Value from first principles
Going down philosophy wormholes with Sofia
I was reading a blog post by Tim Urban called Depressing Math. He talks about the time we really have for different things in our lives; things we find valuable, emphasizing on time with our loved ones.
I realized that even though I’m aware of this, I still feel like these valuable times with my fam feel dull at times. Our conversations sound like: “the soup’s too hot” or “he’s the worst president in Mexico’s history”. What am I supposed to answer to those questions? I don’t care about those things. They seem tribal and they’re not even fun.
This is just the condensed reflection, since I already recorded a voice memo while walking in the middle of a street during the sunset today. What I realized afterwards (*during the mass actually) was in fact something that economists (and many others) are quite familiar with: the more there is of something, the less we value it. In other words, the value we give to things is inversely proportional to the amount of that thing at the moment. It’s the law of supply and demand.
I think it’s unfortunate that this principle applies to time with our loved ones too. Even after a pandemic of not seeing my grandparents and feeling very sad every time we said goodbye, this week of living with them felt a bit less special because I was getting more of them than usual AND I assume that I’ll keep on getting more during the following decades.
What happens with high school friends? I’m well aware and actually scared that quality time with them may be coming to an end. These days I have 2–5 hours to spend with my best friends, doing pretty much whatever we want to do; having fun.
*Did that thing actually enlighten me? Haha maybe it did, maybe it did…
“My best years are over”
Let’s go down this rabbit hole: many adults say that high school is the best stage in a person’s life. I always wondered why they think that and I think I now know the answer — question: am I becoming an adult? does that make me an adult? 🤔
The answer is actually in Laura Deming’s website. From 13 to 18 years old you’re old enough to do more things you remember and enjoy AND (if you’re lucky) your parents are still providing you with basic needs like food, shelter, clothing, education, and more. In a lot of cases, your only responsibility is really just going to school and passing to the next grade. Apart from that, you can do whatever you want. If the same goes to your peers, it follows that you and your friends are living in this wonderful reality of having fun and enjoying life, PLUS… plus, plus, plusssss: you’re all doing the same thing for 6 hours a day (probably even more counting extracurriculars). You’re doing school. That unites you. That gives you stuff to talk about.
So yeah, that’s the beauty of those years. What happens the moment you enter uni? You may not be living under the same roof as your parents anymore, you’re not in the same room as people who were your friends for 3+ years, you have to “worry” about more things than just passing chem, and your friends have to do that too. Hence, it’s harder to find time to hang out, and when you do, it’s harder to click because you don’t share as many things anymore. There’s nostalgia on the things you guys used to share. You may go over the same conversation lots of times ’cause you got nothing else to say. It’s sad.
Is there an antidote to this? Tim gave good news too. Well, he actually reminded me of something: if something’s important enough, you’ll make time for it. It’s about priorities.
Is it context or personalities that makes people friends? That’s like asking if it’s nature or nurture that makes genius. The answer is both. If it was only school that made people best friends, everyone would be everyone’s best friend at school.
That means you can prioritize those friendships even after high school. You can be intentional about how you spend your time, schedule meet ups constantly, so you guys can continue sharing more and more things beyond that anecdote of a Tuesday morning in math class.
And it is. It’s hella scary to give in for what previous generations’ reality was; to condemn ourselves to that too. So much so that we can’t conceive an alternate path in our minds for that has been declared as impossible by us and everyone else before.
F*CK THAT. I refuse to accept that the best years of my life will be over in less than 3 months. I refuse to meet with my closest friends once a year only to talk about the same old sh*t in the same sh*tty café playing a sh*tty board game.
Although odds aren’t in my favor, it’s my duty to fight against this inertia. Just as every day for the last 2 years has been a rage against conventionalism, today I declare war to the world’s… tempo?
*Time is a social construct
My friend Lalo once told me that time is always against us, and I disagree with him. I think time is just another social construct that allows us to think about the world more easily (or at least that’s the premise).
From first principles, the only thing that exists is entropy. The universe goes from order to disorder. That screws our biology, and we age, which from my point of view, is just a technical problem, yet also one of the biggest tragedies in human existence and one of the greatest challenges to create heaven on Earth.
*Again, just my opinion but apparently there’s something called the Wheeler Dewitt equation which doesn’t take time into consideration either
The abundance mindset
Anyways, believing that high school years are the best years of our lives is having a poor mindset, a scarcity mindset. Let’s defy that with an abundance mindset. If time doesn’t exist and we can stay healthy “forever”, that means there’s a plethora of roads to walk, opportunities to take, conversations to have, things to do with your loved ones. An abundant thinker understands that, and thus continuously explores new paths, takes new opportunities, sparks new conversations, does new things with their loved ones.
If you’ve been following through this philosophical rant carefully, you probably think there’s contradiction that creates to my initial thought that the more you have of something, the less you value it.
While an abundance mindset says that we can create new paths and that’s “good”, the supply and demand law states that the more there is of something, the less we will value it. Soooo????
That takes me to the philosophical question I was discussing with my friends this week too: if we could live for as long as we wanted to while staying healthy and without aging, would we value the time we have less than we do now?
My answer to that question has always been no and I think I know why most people’s answer is yes. If we use first principles, the only thing against us is entropy. Most people are operating under the assumption that time is limited, when it’s not.
Some say think outside the box, and now we’ve gotten rid of the box in this philosophical rant: the box was time. If time doesn’t exist, then the question my friends and I were asking each other *is wrong.
*Lesson right here: asking the right questions is SUPER important in life. It changes e-very-thing.
Answering the right question
The previous question asked: if we could live for as long as we wanted to while staying healthy and without aging, would we value the time we have less than we do now?
As you can see, there are two errors: a) number one is thinking that time exists, and b) therefore, thinking you can give it a value.
From my point of view, it’s not actually time with our loved ones that we value. It’s not even the things we do we them that we value.
Going back to basics again, it’s the chemicals released in our brains that we care about. More romantically put, happiness and fulfillment will always be what we pursue as human beings. Therefore, they’re not what we value either since they’re outcomes and not resources.
At first I thought that the most important resources we use to get to those outcomes were other people. However, that’s not really in our hands. What we have the most control over is our health, attention, and energy.
If I’m seeing reality as it is, through first principles, these are the only resources that are actually real AND in our hands. These are the only things we can really value.
New question & answer
So let’s restate the question: if we could live for as long as we wanted to while staying healthy and without aging, would we value our health, attention, and energy less than we do now?
To answer, I need to clarify what I understand for value. I think value changes how we allocate a resource but it does not change what we do with that resource.
For example, the same person will value 1 apple in a shipwreck more than 1 apple in a mansion where there are other 20 apples. Depending on the amount of apples available, the person may change how fast they eat the apple. However, that will not change the fact that the person will eat the apple.
Under an abundance mindset our 3 key resources are infinite and we are not constrained by social constructs of time. Connecting that to the supply and demand law, if something is infinite we will just allocate it however we want to.
So, in the immortality scenario, I think that I would do the same sorts things I do now, except I would distribute my 3 main resources differently. Maybe I would sing 100 songs before dusk, instead of only 2, which would require more energy and attention to that, than to other things.
These thoughts experiments are hard without including time as an element. Now I’m using writing to think and this is getting confusing.
the abundance mindset rejects the social construct of time and tells us that new opportunities to be happy exist always
the demand and supply law tells us that the less there is of something, the more valuable it is
through first principles we’ve replaced time with health, attention, and energy as our most valuable resources
value changes how we allocate those resources, not what we do with them
if our 3 key resources are infinite, we will do whatever we want with them, always searching for happiness and fulfillment
In a non-immortal scenario, using energy as the only variable:
if I have 100% of energy right now, I will allocate it all towards whatever makes me happy
if that percentage was 50%, I would allocate it towards the thing that makes me the happiest
if that was 1% I would be in survival mode, doing something that will allow me to recharge and continue being happy
Speaking of which, it’s almost midnight so the energy inside me feels at about 0.5% right now, so I’ll just conclude everything by saying that time doesn’t exist, so you can do anything you want with your energy, health, and attention in the present. Screw social constructs and be happy :)
One more thing
Nah kidding. It’s 7 in the morning now so I’ve slept and I’m back to the game to say a couple of more random philosophical things.
The “first one more thing” is that I now agree with my philosophy teacher. She says that new knowledge can also be obtained both empirically and through reason, i.e. philosophizing.
If knowledge is awareness about something, then she’s right. Although most of the concepts I’ve written about so far are subjective, I’ve gained more awareness about them.
We could get into yet another rabbit hole by explaining the difference between knowledge and understanding but I’m not willing to do that in this blog post.
The “second one more thing” is that I somehow answered a question that my mentor Michael posted on Slack this week:
My answers back then had been: health and the chance to do something humanly.
After this philosophical rant, I’ll say my answer is the quantity of life. Why? Because of the supply and demand law. The less there is of something, the more we value it, which really means the less we use of it in the present.
That takes me pulchritudinously into my “last one thing”. Buddhism suggests to live in the present, and that’s what you do when there’s no past or future.
As I read in Sapiens, our forager ancestors used to do this, and they had pretty good lifestyles, except for the fact that they could be eaten by a tiger over night. It wasn’t until the agricultural revolution started that we began to plan ahead and the concept of future was created in the collective imagination of all humans.
During those days though, people didn’t believe that the future would be better than the past. They actually thought that the good old days were forever gone.
Future 2.0 changed that. It started with the invention of credit. Credit did the same that I did to adults’ believes. It said: screw that, the future will be better because I want it to, and me and other people will make it better.
Our friend Credit used trust and an abundance mindset as a resource to lend people money, which allowed for the first-ever entrepreneurs, who created new value. They made the pie bigger, and that gave many people more happiness (or that’s how I see it).
PS: value is an action.
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