Society is falling apart because smart people have chosen to stop participating

“But nothing good can be said of that cancerous machine-culture itself. It is not a true civilization, and has nothing in it to satisfy a mature and fully developed human mind. It is attuned to the mentality of the galley-slave and the moron, and crushes relentlessly with disapproval, ridicule, and economic annihilation any sign of actually independent thought and civilised feeling with chances to rise above its sodden level. It is a treadmill, squirrel-trap culture – drugged and frenzied with the hashish of industrial servitude and material luxury. It is wholly a material body-culture, and its symbol is the tiled bathroom and steam radiator rather than the Doric portico and the temple of philosophy. Its denizens do not live or know how to live.”

-H. P. Lovecraft

Historically, our society generally favored intelligence, novelty seeking and creative thinking. If you’re someone who tries something new and different, you stood a good chance of benefiting. Are you daring enough to migrate to new lands? Here it should be easy to start a new life. New inventions generally made life easier and more pleasant for those who adopted them early on. Intelligence benefited people in various ways. Your newborn children were less likely to die, you were more capable of rising in social status and you generally anticipated disasters that others did not anticipate.

In today’s society, it’s essentially reversed. You don’t need statistics to prove this, although you’ll find them if you look for them. Think back of your smartest friends from high school or elementary school. What are they doing now with their lives? I’ve discussed it with a lot of people. They always have the same stories:

“He’s really smart, but he kind of lost his mind and now he lives with his mom and published some book nobody reads.”

“He works at a bowling alley now and I tell him to get his shit together, but he just won’t, it’s like he gave up on life.”

“I met him at a climate protest the other day, he says that he’s anti-work so he lives off welfare.”

“She makes ASMR videos on Youtube nowadays.”

“She’s working on some Phd on a Medieval Celtic poem and she takes anxiety medication”

These are generally people who won’t reproduce and they generally don’t have very happy lives either. They’re smart, but they’re miserable. The reason they’re miserable is largely because their lives feel pointless and because they can’t use their skills to get ahead in life.

You live in a society that was made for the average person. And I hate to break it to you, but the average person sucks. It’s human nature that most people are pretty awful. I’ll give you some examples to demonstrate my case. Look at the average person, then look at their dog. Throw the dog’s race into Google and see for yourself how many genetic defects the dog has. The dog may have a nose too small to breathe properly, the skull may be so deformed that the animal constantly suffers headaches, the spinal curvature is so abnormal that the animal struggles to walk. People know this very well, but they don’t care. We’re a species that takes healthy animals and breeds them until they spend every day suffering from genetic disorders that we consider pretty.

Remember: These are just the animals that people claim to love, but look at what they do to them! If you genuinely want to understand man, look at how he treats his best friend. Now look at the animals they eat. Look at how they treat each other. Most people are awful. The Milgram experiments demonstrate that they would give someone lethal shocks if an expert told them that it’s fine. They smile at you and act nice to you. Does that mean they’re good people? No, it makes their own lives easier.

So, most people are awful, but then you also have to consider the fact that this crowd of awful people manages to make the rules. So, if they don’t have any genuine talents, don’t have any genuine taste, what do you think happens? You end up with a society where your only way out of the ghetto is by playing sportsball and where Kylie Jenner becomes the world’s youngest billionaire.

That’s another thing that everyone forgets. You can make something very useful, or something very creative, but it won’t necessarily help you put food on the table in our society. Who are the people who become rich? Hedgefund managers, casino operators, real estate moguls, a lot of people who effectively contribute nothing tangible to society. There are people who created something we use, who managed to become wealthy. There are even more however, who came up with something very useful and never saw it change their lives.

If you want to become rich by writing a book, making music, directing a movie or creating art, your best chance is to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The most popular music is barely tolerable, we have new remakes of superhero movies with box office records every year, fifty shades of grey became a best-selling novel and the most succesful artists tape bananas to walls.

It helps a lot in our society if you’re hypersocial, if your main priority in life is to seek attention and get everyone to like you. What ties into this, is obedience to social expectations. A college education is essentially a test in obedience. The average IQ of a graduate is now 100, but still plenty of people end up dropping out. Why do they drop out? The reason is generally because they struggle with the petty tasks, they struggle to jump through all the demeaning hoops.

The thing you have to understand is that society is essentially a zero sum game. There are 7,5 billion people, in competition with each other over a share of the world’s natural resources. It doesn’t look to you like we’re in competition, because during the past 200 years we’ve figured out increasingly effective ways to steal from nature instead of stealing from each other. We don’t fight wars because we’ve increased food production enough to allow almost everyone to eat. We’ve increased food production with fertilizers that pollute our rivers, lakes and oceans. The animals that used to steal a share of our harvest are now killed with pesticides.

But now that growth is coming to an end, we find that we’re competitive animals after all. We place bids for the limited number of available houses that are built. we vote for politicians who promise us to help our generation at the cost of other generations, our nation at the cost of other nations, our social class at the cost of other social classes, our ethnic group at the cost of other ethnic groups. We’re starting to see the world as a zero sum game again.

From a rational perspective, you’re better off not contributing to society at this point

I have what you might refer to as a “bullshit” job. My job exists due to a cocktail of human irrationality, legal loopholes, an absurd and failing war on drugs and the growing phenomenon of money laundering. Although my own job is morally justifiable, in the sense that I spend my days trying to stop some of the money laundering and scams, my job is part of an industry (cryptocurrency) that shouldn’t exist in the first place. For me to do what I do is a bit like being a veterinarian who oversees fights between pitbulls.

The reason I work in that sector is because it pays well, doesn’t stress me out and because I happen to have the necessary skills. Does it contribute to society? Not really. But look at this from a rational perspective: Although the industry is bizarre, there will be a need for money laundering in the future too, so it’s not going to disappear anytime soon.

There are people who think of cryptocurrency as an investment, but cryptocurrency should be seen as a zero sum game. We can’t pull out more money than we stick into it, we merely redistribute it from some people to others. Who are the losers, who are the winners in this game? There are people who click on Facebook advertisements, guaranteeing that you’ll become rich overnight. They’re subsequently called on the phone and encouraged to invest their life savings. They never see a dime again. Is it cruel? Of course it is, but it is also the rule of nature. Back in the old days, the elderly had young men break into their houses to steal their life savings. The thieves now need some higher social skills. That’s the main difference.

The thing is, I’ve experienced in my day to day life that a lot of smart young men are drawn to cryptocurrency, because it offers them something that no other place in this society seems to offer them. It’s not just the fact that through cryptocurrency, the average schmuck now has the same ability to launder money and evade taxes that European royalty, Russian mobsters and other people have had for decades.

What’s more important is that in addition, we gave birth to a 200 billion dollar bug bounty that is kept alive by naive people and redistributes wealth to young men who are clever and cynical, a kind of giant Darwinian system that rewards intelligence, creative thinking and ruthlessness. There are endless series of holes from a game-theoretic perspective in these cryptocurrencies, that allow clever young men the opportunity to earn a living with very little work, at the cost of less clever people. Most importantly, you can do this while staying completely anonymous. Just the other day, an article came out, arguing that a particular cryptocurrency has a bug that allows you to steal 340 million dollar with a twenty million dollar investment.

And there are endless derivatives of these scams, that allow you to earn a living too. There are people on the Internet, who earn a living photoshopping fake identity verification documents. There are people who buy gift cards online for 70 cents on the dollar with cryptocurrency, that tend to be sold by Nigerians who scammed elderly Americans. You use those gift cards to set up an online dropshipping webshop, where you sell Amazon products at perhaps 80% of their actual cost on Amazon. There are perfectly legal derivatives from this entire industry, as well as illegal ones.

How does all of this relate to our basic human needs, to teach our children how to read and do math, to take care of our sick, to throw criminals in jail, extinguish fires, build houses and maintain society? It has zero relationship to any of that of course. The guy who builds your house lives with his parents or shares an apartment with three roommates, but you bought the house by “investing” in the right coin, setting up your own ICO, or finding and exploiting a bug.

I work in cryptocurrency and I earn money on the side, through cryptocurrency. Nothing I do has any meaningful relationship to what society actually needs. I open the newspaper and I read about shortages of construction workers, shortages of plumbers, shortages of teachers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, young farmers, etcetera. If it’s a job that delivers a meaningful contribution to society, there’s a shortage of it.

But try looking at it from my perspective. I could get a job that allows me to actually contribute to society. A job like that requires me to wake up at 7 AM, instead of 9:30 AM. A job like that means I’m earning perhaps 80% per hour of what I’m earning now. Instead of two hours of actual work per day, I would be doing eight hours of actual work per day. I would be more easily fired than I am now. Instead of working from home, I would be stuck in a hospital, a classroom or something like that.

But most importantly, I entirely taught myself the skills I use now, back when I lived as a NEET. I’m not some sort of psychopath, I’d like to deliver a meaningful contribution to society, but the hurdles I would have to overcome would be enormous and not in my own best interest. If I wanted to contribute to society, I would have to go back to college. Let’s consider for a moment, just the years of my life I would have to waste, if I wanted to work as part of an ambulance crew.

First I would need a nursing degree. This would take me four years to get. Then, I would need to specialize as a medical emergency nurse. This would take fourteen months. Then I would follow the program to actually be allowed to work as part of the ambulance crew. This takes seven months. So, altogether, I would have to spend six years of my life, essentially without any source of income, before I could deliver this highly needed contribution to society.

Nobody ever mentions that the deficits we have in our society when it comes to essential jobs, are almost entirely caused by the endless number of hoops you need to jump through, before you’re allowed to do that job. I understand that some basic education is needed for jobs that involve life or death medical decisions. However, what I observe everywhere is that the amount of training required continually increases. It used to be the case that you could graduate high school, enter a hospital and receive training on the job. After a few years of work, during which you actually received a good salary, you would receive some certificate and you would be fine.

I think in many jobs, the increased amount of training required is not caused by the job becoming more complex, it’s caused by people becoming dumber. I don’t just mean some sort of genetic decline in our average IQ, although that is a legitimate problem. What I would recommend to you instead, is to turn on your TV and observe what sort of meaningless celebrity drivel the average person is exposed to. Schools now have to compensate for the fact that the average person learns nothing meaningful in their day to day life.

It used to be the case that people read literature, that the newspapers discussed things that matter instead of celebrity news. These days, we need colleges to educate our future elementary school teachers about our nation’s history, but not just any history, the basic aspects that you should already know about simply by being a human being who has an interest in the world around him and participates in society.

So, if you’re an average intelligent person, if you’re the kind of person who has largely educated yourself, it will take you years to become qualified, for important jobs done by people who really don’t have that much more practical knowledge than you do. Some intelligent people end up doing bullshit jobs, others simply drop out of society altogether. Again, the dumb people I know are doing fine, the average ones are doing fine too. It’s the smart people I know, who are in really bad conditions right now.

I’ll readily admit that I’m a lazy person. When I don’t see the point to working hard, I don’t work hard. However, there are people out there, who are not lazy, but stuck in the exact same situation as me. If you studied psychology for example, there’s a fair chance that you end up in a situation where you’re simply not able to do anything useful whatsoever with the knowledge you learned.

Everyone always says that we should make college education free. But nobody ever connects the dots and says that if most people end up doing something entirely unrelated to what they studied in college, perhaps we should reduce the amount of college education people receive.

And I’m not about to suggest that as of this moment, I have sufficient knowledge and experience to step into an ambulance and take care of someone suffering a medical emergency. But six years? Does it really take six years out of a person’s life, before they can step into an ambulance and take care of someone who suffers a medical emergency, when a first aid training takes three days of hard work?

So, from a rational perspective, there’s a fair chance you’re someone who is best off doing what I do, which is to sit in a cubicle and realize that you’re ultimately part of a phenomenon that is essentially parasitical on society. From a psychological perspective, it’s not the best option perhaps. But like every other person, I want to be able to take care of myself financially. I don’t need extreme luxury, I save part of my salary for emergency situations.

It’s a problem that Warren Buffet pointed out long ago too. He said: “I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.”

My story is not unique. Society has gotten so complex, that it has become much easier for people who are creative and capable of thinking for themselves, to earn a living doing something intellectually abstract that’s very far removed from our actual day to day needs as human beings, than to do the jobs that benefit actual human beings. In addition, if you’re somewhat intelligent, then you now find yourself faced with a situation where for you to participate in society means overcoming endless hurdles.

3 Comments

  1. Well, I’m currently jumping through the final hoop to work a job that will utilize my 6 years of formal postgraduate study (math+computer science), where I will be paid well, treated excellently, and do something that I find meaningful. I count myself lucky.

    However, like yours, this position only exists because other people are assholes. Actually, an anthropologist named David Graeber wrote a book called “Bullshit Jobs” and came up with a handful of broad classes that these jobs fit in, one of which he called “Goons” and was more-or-less defined by the fact that these jobs only existed to paper over some kind of corruption or darkness in human nature. You might enjoy this book if you haven’t read it already and like to read in English.

  2. Where I am, honest programmers only make $15 an hour (the lcoal min. wage) anyway. You can be as smart and hard-working as you like, and you’ll only die before your time, tired and used up.

    The best-paying, most dependable job I’ve had wasn’t in tech, it was panhandling. I’m getting to the point where I’m coming close to the pay and dependability being as good, busking (playing music on the street) but begging, living off of welfare, petty theft of the kind you won’t get busted too badly for, various small crimes, are probably the best career path.

    Think of how culture was preserved during the Dark Ages. We’re in a new Dark Age now, and in the past what worked was to learn to live on as little as possible, communally, and generally under protective camouflage like odd rituals, uncomfortable clothing, etc. Yep we’re talking monks and nuns here, folks.

  3. Due to my limited knowledge, there is only one area I’m aware of where the education requirement has increased during my lifetime. During the 2000s, it was possible to become an airline co-pilot at a small, regional airline, making about the same wage as an Amazon warehouse worker (if you were lucky; There were some airlines that actually charged for the privilege of being a co-pilot), with only 250 hours of flight experience— the minimum required by law to hold a “commercial pilot’s” license. You could become a captain when you had 1500 hours.

    But then, a crew with about that amount of experience made a beginner’s mistake. Because they weren’t watching their airspeed, they stalled the airplane. Then they made another beginner’s mistake: They pulled back on the yoke instead of pushing forward. The plane nosedived into the ground, killing everybody on board, and also killing a few people on the ground.

    The government response was to increase the co-pilot’s minimum experience to 1500 hours, and to add a requirement to take a very expensive class. Now there’s a pilot shortage and salaries are looking a little more like they did in the 1990s.

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