I read, think, write and code.
3904 words

The importance of social context.

The thoughts shared in this blog post are inspired from the book The Courage to Be Disliked, I highly recommend reading it.

What would happen if you lived alone on an island?

Money would be worthless. It only has value because we collectively value it; because of the social context. It's just paper after all.

Similarly, fashion is purely socially-driven. If you were to live on an island alone, you probably wouldn't care about wearing high-fashion brands. It costs you more, and is not necessarily more confortable than cheaper alternatives.

A significant part of the "diet-crowd" (keto, vegan, paleo,...) would probably stop following their diet, because it wouldn't benefit their social status anymore. This is also applies to meditation and other trendy "self-improvement" techniques, like body-building for example.

Don't get me wrong, a significant part of the people doing these things, whether it's following a specific diet, meditating or body-building, do it for "good" reasons. Health for example. However, a lot of people do these things because it's socially beneficial. People look up to someone who is capable of maintaining a diet as restrictive as the keto diet.

This isn't even to mention the spiritual "sector", where social status is king. After all, would your favorite guru still walk barefoot if he lived alone on an island? Probably not.

Finally, a lot of people would realize the lack of reasons to have an overly ambitious career, or to become rich. There is no point after all, except to have a higher social status, or because you like the process.

Knowledge as a network.

Knowledge is like a network.

When you learn something new, a new node joins the network. If that new knowledge has some links with knowledge you previously acquired, these nodes communicate. If not, the node simply stays there waiting for a new node it can communicate with.

The network is the most efficient when all the nodes communicate with each other, meaning when your knowledge deeply covers a variety of subjects which are linked with each other.

The stronger the initial network, the more difficult it will be for a malicious node to join the network. It will immediately be isolated by the other nodes.

Religions in the 21st century.

My definition of a religion is that it's a belief system.

The reason why religions exist is because we humans need to have beliefs. Bad weather, deaths,... were explained by the anger of God thousands of years ago. In our times, we use religion (beliefs) to explain the superiority of the human being.

We are indeed slowly moving towards religions where instead of placing a superior entity at the top of our belief system, we put ourselves at the top. The increasingly popular humanism is the perfect example of that.

While humanism isn't seen as a religion in our society, it definitely is according to my definition of a religion. Humanism places the lives of humans at the center of everything. Though, this is entirely based on beliefs as the truth is that no entity is superior to another one, in my opinion. While we are "smarter" (whatever your definition of being smart is) than all the other animals we know of, this doesn't make us superior.

If attributes like intelligence determined who dominates who in nature, we would probably be dominated by elephants because of their size and cheetahs because of their speed. Though, they are clearly not dominating us, so why would our intelligence be a valid reason to dominate them?

Veganism is also a religion according to my definition. Liberalism and communism also fall under the religion umbrella. They all are, as each of them relies on a set of beliefs.

Even if the idea that religions are quickly losing popularity in our "modern" society is widely accepted, I strongly disagree with that. Religions are definitely not over in my opinion and probably never will as believing in something is much easier than accepting the void, the emptiness of the universe and the lack of reasons to live as a human being.

Wrongness is just a perception.

This blog post is based on the first chapter of the first book of a trilogy called "Spiritual Enlightenment", written by Jed McKenna. I must admit I have just begun reading it, but I already know it's an incredibly powerful and interesting book. I strongly recommend reading it.

When you think about it, nothing is ever wrong, nor right. You will tell me some people, like one whose name starts with "T" and ends with "rump", are wrong. Well, that person is wrong, I agree, but that's just our perception of him. In reality, he is simply living, period. And what he does isn't wrong nor right, he just does.

We perceive it as something wrong though. It's all in our minds, because the core truth, is that there can't be anything wrong nor right as we don't know the purpose of life. When you consider something wrong, or right, there is a reason why you think so. But in this case, we don't know the reason, we don't know the purpose of life. Because of that, there is no way for us to know what's right and wrong. It's all just perception.

This also means that, there are no problems in this world. We create problems for ourselves. Trump isn't a problem, unless you perceive him as one. Because as there is nothing wrong, as this is all happening in our minds, nothing can be a problem.

Additionally, this also means there is nothing to be solved, as there are no problems. Because there is nothing to be solved, why build skyscrapers, why go to war and why life while we are at it?

Animals don't have problems. They simply behave like they are biologically supposed to. They don't seek to build skyscrapers, nor to go to war, except if they are biologically programmed to do so. Animals don't perceive right or wrong, they just live.

This thought-process doesn't mean we should tolerate wrongness of course. It simply means that, while we are constantly solving problems in our life, in reality, there aren't any. It's all happening in our minds.

A brief overview of branding.

This blog post is based on a book I recently read: "The Brand Gap", by Marty Neumeier. I highly recommend it.

In a world which is information-rich and time-poor, branding is what differentiates your company from the competition.

A brand is a person's gut feeling about a product or service. It's what your customers feel, not what you feel.

On the market, there can only be one company which can be the cheapest. All the other ones need to use branding to differentiate themselves.

Differentation is the first step in creating a powerful brand. When everyone zigs, zag. When everyone zags, zig.

If customers feel your product/company/service can be substituted, your brand isn't charismatic enough.

A good brand differentiates itself by expressing its creativity in the most extreme levels, while still remaining in the boundaries of what's considered as acceptable by the general public.

To begin building a brand, ask yourself the following three questions:

1) Who are you?
2) What do you do?
3) Why does it matter?

Finally, keep in mind that the more your brand grows, the more vulnerable it becomes.

Wars will be obsolete by 2050.

This blog post is the result of a thought-process which started after reading the phrase "Wars will be obsolete", at the back of "Homo Deus", a book I'm currently reading, written by the very talented Yuval Noah Harari.

Our history is filled with wars. The good news is that this will probably change in the next 20 to 30 years.

A war is most of the time purely economically-driven. Otherwise, there wouldn't be any reason to put so much effort into invading another country. With globalization though, this economical "incentive" to start wars loses most of its value.

The reason why the US hasn't started a (real) war against China for example, is because neither of these countries have anything to win in a fight against each other.

Aside from that, it's also worth considering that with the tools these nations have, starting a war, means the nearly instant destruction of both of these regions. This is mainly because of the emergence of nuclear weapons in the 20th century.

Finally, once the regions where there are still wars evolve (such as Syria, Afghanistan, and regions with regular tensions such as Africa), the world will become a network of economically linked entities, which have nothing to win in attacking each other. Wars (like we know them) will effectively have become obsolete.

Do you really want to live longer?

I recently started reading Homo Deus, by Yuval Noah Harari. And at the beginning of the book, he starts talking about how the world would look like if the average lifespan was around 150.

While it may seem like not much would change, I can guarantee you the world would be radically different.

  • We would need to make of the Mars colonization a priority, because there would just be too much people on Earth.

  • Murderers would be able to actually get out of prison, even with a 100-year sentence.

  • Wealth gaps would be even larger, as Warren Buffet would only be a bit over the first half of his life. He would still have more than 60 years to continue accumulating more money.

  • You would know your grand-grand-grand-fathers and mothers. Because of that, family gatherings would be absolutely gigantic, as you would need to invite tens of people just to cover your "close" family.

  • I'm pretty sure there would also be many more suicides. Just the thought of having to live 130 more years when you are 20 and poor in an under-developed country, is not really motivating.

  • You would also have to regularly go back to your studies, as instead of having an average career of around 40 years, most people would now be working twice, if not three times as longer. Career shifts would be a really big thing.

  • Family-ran companies would also be big thing. And some exceptionally talented entrepreneurial beings would create absolute empires in our capitalistic society (Amazon, but 10 times worse).

  • With the inflation, 1$ at the beginning of your lifetime, would at the end of your lifetime, have lost 99% of its real value.

  • Wars would be even more destructive, by killing people who could have contributed during tens (if not hundred) of more years to society.

So I'm not sure it would actually be a good idea to live longer. And certainly not to reach immortality.

The fact that you know there will eventually be an end to your life, is precisely what's motivating to take action in my opinion, and to enjoy it as much as possible.

But if you are immortal, why go climbing the Kilimanjaro? You will still be there tomorrow to do it.

Though, with immortality, I mean that the healthcare sector could find a solution to "cure" aging. But if you would get hit by a car, you would still die.

So immortal people would be living an incredibly anxious life, and would certainly avoid creating bucket lists with insane things on it, like climbing the Kilimanjaro, simply because it's too dangerous.

Coming back to the 150-year lifespan scenario, if you are 20, would you still risk your life by skiing in an unauthorized area? I doubt it. You would literally be risking 130 more years of life.

Do you still want to reach immortality now?

You shouldn't need to take holidays

A lot of people, in fact, the majority of people, take holidays in our Western societies. It's considered normal.

But what is normal? Simply put, something is normal when everyone does it.

But it's not because everyone does something, that you should do it too. And this is especially the case regarding holidays.

In our current society, holidays are used by the global population as a way of escaping their reality. A pocket of oxygen, giving them some short-term pleasure, and motivation to work again a whole year to afford their next trip. This is something I truly don't understand.

But first, let's ask ourselves why people want (or need) to obtain this pocket of air. It's pretty simple. Working every single day from 9 to 5 isn't what we humans were made for. Your dog doesn't work from 9 to 5. He lives his life. That's how simple it is. His days are incredibly simple: he eats, he sleeps, he plays, and he walks. That's it. Nothing more. He hasn't any schedule. He hasn't someone he works for. And most importantly, he is living, not surviving like most humans do. And guess what? He doesn't need holidays.

Your dog isn't taking holidays, mainly because he isn't smart enough to figure out how to take a plane, but also, simply because he is living the life he is supposed to live. Which means he doesn't need these holidays. He doesn't need this pocket of oxygen, because he has plenty of it every day.

You aren't made for your 9-to-5 job. You are made to live.

But how can we live?

The first, and most important step, is to become financially independent. You don't want to be dependent on your 9-to-5 job. You don't want to live from paycheck-to-paycheck.

A lot of people believe they are free because they are living in a democracy. And yes, democracies are a first step towards this freedom. However, there are still a lot of other steps which follow it.

If you have debt, you aren't free. If you have a 9-to-5 job, you aren't free. If you need to save money for something, you aren't free. If you need to please someone, you aren't free. If you need to lose weight, you aren't free. If you need to wake up at a certain hour, you aren't free.

Simply put, if you need to adapt your natural, human behavior because of something, you aren't free.

Laws limit freedom. Which is why we should be seeking a minimal amount of laws, and make them as simple as possible.

To come back to the initial part of this blog post, this holiday-mania reflects in my opinion how unfree the majority of the population is.

Holidays represent this glimps into the freedom people would like to have, but haven't.

You shouldn't need to take holidays, because your everyday life should be fulfilling enough.

Oh, and if you are truly free, you don't need to take "a break".

On Universal Basic Income (UBI).

UBI is one of those very futuristic, but actually quite realistic subjects which I like to think about. But until recently, I hadn't figured out for myself the right way of doing things regarding a UBI program. In this blog post, I will first be clarifying what the problems are with the "standard" UBI model, and later, I will present my own model of UBI, which I genuinely think is much better.

The standard model of UBI, is basically saying: let's give a 1000 dollars (or more, or less) to each citizen every month through inflation. The government essentially creates more money every month, which is given to each citizen so they can at least "survive".

There are a few major problems with this system. First, in terms of economic competition, this is really bad. Like, really bad. The reason being that you don't want your inflation to be higher than those of your competitors. You want it to stay just below the ones of your neighbours, so you can ensure that you stay competitive. And that's the major problem here. There would be an instant massive inflation.

Second, by giving away money, without any rules, or guidelines, there is 0 guarantee that the money will actually be used to "survive". In most cases, people will use it for things which they actually don't need. An iPhone for example. That's not essential for their survival. Besides, with the "standard" UBI model, Jeff Bezos would also receive a 1000 dollars a month. But our friend Jeff has already 180 billion dollars. So, giving him a thousand dollars every month is ridiculous, especially when this amount of money can save someone else.

Third, this UBI would also benefit the neighbour countries, which would result in the main countries losing market shares. Why? Well, if you receive a 1000$ a month, and you buy an iPhone while not living in the US, you are directly supporting the US.

To summarize, there are a couple of problems with the "standard" UBI model: 1. it's competitively bad, 2. people will use it for other things than "surviving", 3. Jeff Bezos would also receive a 1000 dollars, which is absolutely ridiculous, and 4. the country could lose market shares due to its population paying for services and products based outside of the country.

I called my model of UBI "SUBI", for "Smart Universal Basic Income". The idea behind it is instead of making UBI something which will "hurt" the country economically speaking, something that will actually contribute to the country's growth. The idea is to score multiple goals at once, instead of not scoring goals at all like with the standard model of UBI.

The first important thing with SUBI, is the payments aren't made in cash. They are made in cheques. The use of these cheques is limited in time. The limit could be a year for example. This pushes people to actually use this money, as the goal here is to make sure that the economy goes forward.

Besides, these cheques are only usable for a specific group of products. So you can't buy everything with these cheques. First, these products need to meet certain climate-friendly criterias. This way, the SUBI system incentivizes ecological consumer behaviour. On top of that, the products need to be healthy. So the SUBI cheques can't be used to buy alcohol for example. Again, the goal here is to incentivize healthy consumer behaviour. Finally, the companies behind the products which you can buy with these cheques must all be based in the country itself. This is to avoid a scenario where the UBI system benefits the other countries more than the country itself.

To conclude, with this SUBI system, the government would be scoring multiple goals at once: 1. it will likely only be used by people who really need it, as Jeff Bezos is likely not going to buy products at his local supermarket, which means he will not benefit from the cheques, 2. these products respect our planet, and don't make the ecological situation worse, 3. the health level of the population would dramatically go up, as these would be the only products which could be bought with these cheques, 4. these SUBI cheques support the local economy as only companies based in the country itself can participate in the SUBI program.

AI isn't that scary.

Most of my thoughts in this blog post come from a book called "AI Superpowers" by Kai-Fu Lee. I encourage you to read it as it's fairly accessible and it contains a ton of knowledge around AI.

While it's true that AI, on a 10 year perspective, has the capability to replace around 40% of the US workforce, I don't think it's something negative. At the end of the day, life isn't about working, it's about living. And having a world based on AI algorithms would allow us to spend more time with our families, to spend more time with our friends,... Some people argue that AI is just like the internet a few decades ago. They think that the job market will simply change, nothing more. I agree with that because yes, the job market will change.

Most jobs will switch to a more human-centric way of doing things, where they will give much more attention to how people feel. These include health experts, teachers, and even judges. The reason being that, there is literally no point for a health expert to take years to learn everything by heart about how a brain works, while a machine can learn that in a fraction of that time. Besides, AI algorithms have the advantage of not being impacted by emotions, nor feelings.

An example I used to illustrate this in that previous blog post, is an economist in a bank.

Imagine that you are Goldman Sachs.

Do you prefer to hire an economist, who can be (massively) impacted by his feelings, whose knowledge is limited, and whose decisions are actually mostly made by hormones, genes, and synapses, instead of what we call "himself"?

Or do you prefer to hire an AI, which has no feelings, whose, knowledge is in theory unlimited, and whose decisions are rational, as they are based on actual data?

Logically, Goldman Sachs would hire the AI in this case. What you can read above was my vision of AI until I read AI Superpowers. While I still think that banks will use (and likely already partly use) AI algorithms to determine if you are worthy of a loan, I think that the economist in this situation will not be fired. Why? It's incredibly simple. If you are a business owner, you don't want to talk to an AI when covering your financial situation. You want to see if you can trust the bank, if you can trust them with your money. Let's put that in a table.

Economist AI
Impacted by emotions What are emotions?
Limited knowledge Unlimited knowledge (in theory)
Decisions based on hormones, genes and synapses Decisions based on actual data
Irrational Rational
Understands human feelings, can express empathy No understanding of human feelings, can't express "real" empathy

Like you can see, AI wins on nearly all of the above aspects, except the last one. As an AI can't express feelings, and can't express empathy, there is no way for an AI algorithm to fully replace humans.

When you are a client, you want empathy. In fact, empathy is one of the key parts of running a successful business. How can you become successful, if you don't care about your customers?

And this is precisely the reason why I think that most of the people constantly saying on social media that AI is going to destroy everyone's lives are completely wrong. Essentially, AI is simply a shift in how society works, nothing more. Besides, we are still decades a way of having the so-called "Artificial General Intelligence" (AGI) which scares so much people.

While it's true that an AI called AlphaGo has already won in a tournament agains the world champion of the game of Go, which is basically an Asian version of chess, the team behind AlphaGo worked during years before their AI became truly good at Go. On top of that, AlphaGo can only play Go. If you ask it what is the capital of France, it won't know the answer. And it needed to play thousands, and thousands of games, before arriving at such a level. Because yes, as a human, an AI needs to learn.

To conclude, I think AI is going to have a tremendous impact on society. It's going to radically change how people live, and how they interact with the digital world. However, it's not going to destroy humanity, at least not yet. And it's not going to cause massive unemployment. AI is simply going to change how our society works.