One of my goals in life is to avoid living conflicting philosophies. This means thinking one way of living is best for me, yet contradicts other held beliefs without knowing it. It is very easy to conflict yourself, and the more you learn, the stronger the realization. It goes along with the lines of “the more you know, the more you can know” and you often “don’t know what you don’t know”. This is shown by the Dunning-Kruger Effect:
In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein people of low ability suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority derives from the metacognitive inability of low-ability persons to recognize their own ineptitude.
Without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their actual competence or incompetence
Mark Mason recently published a great short read on The Value of Money (stop here and read the article now). His posts sums up my beliefs on money and wealth quite well, and how people wrongfully misinterpret their goals. Money isn’t the goal, it is what the money gives you that you *think* you want. But humans are also very bad at predicting what they want, what will make them happy, etc:
How great would it be to win a brand new car? How horrible would it be to get laid off from your job? Research by psychologist Dan Gilbert at Harvard University suggests, not that great and not that horrible (respectively). Among the many things Gilbert studies is how people make predictions about future events—specifically, how we make predictions about how we’ll feel about future events. One of the most important questions we ask when making any decision is “how will this make me feel?” But no matter how much time we spend thinking about the future, we don’t get any better at predicting it. That’s why, as Gilbert writes in his book Stumbling on Happiness, divorce lawyers and people who remove tattoos continue to have a steady stream of customers.
Source: Stumbling Upon Happiness book
One of the fundamental conflicting ideals plaguing modern society is simply put as this: in a capitalistic society where the incentive is money, it doesn’t align with the what humans really want – wellbeing. The vast majority of modern day humans have conflicting ideals here.
It’s easy to get caught in the stir of this mixing machine. While people around the world are vastly different in culture, beliefs, ways of life, habits, and appearance, humans all universally want a good wellbeing, to be happy, and to not suffer. This is universal, and this should therefore be our goal in collective society. All good comes from wellbeing, so we should maximize this. It becomes a philosophical discussion in itself, but some pieces of it have quite straightforward answers. For example, there are 1 billion people suffering *unnecessarily* from extreme poverty (read The Life You Can Save). This is a situation where suffering is definitely occurring unnecessary, is solvable right now, and the barrier is simply human connection and communication.
Now with this said, in a capitalistic society the goal and incentive isn’t human wellbeing, it is money. People can create companies that destroy villages, families, cities, countries, and lives. Yet they make money, their goal and incentive. Politicians can make agreements and work together to increase their GDP, not necessarily increase wellbeing or reduce suffering. Most peoples lives in modern society are taken up by work that is entirely incentivized by money. In fact, 70-80% of Americans don’t like their jobs or otherwise hate what they do (Source). They’re caught in the machine where every bit of society tells you to make money, buy a house, buy stuff you don’t need, and then finally retire at the end of life when you hopefully have money. In fact, we spend most of our time in effort to simply earn money – how crazy is that. It is entirely backwards and contradicts what we really want. People don’t want or necessarily need more money, they need a new perspective that changes how they live their lives. They need freedom – freedom to choose, freedom of time, freedom to think. Consumerism has plagued us to spend all our money on stuff we don’t need, or to spend all our time making money so we can buy time later (a vacation or early retirement), or so we can buy all the abundance of consumerism that we don’t need.
Our motivational systems are off. While the vast majority of modern western society is motivated by money, what people really want is to be happy. And money and happiness aren’t directly coordinated (Source). We should instead be motivated by helping others, learning more so we can better help others and ourselves, using our creativity to create things we think should exist, traveling to broaden our perspectives – all things which are proven to increase wellbeing – again something that universally humans want. In short, society is living with conflicting ideals.
The bottom line here is that we should really be questioning our incentives and goals in society. I don’t have a good alternative to capitalism, but money is certainly not our goal as humans. And while it may increase the collective human wellbeing on some levels, it also causes a grand amount of unnecessary suffering.