Google’s John Galt (!) Stops Short of Calling for Strike

A Google employee, software engineer James Damore, recently circulated a memo to criticize the corporate culture as an ideological echo chamber [sic], authoritative and oppressive. He identified the diversity policies in place as blind to biological facts. He found the overall workplace experience as counter-individual. The memo can be found here. The employee was reportedly fired yesterday. He made a statement that he was prepared for a legal course to protect his rights.

I don’t have information about Google as a workplace. The memo’s content may or may not be true. The intriguing part is why an individualist would want to work at Google in the first place!

Here’s how:

Google has been nourished in what is called the social market economy. Like anything that has the word social in its name, it is collectivist. It is an attempt to create an idea-friendly rich class and a hard-working middle class, where the former are presupposed fools who should sit back and squeezed by special taxes for the rich and the latter works more and harder in exchange of free healthcare instead of material accomplishment. The social market seeks formal equality. Its banks, its air transportation, its Internet, and its jobs are considered public commodities.

Google’s search engine delivers results by popularity, not accountability. If the Internet user opinion is 2 + 2 = 5, that’s what you get. It rests on the world view that what the society says is true.

YouTube is an uncomfortable place to exercise property rights. One’s content at the platform can’t be rewarded by individual customer anyway. It must be free access and can be rewarded by popular vote. Once again, society calls at a whim whether a content producer is worthy of pay.

Neither Google nor any other Internet platform is responsible for its content by US Communications Decency Act Section 230, as well as consistent European court rulings in the same direction. A platform publisher as such benefits from a product it is not responsible of. In exchange, they are under constant public scrutiny for matters the society finds sensitive. Anonymous activists name what those matters are under no accountability whatsoever. The platform publisher abides.

The Android operating system is free software. It is enforced upon consumers by hardware makers because it is the most cost-effective choice. Android doesn’t have to reach individual customer expectations. It is shielded from market competition.

An Internet platform is supposed to be a business of scale, a big-data miner. It has nothing to do with individual customer. An individual citizen of the globe is one of the many.

Accordingly, it is hard to tell how any one employee of an Internet platform business expects all the above to disappear when he steps in the work place and individualism to prevail.

Like any collectivist system, the social market is also doomed to fail. Depending on how emphasized the social part is, the process can be painful. The social market’s end will vary from country to country in this respect. An individualist world view wouldn’t replace it altogether. Rather, micro-collectivism is going to take place behind trade barriers. But because of the financial ridicule the social market is leaving behind, those micro-collectivist areas, that are, countries, will have to give more room to individualism within their borders so those who want would make actual economic activity.

The exclamation mark in the title is for the vague resemblance of the fiction character John Galt in this story: He becomes dissident in a collectivist world. He sells his business and goes into seclusion until collectivism reaches to its crisis. He then makes a public statement to call those, whose economic product is exploited under an altruistic pretext, to strike. They answer the call.

But that’s a novel and, however inspiring, heroism itself is altruistic.

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13 Reasons Why Not

About three decades ago, families of two teenagers filed lawsuits against heavy metal band Metallica and singer Ozzy Osbourne, claiming the musicians’ song lyrics led their children to suicide. The courts dismissed both cases for lack of proof (of causality). Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne were popular those days. There was wide media coverage. I recall having a discussion with a professor about the cases in my junior year at law school.

I was 19 back then. I did what I could to get ahead and become a sharp lawyer. Later on, I discovered practicing law was not what I wanted to do. I have done other things to become what I am now, which includes being a father of two.

I hadn’t thought about teen suicide again until coming across with the new Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. Now it is not a technical legal matter or news about a band. It is an alarm bell. I am looking at it as relevant and taking precautions. Song lyrics don’t have the power of leading to suicide. But I understand what those families, who sued the musicians, had to go through. Things change.

Netflix does a good job by bringing the matter into living rooms with 13 Reasons Why. Just by raising awareness, it will help parents and teenagers to equip better. The screenwriters don’t script the show in a way we can get to know the characters’ personalities through their dialogues and actions. They react to what happens around them. That makes the story a poor reference to the matter in the real world. I’ll take it from here, and put together a lifetime of experience of being a teenager, an adult, a parent, and an education professional to try to show school dramas are avoidable.

Here are thirteen reasons why teenagers should not worry about things they usually do.

One: Life at school has nothing to do with the real world

Common schooling was created to meet with demands of industrialization and urbanization. It helped tremendously to those who were a part of a massive demographic shift. It then became a part of the natural order. Now it is a product of the past in a world it doesn’t fit anymore. Nevertheless, it is an establishment of significant size. It won’t go away easily, and not anytime soon.

Education imprints a culture or civilization on the educated. Common schools are not the only way of education. But they are the dominant form of education in our times. The other function of schooling is test preparation. Standards of some scale govern the both aspects. Students spend significant time in this institution, in isolation, without taking part in true production or sensing material accomplishment. They contact the real world after high school or college. Until then, all they can do is to study and interact with peers. The interaction part always has some resemblance of Lord of the Flies, even though adult supervision makes the experience much lighter.

It is meaningless to try battling with or revolutionizing the school establishment for any parent or student. But it makes sense for parents to make their children aware that common schooling is an antic from the past, but is also something they must attend because, well, it is what it is. The alternative, homeschooling, can hardly be different in helping a teenager adapt to the real world. A great many institutions today have been built around the same time with common schools. A teenager has very little chance to live a different life than others just by avoiding the common school.

How to give this message in words meaningful to a teenager?

We don’t find perfect things in life. We make them work anyway. The school is what it is. You get together with hundreds of other kids every day simply because everybody goes to school. All the stuff you go through with them is not meant to be. Who you are is still your business. You can just walk through these years and have some fun whenever possible. We are here for you. Talk to us about the slightest problem. It is much easier when we fix it together. That’s a pleasant job for a parent.

Parents need to back up what they say. That part is mostly learning by doing.

Two: A teenager doesn’t have a fully developed prefrontal cortex

The part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex makes adults function in complex situations by planning, focusing and organizing attention, managing social interaction, etc. Broadly speaking, it is where reason and problem solving happen. Everybody has it from childhood, but it doesn’t fully develop until around 25 years of age. That is, teenagers and young adults don’t think the way adults do. Their mastery of all emotional, social, and other complex matters will happen later. It is human nature.

Just like a four-year-old can’t play on the monkey bars, and a twelve-year-old can’t understand what a SAT score is about, a teenager can’t manage the social complexity of the isolated environment in a common school. Nothing is wrong with them. The common school environment is wrong for teenagers. The emotional chaos that falls upon them when they are in hundreds or thousands at school is not a part of natural growing up process. It is an accident.

How to transliterate it for a teenager?

Most of your life is about feelings. It will be so until you grow up. Then things will look different. Remember how it was when you were 9. How different are you now? It will be so much different when you grow up. All kids at the school are like you. The pressure that comes from people, classes, and other stuff is there because you are there without the brain wires to deal with them all at once. Your feelings jump up and down.  They are false alarms. If you focus on things you like instead, you can rule your world.

Three: All people, young and old, have difficulty in being rational

We are all limited in our knowledge about what is going on in the world. No one can know all the facts at any given moment, but even if that were possible, a single change somewhere would make that perfect knowledge invalid. Change is constant and everywhere. We work on patterns to make better guesses about the world, and that is all about what we think is out there. To deal with our limited knowledge, we decide on what we want and build an assumption of reality around it. It often fails. Then we decide on the next thing we want, to build another assumed reality around it. If one’s livelihood was a farm and acquaintances people of a small village, this strategy could deliver more sustainable results. When one’s world expands to the entire globe through computer screens, the strategy becomes ineffective. But it is what we have, and many of us rely only on assumed realities around what they want. They defend an opinion or an action until the end, even if every bit of logic and evidence runs contrary.

Some adults, like physical scientists and chess players, can escape this problem by creating isolated environments. Where there are borders and rules, they can master the reality therein. A chess master might be a naïve individual in the pub but an unstoppable force over the chess board. Technology in our lives from the automobile to the so-called artificial intelligence are pieces of isolated environments. Their creators become ordinary people just the same as soon as they step out of their labs.

Considering an adult’s job to guess what is going on in the world, a teenager’s task of understanding the isolated and supervised school environment is easier. But even then, there are too many variables. Every time they attempt to make sense of their environment, something changes. They try repeatedly. After a while, it becomes pointless and depressing. The notion that the world is unknowable is very attractive at that point.

The world is both knowable and unknowable, depending on where and when one is. We all steer through a fog most of the time, but there are moments of clarity—like the eye of the storm. Those who keep it together until they come across a moment of clarity get their chance to rule their universe for that instance and change their lives for the better.

It can be difficult to explain these to a teenager unless she or he is exceptionally insightful. Here is a suggestion on how to do it in most cases:

A lot of things don’t make sense, and you are not the only one thinking so. It is the same for everybody with no exception. You’re not supposed to control what is happening around you. You’re not supposed to look “cool” to anybody as they don’t know much about what is cool either. We just keep it together and keep moving on. Sometimes good things happen, sometimes you make good things happen. But they don’t have to happen all the time. You don’t deserve good things in exchange for your effort. You make efforts to be ready and make the best of it when luck strikes. Whatever you want, don’t sweat it. Just see what happens next. You may change your mind about what you want until then anyway.

Four: Seeing adults around is a proof for a teenager that it will all pass

This one is probably the easiest. Whenever things look gloomy, all it should take is to  look somewhere else and see adults getting by. We all went through the teenage years. Today’s teenagers will see it over just the same.

Five: In (almost) all cases, not being popular at school is a good thing

Because the school environment is not real regarding how the world works, popularity at school can do great damage to one’s future career. Assuming other people will always like her or him and just hand out what is needed because s/he rules the school (!) is the worst thought one could ever have. Popular figures excite others with their talent or features. When the school is over, everybody goes on their way and find a popular person to follow in media.

If a teenager is a popular one at school, that may be a risk for future. A parent must be cautious about a fallout after school years. If a teenager is not the popular one at school, or even the complete opposite somehow, that is easier to manage. Popular kids at school are like rock stars of a smaller degree. Others enjoy the excitement they radiate. All the teenager needs to do is to watch the campus rock star for fun.

Six: There is no collective

The school works by having students act as a group, which makes a wrong impression on the individual student that she or he is supposed to be a part of a group to exist; and worse, the group “knows” what to do. In fact, group work is just the practical way for the teacher to manage a classroom. We don’t pay teachers enough to treat each student individually or even look for teachers who can. Schooling is not a qualitative process. It is quantitative.

To my opinion, this is the most difficult of all factors. Starting school as late as possible helps children to form their sense of self. To that extent, avoiding preschool and two-year KG programs can do tremendous good to a child. But that can be wishful thinking, especially if both parents have office jobs and grandparents are not available. Whatever the degree of the gravity of group behavior may be, teenagers will have to manage it. To manage it, they must be aware of it.

A good way to remind a teenager there is no collective might be:

You do things altogether at school because it is cheaper that way. No one else can know what you need, what you think, or what you should do. No one can take care of you even if they want to. You do things as a part of a group because that’s the way it is. And that’s all. You are still you. Don’t expect others to look after you or tell you what is best. If you think something is going wrong at school, use the school rules to fix it. I will be there with you all the way. Don’t assume things are just going to work out by themselves. Sometimes you have to protect yourself. Don’t be shy about it. You know what is good for you. Others don’t. 

Seven: Few things are common good

Things about security and safety are common good. National defense, public safety are such. We tend to live and operate together based on fairness, for which law and contract enforcement is necessary. Beyond these, it is hard to find something of everyone’s common interest. We do take care of each other voluntarily at times of distress, but on conditions and scopes we can afford. We do sacrifice, but for those we love.

For reasons beyond the purpose of this article, we are also called for caring about everybody else, aiming not only equal opportunities but also equal outcomes for all in many aspects of our lives. It is often politically incorrect to even ask why, or what should we expect from the rest of humanity in return.

This worldview can be confusing for teenagers. Caring for all implies all cares for one. When that doesn’t happen, disappointment may teach the truth. But sometimes the lesson may be too hard and can push one to depression. Healing follows most cases except in isolated groups, where someone labeled a loser remains as such. Remember Lord of the Flies.

Children learn a lot from their parents’ behavior. Most people know a thing or two about the common good matters, so their children learn implicitly. But sometimes things don’t  work that way, and not necessarily because of a parent’s error.

It is better to stay safe and make teenagers aware:

Caring for others is a tit-for-tat business. Always meet with others halfway. The moment you sense you’re expected to reach too far, fall back. Don’t take risks by expecting others to cover for you. If you sense someone’s behavior as out of the line some way or outright abusive, stand up and put things straight. Make everybody aware of the situation.

Eight: One can take care of oneself

Except for those at a disadvantage of certain medical conditions, everybody can take care of self among others. We learn how from age seven onward unless shyness gets in the way because of social pressure. And there is a great deal of it at school.

Self-esteem is not a mood we can experience by simply wanting to. It comes with achievements we know we made happen. We can’t have self-esteem without getting some of the things we want with individual effort. Self-esteem can’t be built from others’  praise either. It is a genuine way of communication. We are all very good at detecting self-esteem in others. We give more credit to those who have it.

School instruction intentionally excludes activities that lead to winning and losing. The aim is producing the best possible average result from groups. The approach makes fitting in a group in classes, in the auditorium, in PE, and so forth, the only attainable function for a teenager. Groups are made of other teenagers with their individual thoughts and feelings. Consequently, registering as “cool”  at a point doesn’t make a permanent status. One has to keep trying. There is much incentive for a teenager to fixate on a perpetual social contest and be happiest when idle in a group. Grades, on the other hand, keep flowing in semesters without meaning material or permanent achievement. Common schools don’t provide much for students to develop self-esteem. It is, after all, an individual matter.

Many difficulties teenagers experience occur for no reason other than not showing self-esteem. Bullies, who are monuments of inferiority in their minds, walk away at the slightest possibility of failure. Trolls know whom to attack and pick the vulnerable. Teachers without motivation ignore those students they know will not complain.

What to do about it?

There is no speech, praise or reward a parent can use to build self-esteem in a teenager. They must achieve it on their own. They won’t be conscious of why or how to do it. Forcing them to compete in swimming and the like will probably fire back for this matter as formal competition also means other-reliant achievement.

Somebody had to invent the copper wire for the idea of the light bulb to be possible. We are all informed by others before us or around us the same way. Teenagers should discover what they want to do by observation. When they pick an interest, be it a musical instrument or the skateboard, the best we can do is to support and steer the activity to a safe path, hopefully from a distance. The teenager will be good at some things and will fail in others just like the rest of us. Those activities they choose and become good at will be their pivotal points to self-esteem. That will help them to remain individuals and draw their borders when they need at school.

Nine: Any parent can help

Those who had to experience the “airline talk” can tell institutional procedures can be intimidating. Jobs come with job descriptions. If they are fulfilled, one counts as doing the job.

Welcome to the comfort zone of careers. Anyone can avoid political incorrectness or unwanted work by referring to some instruction. A parent may hit that wall when trying to solve a complex situation. If that happens, giving in causes multi-level damage at home and simultaneously makes things worse for the teenager at school.

We don’t have to be tactical experts to navigate complex matters with public utility organizations. Common schools are one. Keeping a healthy dialogue with people you see around at school from the start is the best investment for this potential matter. The school as an establishment may have its shortcomings. But but school employees are as good as the next person. Communicating with them like you do with neighbors deliver results: They know you and talk to you. That’s all one needs to solve complex matters if ever needed.

The matter at hand may be somehow inconvenient to handle for any one school employee. Then the solution is to make it procedural, in which case multiple stakeholders handle it, and find it easier to manage by keeping a distance.

And finally, if your child has any part in the problem, you must own it without leaving your child’s side. The other teenager’s parent may not be so forthcoming and try to drop the whole matter at your corner. Acknowledging responsibility must start with announcing what the other teenager did in the first place.

Ten: Cyber-bullying is real, and can be avoided

Without exception, every bully carries an inferiority complex. Bullying is not about an aggressive personality. Aggressive people don’t bully. They look for their matches. Bullying compensates some form of victimhood. All bullies shy away when they see firm stance instead of prey.

The cyber kind of bullying is different to that extent. A cyber-bully operates through a proxy. Because nobody sees them in action, they can’t be exposed. Even if they are identified, they switch to trolling and claim they just re-tweeted something by mistake.

But all that must start with a weakness on their target’s side. The weakness must be considered significant at school and must be true at least in some part. A bully would be afraid of being a joke even when posting anonymously.

An accident is not a weakness of that kind. The weakness is supposed to be a choice to be newsworthy.

Consequently, a cyber-bully doesn’t find victims on demand. They need insiders. And that’s how one can avoid cyber-bullying.

Social media can be that insider. Teenagers must learn to use it consciously, including what information they share and whom they add to their contact lists. The other insider is, of course, a friend. There is no such thing as a secret. If some information is worthy of attention at school, it will leak.

It all comes to one rule all should follow, including CEOs, politicians, and teenagers:

Don’t do things you wouldn’t want to be known by others!

Some things may not be wrong in the real world but may make one “uncool” or worse at school anyway simply because of the social code of the moment. It is what it is. Do it elsewhere and don’t put it on your Facebook. 

Eleven: Sex doesn’t have to be a challenge

We become capable of reproduction at around 12 years of age. That meant a middle-aged person when the average lifespan was 25. We are descendants of early humans who survived nature. That is how they made it and why we are here.

Now life is about knowing things. Our lifespan is somewhere between 80 and 90 years and increasing. There are all sorts of variables in the game, from contraception to career and retirement plans, and of course, to taxes and cost of living. Having children and supporting them to early adulthood is a whole different ball game even in comparison to 50 years in the past.

Nevertheless, our subconscious drive for reproduction is there with all its might. We manage it in some smart and some not so smart ways. It might make some sense to take it like fingernails: They grow on our fingers; we rarely use them for their essential function; many of us make efforts to repurpose them. A woman scratches a lottery card by natural inclination only to meet with her annoyance of fixing the nail polish.

Sex, in its essence, is about reproduction. That happens by choosing a partner who meets with one’s expectations. Those expectations are based on values. Those values were firm chests or round hips in the stone age. Now character traits are values because we hope for decades of stability after reproduction.

Teenagers must learn and live with these facts so they can be aware how it can do good or bad to their lives. It can do good if they experiment sex after forming their values and expectations. Sex without values to choose a partner, or with a partner who doesn’t fit those values, is only misery at any age including teenage years.

There are plenty of potential disappointments and dangers for a teenager around this topic. The best way to avoid them is to know what to do with it. That is, by understanding sex is about choosing the right partner, and waiting until knowing how.

These are abstract matters and more likely to be difficult to explain. A better way should be starting with what it essentially is about:

Babies!

Exploring sex for the fun of it, for experimentation, or for social competition doesn’t change this fundamental fact. Your brain is wired to choose a partner for the right biological outcome. Override it, and it will betray you every way. Manage it, and you will grow up to be a happy individual.

Twelve: Drugs are a conspiracy

There is anti-establishment thought in all cultures. Today’s kind has been formed in the mid-20th century and around the idea of escaping industrialism. There is a following intellectual branch that glorifies everything against productivity and self-esteem and for victimhood and dependence. A pretext of finding a “hidden truth” beyond what one sees prevails in significant portions of the media and the academia. Drugs have been a part of that story since the 1960s.

It is not a parent’s job to fix the world, but it is to keep drugs away. They are widely available, and a teenager’s path may cross with them in a million ways, including those that are against her or his will. It is not only about being conscious of the danger. It is also about keeping anyone who can be involved with drugs away.

It is relatively simple to avoid the problem. Being righteous about it does every good and no harm.

Thirteen: To be is a happy experience

A wise woman once said knowing a person is not by what he does against danger but by what he does for joy. We all find ways to make ourselves feel fulfilled. A teenager’s life is not different. There is an abundance of opportunities to find what one likes to do. Ancient Greeks saw music and athletics as tools of self-fulfillment, not professions. Today’s technology offers many more options.

Studying textbooks and socializing at school doesn’t help for that purpose. They both focus on someone else: The teacher or the other students. There are always more textbooks and more of other students in a loop of efforts. Making the time for self against those necessities is a good balance.

It is amazing to see what joy an electric circuit toy makes for a 10-year-old at the cost of 15 dollars. Not because the child learns about electricity, but because she or he does something to accomplish a task of own choice. That’s how the activity feels fun and makes happy. Take it from there and find thousands of choices from online retailers for all ages, mostly at a price less than 10 dollars.

We can make this a teenager-friendly message:

When you study, you’re supposed to prove it to the teacher. When you socialize, you’re  supposed to make school mates tick. These are fine, but you need your own time to do things for yourself. Find stuff you think you’d enjoy at Amazon or the mall. I’ll make a budget and get them for you. If you want to try a new activity, name it! I’ll find a way to make it happen and give you your space.

◊ ◊ ◊

Plato spent a lifetime trying to fix others. In the end, and in his words of bitter resignation, he turned to the world he bore within himself. I don’t know how well that worked for him. But the lesson is there.

To be Civil in the Old Continent

England’s naval ships were the most advanced of their time in the 16th century – decades ahead of their competition. Their guns were designed more effectively to shoot at enemy ships at greater distances. They helped England’s balancing off the Spanish armada’s quantitative power at war.

Mercantilism’s rise was also in the 16th century. European monarchs were in constant competition, and at war with each other, to establish overseas trade routes through monopolized private enterprise and to accumulate more gold in their treasuries than the next country. Queen Elizabeth I, excommunicated by the pope, looked at the empires of the East for finding new trade prospects.

Those were the reasons behind a handpicked English naval ship’s arrival at the Ottoman Istanbul about a century after Constantinople’s fall. The ship was chosen to impress. It indeed looked like the starship Enterprise by its size, design, and weaponry comparing to the vessels sailed in the Mediterranean. The English envoys were successful in starting a fruitful trade relationship with the Ottomans over time. The empire demanded scrap metal for ammunition manufacturing. The Levant Company supplied the demand. But the state-of-the-art naval ship didn’t seem to impress the Ottoman officials. We know about the curiosity of the seamen and historians of those days, but not of the Ottoman navy or anyone who could make a difference. The sultan’s scribes cracked jokes over some trades people who ruled by a woman.

It wasn’t about power. Powerful people like fancy toys. With their enormous influence, high ranking Ottomans could have ordered one or several of “those ships” at a whim. It was about keeping things to a comfort zone.

The mercantilist competition in Europe would turn into state enterprise and colonialism in the following centuries. By the 1800’s, the English Kingdom would become the British Empire, and eventually pave the way to replacing mercantilism with capitalism. The West’s dominance in the world would be complete in the process. Except for Japan, nations and empires of the old world wouldn’t be able to adapt to the new forms of competition.

It is curious as the West was an open book over those centuries as it is today. Why the rest of the world couldn’t respond to the Western competition?

The probable answer is in what civilization is.

In a broad definition, civilization is a culture characteristic of a time and place. To make it more countable, we see cultures that are more elaborate with their product as “civilized.”

The Mesopotamian empires, the Mycenaean Greece, the ancient Egypt, the Hittites, the Mayans, the Aztecs were the earlier civilizations. They left only their structures behind. Their cultures did not survive. They were all highly centralized, authoritarian, therefore, extractive societies. A rigid ruling class model kept all to those in power, and everything died with them.

Then the Greeks developed another way of building a civilization, not by bricks but by ideas. Their geography didn’t give the Greeks the option of a central authority. Invaders couldn’t assimilate the Greeks either in their city states that were spread around the Aegean Sea. They were close enough to the Mesopotamia and Egypt to interact and trade. A slave economy supported the accumulation of wealth for the individualistic Greek aristocrats, who found their expression in Homer’s heroism. Eventually, the Greek aristocratic finesse became popular and was imitated by the common people when democracy took hold. A distinct Greek civilization was then born to influence all others.

The Greeks discovered the gymnasium and private tutoring as ways to preserve their culture. Later they expanded tutoring to common education. The average Greek woman or man would be educated rigorously, whether they lived in Athens or a distant colony in Syr-Daria. They were other than all the surrounding people in their minds and behavior. And that’s all it took to preserve the Hellenistic civilization. Only a fraction of the Hellenistic thought survived to our time in writing. But the Hellenistic institutions, especially common education, are alive and well. That is because other nations learned how to preserve their civilizations from the Greeks.

The conservatism of the late-Hellenistic period is apparent in what other civilizations take the example of. One can’t be conservative without already acquired material and cultural capital. Others did not always have these. Nevertheless, they applied the Greek method of building a civilization in minds successfully by filling the blanks as necessary. By the end of the medieval ages, peoples of the “old continents” mostly belonged to an isolated civilization. Civil interaction between any two cultures was a task for the eccentric, outsiders, and adventurers. War and slave trade, however, remained businesses as usual.

The late-Hellenistic method of education others adopted has been true to the original. Physical education and music had been discarded over time, probably because they wouldn’t support formal equality. They were valued. But they were activities for the professionally trained few. Literary style was the almost exclusive method of instruction. Not only literary styles remain subjective and compatible with formal equality, but also they serve to a person’s demand for arts. People like to see their worldviews in concretes in arts. The Hellenistic education proposed exceptionalism and delivered the proof by literature. Science was under-looked. Overall, civilization was meant for long term stability. Hellenistic civilization did not evolve. Neither did its education. It was all about revisiting what was done before for each generation.

Other nations and cultures adopted this late form of educational approach. To this day, it would be all too familiar to look at the “origin” textbooks:

Q. Which gods were favorable to the Trojans?

A. (In alphabetical order) Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Leto, Scamander

Q. Who was the King of the Trojans?

A. Priam

Q. Who was their general?

A. Hector

Q. Who were their counselors?

A. Polydamas and Agenor

Q. Their soothsayers?

A. Helenus and Cassandra, Priam’s children

Q. Their heralds?

A. Idaeus, and Eumedes, the father of Dolon, and Dolon himself

The example is from studying Homer “historically.” Suffice to say it doesn’t even matter whether the characters in question ever existed. The methodology is there to be taken and applied to any content.

You probably were exposed to the Euclidian geometry at school. It is based on five postulates (for example “a straight line can be drawn between any two points” and five common notions (for example “things equal to the same thing are equal to each other”). Billions of students studied it over the ages. A handful of them ever used it in real life. That is because it takes significant abstract thinking and a reason to do so. The Euclidian geometry is two-dimensional. It doesn’t mean anything in the real world by itself. Understanding it requires an understanding of concepts like a “postulate,” which is beyond the comprehension of school children. Teachers could be trained to that level of information, but they still couldn’t explain to their students. If one looks further, the matter comes to a choice of a theory of knowledge. The whole meaning and application of the Euclidian geometry must be ignored at schools for all practical purposes. Yet it has been there.

Going through such educational approach leaves the average citizen confused and the citizen of higher studies tormented. A civilization’s culture is a collection. The pieces that make the collection are not integrated to make a functional whole for practical matters. They don’t evolve either. They deliver long-term stability by giving individuals an identity and cooperative behavior by being familiar with what the next person says.

This method of civilization building is compatible with almost all ideologies and political programs except one: The natural equality principle. And that one happens to be delivering the progress of the last centuries. The lack of competition from the rest of the world against this competition lies in the lack of compatibility of the way they build their civilizations. That is, in a late-Hellenistic way.

It is very deeply rooted. There are countless reasons why it can’t be reformed. As a job for private enterprise, it could be rendered less effective by alternative teaching methods in textbooks. But who should have the motive and how?

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t very useful to launch political revolutions in the non-Western world. But it might be useful to be aware of the matter. Not because it revolutionizes, but because it liberates, one at a time.

Ethics

Ethics are rules of conduct. Philosophers formulate them based on their understanding of what the world is and how they know it. If they get these right (they seldom do), it all comes together and their ethics work. People apply them in their behavior. Over time, application of ethics becomes habits. This unconscious repeat of behavior improves the odds of the desired outcome. “You shall not lie” is an ethical rule. Lies lead other people to make decisions that are not in their benefit. If lies were permitted, people couldn’t trust in what they hear until they know it is true. That wouldn’t be practical. Nothing that involves more than one person can be done in the absence of trust.

So, it is of an individual’s long-term benefit to not tell lies. On the other hand, more people follow ethical rules; it becomes a greater spontaneous gain not to follow them. Laws and law enforcement find their place in eliminating that possibility. Those who break a rule must face a consequence. But it all begins in ethics. Without them, laws would be meaningless to people, and therefore, useless.

There are few important things to be understood about ethics. First, they are invented for common use in a given group – a political party, a tribe, a nation, etc. Ethics can’t be tailored for individuals without a lot of work. That would not only be very expensive service but also finding haute couture philosophers up to the job would be a big challenge. The only known example is Alexander the Great, who had Aristotle by his side. Accordingly, applying ethics is signing up for a group.

Ethics come around in very long spans of time. They become implicit in other information. Most of the ethics you have in your behavior came from your parents’ behavior, and theirs came from their parents -without explicit teaching at any point. Picking the ethics in information takes significant training without immediate benefit.

Higher-ups in any group tend to have problems with ethical behavior. There is relevance in that with the political structure of the group. An absolutist ruler practically owns the group and uses it for own benefit. So, ethics and laws wouldn’t apply to him. Members of the group try to find some benefit for them in the ruler’s own. An elected officer, in contrast, would be appointed to the job of managing the group’s affairs temporarily. If his powers are limited to doing the job, he would be subject to the ethics and laws of the group. However, more power accumulates around the office holder over time, which causes too many frictions in his conduct. He doesn’t become an absolutist, but the job he holds loses its function. In either case, things would be what they are until someone comes up with a new set of ethics, which lay grounds for replacing the corrupted system at hand.

People who don’t have material access to a group don’t find its ethics appealing. Outcasts, immigrants without prospect, and other groups with their own set of ethics should be counted out from ethical behavior expectations. Laws of the modern state and technology in its disposal suppress this matter but do not remove it. An individual may find too many challenges to ethical behavior in a cosmopolitan life.

Finally, ethics and laws do not always match. Ethics are the theory and laws are the application. Theories are bound to be disproven later when the world changes. One should not put too much faith in ethics. Instead, seeing them by reason would be the better approach.

These all bring us to the point of how to make ethics useful for the individual and the group simultaneously. It is an impossible task if ethics are taken at face value. They are for group benefits, which would be distributed as per the group hierarchy. Standing on the wrong side of the hierarchy doesn’t help. It is possible if one looks at the definition of the ethical rules.

The example above, “you shall not tell lies,” is good to begin with. It is true telling lies harm others in the short term and the liar in the long term. It is also true a group can’t exist in the absence of trust. But lies are still there in forms of white lies, “forgetting” things, lies for greater goods, lies to people who don’t matter, and so on. There are laws to keep the big picture together, but they either don’t apply to small pictures or applying them to small pictures outweigh the benefit for the procedures it takes. Accordingly, quite a few people turn “pragmatic.” Lies catch up with them eventually, but that doesn’t remove the immediate harm done to others. Not becoming “pragmatic” in that sense is also a bad idea as telling the truth doesn’t travel far when others have their guards against hearing lies.

The solution is in the definition of truth. The whole truth is somewhere out there, but others understanding of it is limited to their experience. Telling the truth is good and necessary for a happy life. Telling the whole truth, however, becomes volunteering information, which may or may not be true from the point of others. When interacting with others, one must use essentials that mean the same to everybody around. Air is not the same thing to a pilot and a meteorologist. It can kill one while making a paycheck for the other. But they both see air as the stuff they breathe. Keeping things simple, to the essence of them, is the way through about telling the truth. It can also be a terrific lie detector if the other person starts decorating around the simple things you say. If you don’t want to go out on Saturday night, just say you don’t want to when invited. It is much more trustworthy than explaining why you don’t want to. Even if you told the whole truth about why your words would only be information for the other person. Suppose the other person insists by explaining s/he really wants to go out on Saturday because of something personally very important. Then you can ask yourself why this information didn’t come along with the invitation in the first place. Because the other person didn’t want to sound needy? If so, what kind of friend are you to the other person? To be kept an arm’s length to do things on need to know basis? You don’t have to kick people out of your life for every little nuisance, but this gives you a lot of space for managing your affairs.

Other good ethics example is in altruism. Selfishness is used as a pejorative term against benefits of considering others in one’s actions. It is indeed very beneficial to be considerate, but before being considerate, one must first take care of self to be there. Where would be the fine line?

It is easy to suggest a tit-for-tat world, but then everybody watches each other before being good. Does it begin by someone’s taking a bold altruistic step and showing how it is done?

Unlikely. Ethical rules work when everybody applies them. One person’s altruism would be limited to his resources without showing any sustainable benefit to others. Besides, everyone’s capacity and resources differ. There is no measurement of fairness in everybody’s being altruistic. Inevitably it would fall apart. And it does.

The solution is in being altruistic when appropriate. Others can’t sleep or eat for you. Accordingly, you have your personal space of selfish action in life. Others recognize the size of your selfish space based on what you do – not what you think it should be. If you want your space to be bigger, you must do more in the eyes of others. If you push your selfishness beyond your recognized personal space, problems begin.

A case as such would be the corner office of a C-level corporate manager. That person would be entitled to be more comfortable and project more power than those who work in “cubes” because he would be doing something that makes more revenues than what those in the other jobs do. If he gets the corner office by cronyism rather than by doing what the job takes, others push his actual selfish space back. He would have to be increasingly altruistic for a corporate figure to compensate.

Risk

Telling one’s own passion from her parents’ dreams could be tricky. Watching Lang Lang on TV and regretting not pursuing the career could be the guilt of not matching a parent’s expectations from early childhood. Nevertheless, contrary to what a $300 an hour therapist might say, digging into childhood memories to find something wrong would be a worthless effort. Secretly wanting to become a pianist becomes hardwired to a personality long ago. Unless they make you a Dexter-ish serial killer, your childhood memories will be just fine as they are. But there is value in knowing what one wants based on her life experience. That passion may very well be authentic and worth to pursue because it would be one’s own with her all dedication for it.

As discussed in Keeping Things in the Right Direction, fundamental decisions put things in motion for long stretches of time and generate unpredictable outcomes. It is important to choose the right passion for the potentials at hand instead of assuming some hope is innate knowledge and is there for “a reason”! The world is knowable through senses, not through wishes.

Knowing which passion is authentic should be about how one feels. An urge to appease, a feeling of duty to someone unidentified, or anything that needs to be verified somewhere other than the self would often not be an authentic passion. If it belongs to you, it wouldn’t need peer review to feel right.

Now that we can choose a passion to follow, and we have a framework to put it through by reason, all there should be following up what happens next.

It wouldn’t be the case. One invests self into her passions. There wouldn’t be any detached observation of what happens. It better goes right. Risks must be managed.

Life’s essence is aggression. Taking a shower destroys millions of tiny little living things. A vegan’s eating vegetables is a violent act to extract the stored energy within the food. Sending a robot on Mars is aggression by casting, shaping and throwing tons of material to a point millions of miles away. We can be peaceful by not directing aggression to fellow humans and be smart by managing our environment, but we can’t exist without aggression. So, following a plan requires an adequate aggression. Aggression is ok if it is not directed at people but, still, they will have their plans too. What if achieving your plans ruins someone else’s?

If your plan is not original, you would be taking a slice from a cake someone else has already made. Someone who decides to be a winch operator would be entering a labor market to get some share from others. Ideally, the new operator enters the labor market at a time of economic growth. Because there are more constructions to supply demand, the new winch operator’s taking a new job would not have an immediate effect on the other operators’ income. It would, when the economic growth period ends and businesses shrunk, but then the winch operator would be a part of the guild.

If it is not a growth period in the market you target with your plan, your success would mean an immediate loss for one or more of the others. Therefore, you face all kinds of risks of failure because others would be making efforts in hope to see it happens. That is, aggression would then be directed at people instead of things.

Battling in such circumstances require the known tools of intelligence gathering, gossiping, diversions, forming alliances by exchanging favors, and the like. A combination of reason and good luck could bring victory. A highly intelligent entrant to an existing market could even win against all others in their own game. Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt was a monument of such victories. If one thinks they have what it takes, there would be no reason they shouldn’t try, as long as they agree they would become what they do and it wouldn’t be a happy experience.

The other and peaceful way of pursuing a plan requires having an original plan. A plan toward creating new business. That makes everyone happy. Most of all, the government. A new business in this sense is a new idea of doing things. It meets with a new demand in addition to all existing markets. That means the government can circulate more money. You would be their champion. In fact, you would be everybody’s champion. You would be making everybody wealthier. You wouldn’t see any obstacles around.

One risk of introducing new ideas is having a bad new idea. A bad idea is easy to detect. If one claims to invent the time machine and the machine doesn’t make time travels, that would be all. But the other risk is a true nightmare: Having a good new idea that is incompatible.

Leonardo Bonacci (known as Fibonacci) introduced the positional decimal numeric system in Europe in the 12th century. It is the system everybody uses now: Numbers from zero to nine and their place values. It was better than everything else known in Europe at the time. It offered endless benefits to all about mathematics, accounting, businesses, governance. And mathematicians in Fibonacci’s time understood it. They all attested. Fibonacci shouldn’t have seen any obstacles on his way to recognition as the greatest intellectual of his time.

However, his system was incompatible with how people conducted business. It wasn’t just about their liking the Roman numerals. One should look at the medieval clock face to understand what the problem was. The twelve hours on the medieval clock dial are in Roman numerals. But four is not the correct Roman IV. It is IIII. That is often explained as the common people got confused between IV and V, so they made it simple by adding a finger to three and writing IIII for four. Simple, and folk-friendly.

But the same folks didn’t seem to have a problem with reading IX, X, and XI on the same clock dial. The problem was not about telling IV from V. It seems to had been about making something universal only after compromise.

Whatever the reasons may be, people and the governments liked their much less useful Roman numerals than Fibonacci’s decimal system. It took four centuries for them to agree on the uncompromising new numerals and place values. By the 16th century, the modern numbers from zero to nine took their universal place in Europe. Fibonacci wasn’t there to see his success. He is now recognized as the greatest mathematician of his time.

Concerning your ideas, it is better to focus on those you can demonstrate as working, so you avoid failure from the start. Then an idea should better be new if you want to avoid risks of battles to take a slice of a cake someone else made. You don’t have to. But the choice is there. Finally, if you have a good new idea, it must be compatible with other things. Incompatible good ideas can be frustrating, to say the least.

For the Love of Money

By its Merriam-Webster definition, money is something (such as coins, bills, or digital information) used to pay for goods and services and to pay people for their work. It is one of the most important inventions. Without money, the only way to trade is bartering. That requires finding someone who has what you want and needs what you have for each transaction. That makes an economy limited to bread and water. Nevertheless, the invention of money is inevitable if one thinks about how people do business.

Suppose a dog walker is extraordinarily successful in that line of business. She has so many customers that she doesn’t meet with many of them in person. She hires people to service her growing customer portfolio. Walking too many dogs, she produces receipts unique to her business to ensure customers of her possession of their dogs. At any point of this large dog walking operation, one of her customers could decide to give a dog to someone else. Simply by the owner’s handing over the dog walker’s receipt, the dog could find a new home. The receipt on its own completes the arrangement, providing it is difficult to replicate. It is a prototype of money.

In the real world, precious metals would have had an exchange value of their own. But the modern concept of money as some worthless object to become the medium of exchange was probably invented out of practical requirements of keeping domesticated animals or stocks of harvested crop. People would have used clay tablets, etc. that represented such goods for payment. Nevertheless, it would have taken millennia before an official currency could be possible for King Alyattes of Lydia. While the king still had to use precious metals instead of papyri or clay tablets, archeological evidence suggest the Ionian kingdom was the closest thing to a market economy in its time. 

Once an official currency has become a reality, natural laws of money were clear and observable: Money’s purchasing value is based on its “units” in circulation versus products and services in demand. Even the mightiest of Roman emperors could not dictate how much a unit of money should purchase. It found its own purchasing value. In contrast, those who put more money in circulation than needed, as it happened during the 16th century ‘Price Revolution’ in Europe, learned gold and silver could lose 80 percent of their values when there is too much of them. There is an invisible hand, a natural law that sets the purchasing value of currency units. And this can be essential information to see money for what it really is from an individual perspective. It can be purposed much beyond its exchange function. It can support an increasing sense of well-being; happiness that is found within the self.

Our thinking is wired to avoid danger. When something is “wrong,” we feel discomfort, scare, or pain. We respond to make it go away. We don’t have to fall off a cliff to learn it is a bad idea. We can deduce it is by observation. When we are not paying attention near it, a jolt of scare brings us back to our senses. We step away from the cliff.

Similarly, we feel sharp discomfort by idleness. It could be the opposite. Idleness conserves maximum energy. But it also means we are not doing anything about finding food. In nature, the former means death within days. The stress of idleness is the warning that should make us use the time to do what it takes to keep alive.

That is in nature. We, however, build civilizations that sustain our supplies of food and shelter for us. They happen without our hunting, collecting, or making. Working for a living is about specializing in a small part of production networks. There is plenty of idle time in many occupations. Time at home is mostly to rest and groom. The alarm sound in our subconscious never ceases. People who show they are happy with where they are and what they do are a distinct minority. That is different from one’s being thankful for what she has. That kind of happiness is about being self-sufficient in accomplishments.

An argument against this direction of thinking is sound in the light bulb metaphor: Did Edison invent the glass and the copper wire? In other words, could anyone truly accomplish anything on her own?

The answer is yes. For the light bulb metaphor, the accomplishment is in progressing our cumulative knowledge further. Copernicus studies Ptolemy, Newton studies Galileo, Einstein studies Maxwell, and so on, before they made their contributions. Does the unknown Roman inventor of bookbinding have a part in the overall progress? Yes. But she is not Einstein.

Coming back from geniuses to the world of ordinary people, a person who receives direct payment for goods or services she produces accomplishes meeting with the demand and matching her product with the value of money. Anyone can produce something. But she produces something worth money, which relates to her abilities to communicate, conceptualize, design, produce, manufacture and negotiate, not for the sake of it, but to get results. Getting results is the crucial part. It corresponds to the prehistoric accomplishment of finding food. It has nothing to do with showing off to others or being aristocratic. Finding food was a joy of avoiding hunger or death for our ancestors. We can substitute it only modestly in the modern world.

Productiveness for the feeling of accomplishment can greatly improve the quality of life. Money is the measurement of such efforts. If money is coming because of production, the accomplishment is authentic. For someone financially secure, this could be the missing piece of a happy life. Good for her. For someone who needs the extra cash, even better, for all the difference it will make otherwise.

Keeping Things in the Right Direction

Making fundamental choices about life is never simple regardless how one treats them. Your choices put things in motion for long spans of time and in unpredictable ways. You don’t control what happens because of what you choose. Thousands of entrepreneurs embarked on the Silicon Valley in the 70s. Bill Gates of that generation has become the richest man in the world. He certainly doesn’t lack good qualities for his line of work, but he wasn’t alone at that. There is something called good luck, which happens by doing the right thing at the right time in the right place without knowing about any of the three. But luck strikes in many ways because your choices and actions don’t make things in a box do what you want. Your choices and actions push things like they are billiard balls. They bounce at each other. There are infinite possibilities.

You are not alone. Everybody must work against these odds. But putting your reason in use can improve the odds for you.

There is a mathematical concept called expected value (of transaction). Insurance, banking, and gambling businesses use this information to be a step ahead of their customers if their transaction volumes reach a certain size. Calculating expected value doesn’t make the world problem-free for these businesses. Some of them lose money or even bankrupt anyway because of other factors. But it gives them a better stance, a more probable investment return from their businesses.

Understanding probability takes a little attention. Chances of throwing a six with a single die are 1/6. Throwing six twice in a row is 1/6 x 1/6 = 1/36. But you can’t guarantee it by throwing a die 36 times. The throws are unconnected. There is no influence between them. Similarly, you can’t be sure of finding a job, winning a contract, or finding a good partner by applying or bidding many times or speed dating. Probability applies to each try individually. You can increase your chances by aiming for the opportunities that match the value of your offer and by improving your offer. Alternatively, you can try repurposing the expected value math by dating with six million people to find the right partner.

Good choices are a precondition for better odds. If you want to play in NBA, you must be 17 or younger and possess certain athletic qualities. If you tick these two, you can start practicing basketball five hours a day to improve the probability of your stardom. If you lack either of the two conditions, your investment in a future NBA career would only cause hardship in every part of your life.

Bad choices also tend to be toward titles. “I want to be a CEO” is poor thinking. It doesn’t refer to what a CEO does. One needs to identify that skill set from good information. If she has the relevant qualities, she can aim for being very good or better than anyone at those skills.

Another kind of bad choice is toward things one doesn’t have the potential of the resources they require. If you have an office job, a home loan payment plan, and two kids at school age, you shouldn’t invest in learning to write screenplays. Even if you have the talent, you simply can’t afford the time it takes to learn and do the job without failing in your other commitments.

Highlighting the negatives shows the positive in contrast. Good choices are made by collecting information and applying reason. Whichever stage of life you may be and whatever your ambitions are, make choices that set things in the right direction.

One last point about making choices: Learn from your successes. There are matters you are happy with the progress you made. They are tests you passed in life. Think about how that progress happened. It will tell you fundamentals you are good at – communicating with others, attention to detail, being analytical, being passionate about something, etc. Apply the information to future choices you make.

Your World

If you are 20 or older, your parents and grandparents were born and raised in a world defined by an international agreement entitled Bretton Woods, for the place it was signed. The Bretton Woods Agreement was about how nations manage their economies and how nations would do business with each other. It established basic rules for international trade and supported nations to build their economies through a model called welfare state. In a welfare state economy, governments would directly run businesses or tell how private businesses should be run for the economic and social welfare of all. It wasn’t socialism. It was to make private enterprise possible after two world wars. For your parents and grandparents, making a living was about employment or doing business under government regulations to every detail. In return, they received job security, business protection from overseas competition, and mostly reliable pension plans. Governments did not guarantee to make a living. They protected those who do.

The Bretton Woods system begun to fail in the early 70s but it remained in place to some extent until the fall of the Soviets in the 80s. Consequently, the welfare state is deeply rooted in your parents’ and grandparents’ understanding of the world. It is how you have certain notions about the attributes of the world in your thinking.

An opposite world order called supply side economics, based on free trade and globalization, was supposed to take place in the 80s and the 90s. Governments would leave economic activities and social progress thereof to private enterprise. Political leaders around the world championed it in their rhetoric but applied it in half. The applied part comprised tax cuts, privatization of national economies and removing international trade barriers. The ignored part of the supply-side theory was limitation of government spending – apparently because it doesn’t help politicians in elections. The problem the half-applied supply side economics created was governments’ spending money they didn’t make. The solution was finding the money through public debt (a.k.a. government bonds or treasuries). Following a rapid expansion of public debt, creditors accumulated significant bond portfolios they could repurpose. Globalization of trade turned into the globalization of finance in the nick of time. The globe was showered with credit that only become more and cheaper if governments would issue more bonds. They did.

You either lived a significant part of your life in a world of easy credit, or you were born into it. It wasn’t like how your parents had made a living once. The once assumed link between production and consumption was no longer relevant. Consumption was based on credit and was for all. Things were taken care of somehow, even though mainly by refinancing.

The credit expansion would have continued, but there was a limitation. Just like a person could find loans to the limit of his economic capacity, governments could find creditors for their bonds for the amounts their economies could comfortably support. Beyond that limit, creditors think the risk of not being paid is greater. They ask for more interest on the credit to compensate the risk. To a government, increased interest payments mean increasing taxes to levels that cripple national economies. It is not an applicable idea.

Quite a few national economies reached to their borrowing limits in recent past. They are now reluctant to increase public debt. While politicians feel the consequent pressure in elections, this also puts a hold on global credit expansion. Now loans are harder to refinance. And it will be even harder to do so. Complications that follow are significant.

On the one hand, you have your ambitions, skills, and plans for your education and career, as well as your expectations from the world as to what governments and institutions do, how people carry on, what you should do, what is fair, and so on. On the other hand, all there is uncertainty.

There could be a new world order like examples of the Bretton Woods regime and the supply-side-economics-in-half at some point. But it would not emerge until a nation or group of nations are in a position to set ground rules. Military conflict is very unlikely in this age, given the destructive capacity at hand. Nations could now get the upper hand through others’ economic failures. When and how that happens is unpredictable.

The Many Worlds

Everyone is unique. Our life experiences are different from each other. From an individual’s perspective, all things and ideas are contingent. Few things like air and water could mean the same for everyone. Still, people would have different perceptions about even what we all need to live. The ‘kind of’ air and water people have access to in different parts of the world, and what they do – like a botanist in Brazil versus an athlete in Ethiopia – tell about their different perceptions.

There is not a whole objective reality, a complete picture of everything we all can share. Everyone perceives it to limits of their nature and in the direction of their previous experiences. In other words, your world is unique because your life experience is. There is no one else whose experiences are the same as yours. There never was. There never will be.

Because you are unique, you make all groups, organizations, and communities you are part of unique in your way. Your web browser would display the friendly message “the Internet is not the same without you” when offline. It is true.

When you are online, you can browse the web within the comfort zone of your world. Things and ideas remain contingent; relative to your world. They mean however you understand them. When you interact, relativity ends. You would have to find some common ground with others to write something on your Facebook. That leads you to refer to essences of things, using universal meanings of words and ideas. Things are what they are to you if you are in your world. Things become objective realities when you interact with others. A botanist in Brazil may have the most elaborate understanding of air, but she would have to reduce the concept to its essence when interacting with others: The stuff you breathe. And these four words must mean the same to everyone she interacts with if what she says is ever to be understood.

This is where things become complicated. You need universals for interacting with others. You still want to maintain what they mean to you because that is what matters to you. So does everyone else. One option is excelling in the use of essences, keeping your world and others’ perfectly separate, and hoping everyone else does the same. Another option is reflecting your world on your interactions and hoping others will cooperate. Neither option will work. Because of the incompatibility of many relative worlds, sorting things out by physical force was the only business for a long time. Only after education, which is about establishing what things should mean for everybody, Aristotle’s political human took the stage and use of physical force became an isolated case. Trade, science, and arts flourished. We are yet to find a way to establish what things objectively mean for everybody so our affairs can take place based on universal truths and all humanity can be one happy species. Until then, interactions with others will be political one way or other, where politics being one’s contending what she is good at as the best order of doing things for others.