Discover more from Creative Destruction
Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #34
From doing the weirdest thing, to the jazz age, eudaimonic jobs, rewriting history with AI, and biophilic markets
Before we dive into this week’s Rabbit Holes, just wanted to give a shout out toand his newsletter , in which I recently got featured. Click here to read the interview!
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, here are five perspective-shifting ideas that I’ve come across lately, plus some fun extras. Enjoy, and don’t forget that you can now support my work by ☕️ Buying Me A Coffee:
#1 🤪 Do The Weirdest Thing That Feels Right
In Rabbit Holes #32, we looked at being dignified as a rule. This here is another unconventional framework for decision-making or life planning. I like how these make us think differently about traditional lifestyles and career journeys, helping us detach a bit from societal norms.
“While agonizing over what to write last week, I tried to reverse engineer my writing wins. In the process, I discovered that the decision which separated my good writing from my bad writing expanded to my whole life, and was the dividing line between my triumphs and my regrets.
‘Do the weirdest thing that feels right.’”
“I don’t think I’m alone in spending a lot of time wondering what the right thing to do is. Not like, ‘should I steal candy from this baby?’ but like, ‘How should I balance my career and artistic endeavors? How do I vote? How much doom and gloom should I tolerate in the news to be an informed citizen? How do I model a balance of hope and realism for my child?’”
“It’s not that I’m not sure when something is right or wrong–wrong choices are clear. It’s that there seem to be so many options that all feel right. With endless research, discussions, daydreams, and deliberating, sometimes I forget what I actually think is right, or why I think the things I do.”
“I realized that when I think that something is ‘weird,’ it is not really about what I think at all. What I am actually doing is modeling what I think other people will think about it. For example, if I was going to order a lunch delivery, and I thought to myself, “well, I wouldn’t mind a ham sandwich, or a pepperoni pizza, or two dozen raw oysters,” I would probably think to myself, “Oysters? Weird.” But I don’t think oysters are weird, I think that other people will think it’s weird.”
“Weirdness is a construct that is a stand-in for other people’s expectations.“
“So if I have a bunch of equally viable options, I should pick the weirdest one, because it means that is the one that is truest to me. It means it has had to elbow its way in past what other people think, other people’s expectations, and any insidious fear I have of being judged for doing what I want or what I think is right. In the scenario above, yes other people might find it strange, but I should Doordash two dozen raw oysters.”
“And looking back at my life, I can easily find examples where I did something ‘weird’ and it went great, and where I didn’t do what was ‘weird’ and it was terrible.”
“For example, when I was 22 I moved to China with no language skills, no job, about $500, and no place to live. It was a weird decision but an amazing experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. But then I was thinking about leaving China after two years or so. My boss basically talked me into staying because he said I might be able to get into an Ivy League MBA Program. I didn’t really care that much, but the idea of that prestige was so seductive (and not weird) that I stayed another year, the last eight months of which were pretty awful.”
“My life is one long chain of times where I did something that I thought was weird and it went great, and times when I tried not to be weird and it went awful. Two things I hold in high value are self-knowledge, and overcoming fear. ‘Do the weirdest thing that feels right’ is a way to immediately see where I’m afraid, and to better understand myself.”
#2 🎷 We Are In A Jazz Age
This is a great analogy of how things are changing for organizations. Maybe it’s because I used to play in a jazz big band, but thinking about old or current organizational structures as classical orchestras makes me dislike them even more. Jazz adds a sort of groove, an unexpectededness, an inclusiveness, a certain agility and spontaneity. It’s time we designed our organizations more like jazz bands.
“To remain relevant today leaders and companies who have often been classically trained need to realize we are in a jazz age and re-invent some of the ways we conduct ourselves and business.”
“1. Fixed Hierarchy vs Rotating Leaders.
Classical music in many cases involves an orchestra or a multi-person assemblage which has a central leader known as the conductor. This hierarchy also cascades down into every instrument section with a first, second and third violinist or clarinetists.
Jazz ensembles sometimes have a leader but even when they do there is little hierarchy with different players often taking the lead.”
“2. Fidelity to a score or a ‘way’ vs agility and improvisation.
Classical performances are traditionally based on pre-composed material, revitalizing scores from years past, whereas jazz is fresh with each performance with musicians extemporaneously re-composing in real time using improvisation.
[…] Jazz music is often about improvisation with each rendering often very different from each other with the players having great degrees of freedom to iterate and invent on the fly as the spirit, the situation, and their fellow players move them.”
“3. Greater emphasis on the musician and individual in Jazz.
Since jazz tends to have fewer players who are improvising and who share leadership the talent of the individual is emphasized versus the scale of the collective in orchestras. There is more spotlight on individual talent versus large numbers of people who can be switched out for other people in large orchestra sections.”
“When companies and leaders struggle to adapt it is often because they are organized or trained classically while the new landscape and expectations of the new generations are crying out for a jazz-oriented approach.
» | Welcome To The Jazz Age by
#3 🦺 Eudaimonic Jobs
Okay, picture this: A society where people work only 4 days a week. 3 of the 4 days they work at their primary job (e.g. school teacher, sustainability consultant) and the remaining day is for community or political work. That could mean anything from helping construct a bus stop, jury duty, cleaning up a park, creating a new senior car plan for the neighborhood council, or helping organize local elections…. One job for self-actualization, and one for community service. And for the latter they receive a universal basic income from the government of say 1000€. The result: Less stress, more political engagement, a more caring society, more community spirit…
“[…] Suresh Naidu, an economist at Columbia University, imagines a future of work that forges a regenerative union between the fraying structures of both capitalism and democracy: a vision of what he terms ‘eudaimonic jobs.’
Eudaimonia comes from Aristotle’s vision of human flourishing, which draws a connection between a good life and political participation. The problem, as Naidu writes, is that ‘a basic constraint on democracy ... is that many of us are just too tired and busy to participate.’
He puts forward a potential solution: What if every citizen received a part-time wage from the government to participate in the political process? Instead of a work week filled with whatever employment labor markets have to offer — however meaningless or grueling it might be — citizens could reallocate some of their labor time toward the work of politics.”
“[Suresh Naidu] outlines three paths to eudaimonic jobs.”
“The first one is saying that there’s plenty of stuff we do in taking care of each other, and we could imagine providing the material resources to support that work of caring. So we could imagine a universal basic income (UBI) or other things that make the delivery of caring labor in existing networks of support and solidarity feasible and sustainable.
The second option is a supercharged labor market where we recognize that there’s a lot of work that we want to do and maybe we need a combination of the government and the market to deliver it. That entails making sure that there's a lot of labor demand. And that means paying very high wages. So we could realize that the profit signals that are going to private enterprise are not necessarily the ones that are going to deliver good jobs, but we can still use the labor market as the mechanism by which the government kind of supercharges labor demand for good jobs. The government’s role there is to provide something much more like a job guarantee.”
“[The third option:] There’s a jobless future where we actually wind up spending a lot more time doing jury duties, for example. We reduce our time in the labor market and spend much more time doing politics. And politics is annoying, but it’s not the kind of thing that you would necessarily want to delegate to an artificial intelligence or even experts. If you really take this democratic sensibility seriously — and maybe a lot of people don’t — the opportunity of reducing the amount of market work and spending more time allocated across domains of the political process is an interesting sort of realistic utopia.”
#4 🤖 Rewriting History With AI
As you might know through my own Generative AI explorations, I really like how this technology allows basically everyone to quickly put together perspetive shifting images and ideas. The below is a super interesting decolonization angle: What if Western imperial nations never came to power?
“Since the launch of image generators like Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, a new wave of generative AI-focused creators have taken to TikTok. These accounts, some of which already have followings in the hundreds of thousands, post slideshow carousels of novel AI art. But one subset of creators is playing into a decolonial curiosity with its content — one that seems to ask, what if Western imperial nations never came to power?
The TikTok account @what.if_ai, for one, already has over 27,000 followers. It posts videos with prompts like, “What if Mexico invaded the U.S.?” and “What if Somalia conquered Europe?”
“Videos in the genre go viral regularly because they fill a gap in the imagination, according to Nayana Prakash, a PhD candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute, who researches storytelling platforms in India and marginalized voices on the internet. “We’re quite deprived of thinking about countries in the Global South as being the arbiters of power and, you know, futuristic,” Prakash told Rest of World.
She finds one subgenre particularly compelling — it reimagines the modern-day skyscraper age in the aesthetics of ancient societies. “What if the Mayan empire never fell,” reads one viral video prompt, followed by illustrations of cityscapes and monumental architecture with Mayan design influences.”
“‘I think [these videos] give us an alternative view of what modernity means. If all of us had to define what it means to be modern or what modernity is, we would see that as a very American or Eurocentric word,’ said Prakash.”
“‘I think we’re unable to imagine ourselves outside the histories that we’ve already lived through,’ Prakash said. ‘It’s difficult to imagine, what does winning or success look like when it doesn’t involve invasion or colonialism? What does it mean for a country to have power if that power isn’t predicated on taking over another country? We’re just sort of reassigning parts in this existing play of history.
#5 🦚 Biophilic Markets
This is a great conceptual look and destruction of common ideologies related to market structures and behaviors, again showing how flawed traditional economic “science” is. Looking at markets as evolutionary systems and social constructs that are deeply embedded in nature completely changes the narrative and opens up new ways of how we could build better economies.
“Are our institutional arrangements compatible with life flourishing on Earth? Do we want them to be? At present, the scientific and political evidence suggests the answer is “no.” […] As Iskander and Lowe observe, our current theories frame debates as the economy versus life, and we have chosen the economy. […] To see how markets could become truly biophilic, we need a different understanding of how markets operate and their relationship with nature.”
“There are three conceptual shifts that must be made. First, the dominant economic paradigm sees nature as separate from human society: an “externality” that provides an infinite source of resources and an infinite sink for waste. The standard economic “production function” has no concept of energy, entropy, planetary boundaries, or any other finite limits to growth. If one looks inside the theories, models, and ideologies that shape the decisions of finance ministries, central banks, regulators, the courts, investors, and businesses, one finds that nature rarely, if ever, appears. This simply does not reflect the reality that economic value creation is both wholly dependent on, and significantly impacts, nature—the two are mutually interdependent.”
“Second, we must see markets not as mechanical equilibrium systems, but as dynamic, social evolutionary systems. Economics has traditionally viewed markets as gravitating toward a socially optimal allocation of resources. [This] has an inherent status quo bias, as it assumes that the current arrangements are optimal, and exogenous changes introduced by policy (for example, climate regulation) are typically assumed to reduce market efficiency and therefore social welfare […]. […] Markets are evolving social constructs, arrangements of institutions that in turn facilitate the evolution of products, services, jobs, technologies, and business models. As a dynamic, evolutionary system, there is no “optimal” end state, but one can say that, over history, differing economic arrangements have varied greatly in delivering human well-being: there is certainly “better” and “worse.””
“What then drives economic evolution toward “better” or “worse”? All evolutionary systems are driven by a fitness function that selects what survives and grows in the system and what fails and disappears. […]”
This leads to our third conceptual shift: as a social construct, the market fitness function is a social choice. Orthodox economics treats the fitness function as if it were an exogenously determined law of nature, as if there is no alternative. Yet the variety of human arrangements in organizing economic systems over history and across cultures shows that it is indeed a social construction. As such, we could choose a different market fitness function than the one we have today: we could choose one that is biophilic. Markets exist to serve society, and society therefore has a right to shape the market fitness function to its needs, including the need to avoid mass extinction. A society could choose to require that its markets operate within biophysical boundaries, and thus, firms could only be “successful” if they earned profits in ways that are biophilic.”
“The good news is that such a change in the economic fitness function would not result in inefficiencies and welfare loss—as predicted by traditional analyses—but would result in a massive wave of investment, innovation, and enormous welfare gains […]. As noted, when the fitness function changes, evolutionary systems adapt. The true genius of markets is not their static allocative efficiency but their dynamic adaptability. There is a long history of environmental policy sparking adaptation, innovation, and investment.”
“Instead of bio-destructive growth, we could have biophilic progress.”
This week, I’ve only got this amazing speech by Timothee Parrique at last week’s Beyond Growth Conference. Love the mic-drop moment at the end:
🚿 Shower Thoughts
That’s it for this week! Thanks so much for making it to the end.
If you enjoyed this week’s Rabbit Holes, please share it on social media or directly with friends and help me spread the word!