One of the inconvenient facts of life is that on average, elites are better at almost everything than the rest of us. Yudkowsky explained this principle here. It’s not just that elites are wealthier and that most of them have genuinely earned their wealth, even if they started out with an advantage. On average, they’re smarter than the rest of us. There are exceptions. Donald Trump is good at quite a few things, but I think I’m smarter than him. On the other hand, I strongly expect Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are smarter than me, especially when they were my age.
The main reason for this is because in Western civilization, we have a meritocracy. Most billionaires in our society had to be very competent at something, to earn their wealth. Most billionaires in the Western world donate most of their wealth to charity, so their children typically don’t end up extremely wealthy themselves. There are conservative billionaires who don’t donate their wealth to charity, but they end up paying inheritance taxes and tend to have a lot of children, so every child receives relatively little money.
In our system, to become a billionaire means you have to be smart. It doesn’t mean you play by the rules 100% of the time, billionaires sometimes use tactics that could be considered unfair and end up getting away with it, but so do people who are not billionaires. David Geffen, one of my favorite billionaires, dropped out of college. He had to lie and make it seem like he had graduated college, so he edited a letter to make it appear like he is a college graduate. This is obviously not an atrocity, but it shows how billionaires don’t always play by the rules. I don’t always play by the rules either, so I can’t blame them for that.
Obviously being smart is not sufficient. It helps to have a head start, Bill Gates for example comes from a successful family. But some billionaires were born into terrible circumstances and nonetheless became successful. Oprah Winfrey is a good example, you can look up for yourself how she grew up in poverty and was back stabbed by the people around her. She also illustrates another principle: Billionaires are not evil. I’m a progressive person, so I’m supposed to believe that the rich and successful are evil and didn’t earn their wealth. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that their wealth is typically a consequence of the fact that they simply have a number of extreme talents.
Consider Oprah Winfrey, as an example of how billionaires are more competent. Oprah Winfrey is smarter than the average person. Her head is enormous. This doesn’t just make her look better on camera, it’s necessary to fit all her brainpower into her skull. But more importantly than just being smart, Oprah is extremely socially competent. How many black women from the ghetto can get middle-class white women to relate to them? Oprah knows how to do it, she can deliver something useful nobody else on the planet can deliver, so one day she wakes up and realizes she is extremely rich. Good for her.
If you look at other billionaires, you’ll notice the same thing. Take Bill Gates and Warren Buffet for example. The fact of the matter, as painful as it might be to acknowledge, is that they’re likable people. These are not bullies, or people who feel superior to the rest of us and feel the need to let us know. No, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet genuinely want to get along with others and lift people up. You can check out Bill’s Reddit profile to notice this in action. If you have the opportunity, you would want to drink a beer with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.
Of course, if someone is very powerful, it’s sensible to be distrustful of his motives. For years, I was very distrustful of Bill Gates. Clearly he is giving billions of dollars to charity, for some sort of nefarious purpose that merely makes him even wealthier and more powerful. That’s what I thought when I was young. But after years of studying the evidence, that position became impossible for me to maintain. Shock, horror, I was wrong. I don’t like being wrong, but sometimes it happens. Bill Gates gives his money away to charity because he wants to gasp help people. Warren Buffet wants to do the same thing. Bill Gates saved millions of people’s lives. Whatever dirt we might manage to dig up about him, that he grew up with a trust fund, that he bought the software that became MS-DOS, all of that stuff is still a footnote to his incredible success at helping other people.
People tend to hate people who are more successful than them. You generally learn this from your environment, I learned it from my environment too. This mentality doesn’t help you succeed. It helps you feel content with never succeeding. I remember some video of Bill Gates shivering when he had a pie thrown in his face. “He must be having flashbacks to high school.” Some bitter loser commented somewhere. Well, let’s assume Bill Gates was bullied. If so, that merely makes his success more impressive. Elon Musk needed facial reconstructive surgery, because normies in school threw him down stairs when he was a child. So, if Elon Musk ends up using his vast fortune to develop electric vehicles and other technologies that combat global warming, starts shitposting on Twitter while high on LSD and impregnates sexy goth girls, what do you expect me to say to that? I’m happy for him. The kid who threw him down the stairs probably works in retail somewhere and has two 90 IQ kids who will continue the cycle of people who never accomplish anything substantial in their lives.
Every society eventually ends up having an elite. The Saudi’s have an inbred royal family. The Russians have a mob, the Chinese have communist party officials. What sort of elite do we have? We have guys like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk. Am I allowed to say it? I like it this way. Give me a call if you need a lackey guys. “But Peter Thiel is far-right!” Yeah, see if I care. That means he can talk some sense into people like Trump. We need some smart people on every part of the spectrum, to lead our society towards success. Peter Thiel gave a girl 100,000 dollar to drop out of college and work on salmon burgers without fish. A guy who does that can’t be evil.
This brings me to another point: I genuinely want us to succeed. What do I mean with success? It means that life expectancy goes up a little every year, suicide rates go down a little, fewer children suffer circumcision, the world has more trees, people are happier, wars become less deadly, you spend fewer hours working and the average person’s IQ goes up a little. Some people want to see the world burn. I was like that for most of my life. Everything should fall apart, so I can live out the remnant of my life in the same clothes I have had for years, travelling through the abandoned ruins of society. I stopped being like that, when I saw what happened during the Corona pandemic. Good, creative, optimistic, hard-working people, who enjoyed their lives and were brave enough to take a risk, saw what they had built up over the years destroyed in a matter of weeks. The thing that seemed most upsetting to them, was that they couldn’t pay their employees. Everything was falling apart, so where the hell was my morbid sense of joy? It dawned on me: I might be a person who generally experiences society as a prison, but that’s not how it feels for most people.
Healthy people lift other people up and want them to succeed. Unhealthy people sit around praying for catastrophe. This is the most useless purpose you can devote your intellect to. What I noticed recently that set off alarm bells in my head is that all sorts of people who were warning about global warming triggering the demise of the world were now suddenly warning about Corona killing us all. Hint: If you moved over from fear-mongering about global warming to fear-mongering about corona in recent months, take some psychedelics. You don’t have a healthy concern about existential threats, no, you have a morbid desire to see everything fall apart. It’s not something to be proud of, if you want to see other people fail. I don’t want others to fail. I want others to succeed. Even if I end up failing, in the most terrible, depressing and humiliating manner imaginable, I still want others to succeed.
There’s a pathological form of socialism, that wants people to feel ashamed of being successful. I’m a socialist, but I refuse to be a pathological socialist. The real shame is in being unable to be happy for someone else. Other people’s success, ends up being everyone’s success. Let me give an example of what I mean. I have invested a small amount of my savings, 20,000 Euro, into stocks during this market crash. If things crash further, I’ll invest more. I invested 2000 euro into Unity Biotechnology. Why Unity Biotechnology? They’re the biggest company out there, that is working on developing senolytic drugs. These are drugs that selectively remove old damaged cells from your body, thereby allowing the rest of your cells to function better. If they pull it off, what does that mean? It means the people you know will live longer and happier lives. Most corporations deliver a valuable contribution to humanity. Corporations like this, that deliver an exceptionally valuable contribution to humanity, are likely to start growing much faster than the rest of them.
Nathaniel David, President of Unity Biotechnology, is without a doubt a very smart man. He has made great accomplishments in two fields, that will both help make the world we live in a happier place: Biotechnology and sustainable energy. I have no guarantee the company I invest in will succeed and so I place my eggs in multiple baskets, but all the evidence to me suggests that it probably will. Critics and bitter cynics will tell me that if they pull this off, it will mean the rich will merely live even longer and gain even more power, whereas the rest of us will just die at a normal age. Well, here’s a radical suggestion: Perhaps I want Jeff Bezos and Peter Thiel to live to be 140 years old. Why? Because if they figure out they’re still going to be around when the permafrost starts melting and the Amazon starts dying, they’re going to do whatever it takes for them to get global warming under control.
There’s nothing wrong with being worried about global warming. There’s something wrong with being morbidly obsessed with the topic and expecting imminent doom. It’s a symptom of poor psychological health. Instead of asking yourself how bad it’s going to get, you’re better off asking yourself what you can do about it. There’s a vast landscape of opportunities to reduce global warming, as well as a vast landscape of ways to help society and nature deal with the effects of global warming. That’s a useful way to spend your time. You know what’s not useful? Complaining about it on the internet, or blocking traffic somewhere. That’s not useful, that’s virtue signaling.
I’ll end with a confession. I aspire to become rich one day. I’m at six figures right now, which is what happens when you patiently short-sell cryptocurrencies. I don’t spend it, I invest it. I don’t have a car, I got a free bicycle from my job (Dutch Pride World Wide) and I wear the same pants I had in high school. I need more wealth, because I know what I would most like to do with my life. I would like to devote myself to figuring out a way to help reverse the impact of climate change. There are a wide variety of different ways to remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. I hope to one day spend my life involved in that effort. There is a fair chance that I will fail. I’m going to try it anyway. And if others pull it off while I don’t? Then I’m going to cheer them on and feel happy for them.
Billionaires have learnt the knowledge of money, and make wise investments in comparison to the sorts who attack, distrust, criticize, follow and do everything other than ask and answer questions of their actions. Humans learn by asking and answering questions.
Humans have the same design of the mind. Bill Gates is not superior to a dude in a Mental asylum. They know different things. Amusingly, Bill Gates surrounds himself among Institutional sorts, thus remaining ignorant of concepts outside their narrow perception. He believes money solves problems. Laugh at him.
Why have the elites, with all their money, experts, and everything else not solved the problems they purport to solve?
Ignore all the rent-seeking the elites engage in.
Ignore all the problems caused by elites in the first place.
Ignore all the solutions to problems stopped by elites via control of the political apparatus.
Ignore the externalization
Good post, but you missed April Fool’s day by a couple of weeks.
So if someone is not rich, it’s their own fault right?
i dont get ironic humor.
I immediately wonder if you’ve read Paul Graham’s essays about rich people. They have essentially the same style and substance, except Paul Graham isn’t joking.