Archive for May, 2011

The Depth of Everything

Regardless of how simple something may seem on the surface you’ll often find there is much more to it when you dig in. Until you have to deal with it yourself you remain blissfully ignorant of the depth and intricacies most things entail, or at least the level of depth that exists beyond where your understanding is.

Take word processing. Some people just need a basic program to type text into and perform basic edits. To someone who is used to a typewriter this is like magic. But when that casual user eventually finds herself writing a book (or thesis, whatever) the additional competency that must be obtained reveals many other layers of understanding about what is possible. Beyond that comes what is akin to a programming layer that can happen in word processors where they become interactive, and then there is the programming of the software itself. The surface programming is object oriented where all of the calls (commands) have already been defined by the developers — the engineers. Each layer down reveals a new universe of understanding.
This applies to virtually everything.
Recording music — When I explain how digital audio really works some of the most seasoned audio engineers look at me like I’m from Mars. And that’s just one, tiny aspect of it all.
Diamonds — Anyone who has shopped for even something as simple as a wedding ring learns there is more to this than meets the eye, and that’s just the basics of course.
Photography, race car driving, piano moving, cooking, tree trimming, penny whistle playing, brick laying, fishing…everything has depth when you get into it, and if your ambition is to be competent in that domain — as in expecting to be paid to do it — then you’ll have to master those details.

iTunes is Dead

iTunes has been a significant cog in the machinery that killed the CD (and temporarily staved off the death of the music industry), but what many don’t yet realize is that iTunes itself, at least in its current form, is dead.

It is based on a paradigm of owning music, which if you read the fine print is not actually what happens when you “purchase” music anyway. But as many teenagers can already tell you, they don’t place much value on owning music. It’s widely available just about anywhere. If I want to listen to a song I can find it online and listen to it. Simple as that. Maybe the quality isn’t as consistent as something like iTunes, or maybe it’s a few more clicks to hear the whole record, but in short order those issues will be long gone.

Music is destined to be free. Artists will hopefully be able to make enough money performing and selling their work commercially to survive. But even if they don’t it will not stop them. Funny thing about the truly great, inspired artists….they aren’t doing it for the money anyway.

I assume Apple already knows this and has plans to rebrand it and change the core functionality to reflect the times.

Cultural Evolution

(Continued from Hierarchy of Money.)

 Everything evolves. When you look back far enough on anything it  either didn’t exist, or was so different as to be virtually unrecognizable. Our culture has evolved in such a way as to make money the currency of power. This too will change.

People in power (those with the most money) fight desperately to maintain the status quo. With our current vision/understanding of the world it seems impossible that this relationship would ever be upset, but that’s the funny thing about evolution — the victims hardly ever see it coming until it’s too late. Moreover, this type of big, sweeping change actually happens rather quickly. We think of evolution as something that takes vast periods of time, but it’s often more that vast periods of time happen between significant changes. The changes themselves can crop up and appear relatively quickly, and are usually triggered by some external “event” that sufficiently perturbs an otherwise stable system to the point that change gets a chance to take hold. These changes are inevitable.

Most likely the almighty dollar is going to remain the big stick of cultural relevance and power  throughout our lifetimes, but eventually, without any doubt, at some point it will change. If human kind survives to see this day it truly will be an evolutionary advancement of the species. I can imagine such a transition being quite painful and violent though. The big ones generally are.

Hierarchy of Money

Money is a tool. It is probably the most concrete of all the scoreboards we can use to quantify success. It’s fascinating to observe how different people interact with the concept of money and what it can or can’t do. The simple truth is that money provides one a degree of power (not much more or less) — power over her own circumstances, and (potentially) power over others. There are six levels of this power we can put on the scoreboard.

  1. Poverty – Not enough money to take care. Requires the help of others to get by. No Power.
  2. Survival – Just enough money to get by. To be able to have food, shelter, and take care of the basics.
  3. Comfort – The ability to have choices. To begin to design the characteristics of how you will live.
  4. Frivolity – Most of your money is spent, without worry or thought, on things you know you don’t need. Luxuries.
  5. Independence – Real independence. You no longer have to work for the man. All of your time is your own to do with what you will.
  6. Philanthropy – The focus of your power shifts to the distribution of your money. But you need others to want it.

These levels cannot exist out of context. They require each other for the social machinations that go with them to function. While money can and does make life easier, we often are able to observe that it doesn’t necessarily correlate to happiness. That comes from within. Though if you try to tell that to someone in any of the lower four levels this they might not believe you, which of course is part of what gives the power to people in the higher levels. It feeds itself. “I want what you got.”

Imagine a society where money is not the scorecard for life; one where there is no money. What if the main currency were simply based one’s social relevance? If everyone had ample access to everything they need to live life on their terms power would come simply from who wants to be near you, in your circle of influence. It’s hard to imagine this in its pure form, untainted by the color of money.

But some people who are poor and happy are close to being there. And that may well be the highest level of power there is. Not that rich and happy people inherently can’t be there, it’s just much harder to tell. They aren’t being tested as much. The wealthy, of course, have a vested interest in keeping things as they are, and because our culture has evolved the way it has they have the power to do so.

But the funny thing about evolution….(to be continued)

Evidence Versus Sales

We routinely see people make what appear to be dumb decisions and believe seemingly crazy things in the face of clear evidence that should inform them otherwise.

How does this happen? Have you ever had a “discussion” with someone who insists, in spite of your overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that their (ungrounded) point of view is the correct one? Eventually those discussions break down because they can’t actually defend their position beyond a few surface points. They disengage or you give up. How would someone decide to believe and act on something that seems so clearly bogus to others — to most people, especially when the evidence is one sided?

The answer is almost invariably because someone (or a group) who is trusted sold them on the idea. It probably occurred over time, with many repetitions of variations on the main point(s). It had to sound plausible, and it had to show up as consistent with their existing understandings (beliefs). But the key component is still that someone sold it to them.

And nothing you can say or do will change their minds. (Maybe eventually, but you’d have to devote far more time and energy than it’s probably worth to you.)

Consider the power of that, the power of a good story — one that resonates, that can be told and retold.


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