July 15, 2023

Humanities Greatest Flaw

Humanities Greatest Flaw

Humans became the apex predator of Earth because of our ability to adapt.‌‌Our ability to solve problems.

But what happens when "solving problems" turns the world on it's head?‌‌Doesn't seem plausible, I know.

But not only is it possible, it happens all the time.

It's all due to humanities greatest flaw. You and I aren't special, we suffer from it too.

And nobody is talking about it.

But to overcome it for ourselves, we must first understand it.

Shortsightedness

We've all been there before.

You get asked to give feedback on something. Could be how a friend looks, could be how their presentation went... you name it.

They ask, and instead of telling them the truth, you bite your tongue and say the "nice" thing.

"You look great man."

"The presentation was amazing."

We all know why we lie. The truth hurts.

We want to protect their feelings and/or we want to avoid confrontation.

But there's something else going on — we are making a big mistake.

Sure, their feelings don't get hurt now.

But you didn't do right by them. You did harm to them. They asked for your opinion and you lied.

  • When they go on their date, they look like shit and the girl notices.
  • They give their presentation to their manager and they look stupid.

Much larger problems that could've been avoided...

Had you understood the repercussions of the solution you chose to implement.


Here's how this played out:

  • You saw a problem:

If you say the truth, you'll hurt their feelings.

  • You decided on a solution:

Don't share the truth. Save them from getting hurt.

  • The result:

Your friend embarrasses himself.

  • Conclusion:

The solution you implemented solved the immediate problem, but caused a much larger one.

Your decision made things worse. You chose the wrong solution. The wrong implementation.


Solutions cause other things to break.

The things that break can be minor, or they can be catastrophic.

Depends on the problem you're trying to solve, and the solution you choose.

Somebody in the past made the same short term decision. If we look hard enough, we can find out what happened.

Issue is we don't live long enough to remember the mistakes of the past.

And we don't read history books.

We weren't around — Hence our shortsightedness.

Hence the phrase "History repeats itself".

What we do see is what we see. Every day, experiencing the same pain. Pain we desperately want to solve.

This is shortsightedness in a nutshell — humanities greatest flaw.

Failure to see the long term repercussions of your actions.

Catastrophe (I'll Prove It)

‌‌Okay cool, who cares?‌‌

Well this is a lot bigger than letting your friend know he looks like shit.‌ This happens to communities, cities, and countries.‌‌

Here's an example in the current world. ‌

I live in the United States.

There's somewhat of a culture war happening over here. It boils down to ideological narratives driving people's views and decisions.‌

There's a very aggressive progressive movement, and an equally aggressive conservative one.‌‌

No coincidence there.‌‌

I don't wanna get too political, but this is important.‌‌

Without choosing sides for myself, there's a clear relevant example happening on the progressive side.‌‌

The extreme progressives attempt to silence viewpoints that oppose theirs.‌‌It makes sense.

They've:

  • Identified a problem:

The opposing viewpoint is discriminating a certain group of people.

  • Decided on a solution:

Silence them. Cancel them. This way they aren't hurting that group of people anymore.


The result?‌‌

That group of people get more of a voice.‌‌

Problem solved!‌‌

If those doing the hurting aren't speaking, they can't hurt anyone.‌‌

It seems like a great path forward. Silence voices that are hurting any group of people. Eventually, nobody will be discriminated...‌‌

Right?‌‌

A short term solution to an immediate, emotion provoking problem.‌‌

But what's the real result?‌‌

A slippery slope. Who decides who cancels who? Who decides what words are "hurtful" or "discriminatory"?‌‌

Where does that end up? Where does it stop?‌‌

Before you know it, people are fearful of sharing their opinion, even if that opinion is neutral. The only voice is the voice of those in charge of cancelling.‌‌

The only voice allowed.‌‌

One extreme.‌‌

How is that any different than propaganda?‌‌

Disobey and get lynched...‌‌

Eradicating free speech in the name of preserving people's feelings might not be the best implementation.‌‌

Pick up a history book. Look at countries that operated out of fear. Countries with people afraid of sharing their opinions.‌‌

Ring a bell?‌‌

Shortsightedness...‌‌

Humanities most dangerous flaw.‌‌

Everything Is Trash

‌‌When it comes to solving problems, there's almost never a perfect answer.‌‌

Tell the friend he looks like shit and hurt his feelings.‌‌

Don't tell him and he gets embarrassed in front of his date.‌‌

Point is, ‌‌Every solution is trash.‌‌

Capitalism? Socialism? Communism?‌‌

Every single one is shit.‌‌

It's our job to pick the one that's the least shit.‌‌

To optimize, not perfect.‌‌

Solve a problem, create another one.‌‌

Every. Single. Time.‌‌

The larger the problem, the more obvious the resulting problem (that the solution creates) is.‌‌

The only goal should be to solve a problem where the resulting problem is less severe than the original. (this becomes harder and harder)‌‌

That's the magic.‌‌

That's what the shortsighted miss.‌‌

They don't understand the fact that their solution creates another problem.‌‌ They only see the immediate problem, and solve it.‌‌

They are trying to perfect the world, and that's where the danger happens.‌‌

Have You Played JENGA?

‌‌Think of a country as JENGA (the game).‌‌

You know, this thing:‌‌

Okay. Now think of the tower itself as the country. If it's standing, it's alive.‌‌

Think of each block as a problem the country faces.‌‌

The goal is to pull out the pieces, right?‌‌

Thing is, each time you pull out a piece, the structure becomes a little less stable.‌‌

At the start, the resulting instability caused by pulling a piece (solving a problem) is insignificant.‌‌

It's like tying your shoes. Solves the problem, resulting problem is negligible (It took some of your time).‌‌

As the game progresses, it gets riskier and riskier to remove pieces.‌‌

The resulting instability (resulting problem) caused by each removal (each solved problem) increases exponentially.‌‌

Pull a piece, cause massive instability = Solve a problem, create another massive problem.‌‌

At a certain point, it becomes so risky to pull another piece because you know the tower is about to fall.‌‌

Pull one too many pieces and the entire thing comes crashing down.


‌‌It's ironic. As the country faces less and less problems, it means the state of the country is getting better.‌‌

That's great.‌‌

It also means each new solution you implement (each piece you pull) becomes more and more risky.‌‌

It becomes more and more likely to create massive instability.‌‌

It becomes more and more likely to cause the whole thing to fall.

‌‌In a nutshell, as the country faces less problems, we need to be more careful about solving them‌‌.

The number of problems left is proportionate to the riskiness of solving them.‌‌

Remember, every implementation is trash. It might be a good time to call it quits before the whole tower comes down.‌‌

Optimize, don't perfect. Pursuit of perfection creates catastrophes.‌‌

In fact, for the sake of the thought experiment, the optimal point would be this:‌‌

‌‌Pull any piece, the tower falls. ‌‌Sure, the country faces problems. Sure, we want to remove them. ‌‌Be shortsighted and see what happens. Go ahead and try to solve one more.‌‌

I dare you.‌‌

It's funny because I've pulled a piece out of a JENGA game when it looked like the above picture.‌‌

You pull out the piece so fast that the above section falls straight down and lands on the remaining. The tower lives.‌‌

Thing is, the riskiness far outweighs what it's worth.‌‌

We are approaching this point in the United States.‌‌

Yes there are problems. Yes we should try to solve them. But damn we have to be careful.‌‌

There's a lot more to lose.‌‌

Quick Note

‌This is why I don't care for the whole "conservative" or "liberal" labels.‌‌

When the tower is full, and problems are rampant, it's better to be more liberal.‌‌

💡
When I say liberal, I'm thinking of somebody who is trying to change things.

‌‌You solve problems and the resulting problem is smaller than the original.‌‌

Great. Net positive.‌‌

As we get closer to the JENGA picture with no more pieces available to pull, being more conservative is better.‌‌

💡
When I say conservative, I'm thinking of somebody who is trying to preserve things.

‌‌At that point, it's better to preserve the beliefs we have. The way of living we have.‌‌

Even though the beliefs and ways of living still cause problems, solving the problems is more catastrophic than dealing with them.‌‌

Liberals > Conservatives when solutions don't cause bigger problems.‌‌

Conservatives > Liberals when solutions cause bigger problems.‌‌

But to be honest, fuck the labels in the first place.‌‌

How Does This Relate To Me?

‌‌Yea I know, this isn't very practical advice for an individual.‌‌

Lets do that now.‌‌

Almost every decision you make solves a problem. It may be a small one, but it's there.‌‌

Feeling down? Some snacks and Netflix makes it go away.‌‌

Tired when the alarm goes off? Snoozing erases the problem.‌‌

But as you all know, it creates larger problems. Everybody in the self help community screams it.‌‌

Trade short term discomfort for long term comfort, not the inverse.‌‌

Shortsightedness temps us daily.‌‌

Only by understanding the repercussions of those solutions can we learn to make better choices.‌‌

So start to practice.‌‌

When faced with a (often emotion provoking) problem, think hard.‌‌

Ask yourself where your solution takes you. Look past the next 5 minutes. Look past how it makes you feel in the short term.‌‌

Does this decision serve Jason in a week? In a month? In 10 years?‌‌

The beautiful thing is if you help yourself in 10 years, you help the entire community around you in 10 years as well.‌‌

Chances are, your emotions are making you laser focus on the short term. On the exact thing causing the emotion. All you want to do is eradicate it.‌‌

Be careful. Ask yourself what other problem that solution creates.‌‌

It's there, I promise.‌‌

Every choice you make, every solution you implement...‌‌You're sacrificing something. Make sure it's worth sacrificing.‌‌

Every solution sucks. Pick the one that sucks the least.‌‌

Prioritize yourself 5 years from now.‌‌

Conclusion

‌‌This one didn't have a lot of actionable advice, but it's something I'm passionate about.‌‌

Shortsightedness drove my decision making for a long time.‌‌

It wasn't until my decisions screwed me over that I realized what was going on.‌‌

You and I, we are problem solvers.‌‌

The only difference is which version of them they decide to help.‌‌

- Jason