It feels naughty and rebellious, akin to when a child is supposed to be doing his chores, but is playing video games with a chocolate stained moustache. However, other than causing issues, procrastination also has its importance in creative productivity. Tons of studies on incubation periods during problem solving, or any sort of creative activity has shown the positive effects of not thinking or not actively working on your task at hand. I probably just have a higher incubation period than you do, Valentin. Yeah, I’m going to run with this — I needed some inspiration to be productive about productivity. It’s science bro.

And here we are, productivity. Lets talk macro first. The economics of the free world, at least on this half of it, point us towards growth. Grow GDP. If GDP isn’t growing, there’s something that’s not in tact. But when we shrink down to the micro level, the philosophy isn’t always in tact. While we praise career home run hitters, the majority of us strive for that delicate B word between the two. Maybe the other side of the world is on the right end of that scale – most places in Europe, and Australia are famous for mandating an extensive amount of vacation time. A friend of mine that lives in Paris told me he gets 9 weeks of vacay a year. 9 weeks! But even beyond that, as much as I am a fan of long binges of vacay, I came across this company that mandates a 3 day weekend, every week. And I think theres something to the short vacay you don’t get with longer ones: the constant recharge, the further local exploration, and just the increase in weekly tomfoolery time. Its good for the soul. And productively speaking, its worked out well for them since implementing the policy – no major differences in output or company growth. So this isn’t that difficult of an argument to make on the micro level, everyone loves weekends, but if you take it up to the macro scale, it can start to sound silly. Take things a bit slow, don’t necessarily grow right away, stabilize and strengthen. Actually it sounds pretty sound, but these are all words and not sound science. So I went off to the God of Google, and after some tens of minutes of googling, I came up shorthanded. There are arguments to the incompleteness of GDP as a tool of growth, but a non-growth-based-emphasized economy wasn’t to be found. So when you can’t science, you go to your next best resource, Drake. No new friends. Once you’ve found a good solid group of friends, it doesn’t always make sense to keep growing your inner circle, instead spend time servicing the ones you have.

And on that note, I’m going to pass you the rock for the other angle that we wanted to discuss on the productivity topic, and thats the super micro scale of the physical constraints of actually getting some work done. Has the stimuli filled world of the internet economy physically strained our brains to be less productive? Or are we just incorrectly romanticizing the productive landscape of the past? Or both. Likely both as always, but where does the optimal balance lie?