Labor in the future: humans or robots?

A fascinating question to reflect on is: who will work in the future, humans or robots?

Will robots take charge of almost all the jobs? And in this case, what else will humans do during the day, with all the free time available? Or the scenario will not change much: even if in a more robotized society, humans will continue to work most of the time anyway?

The two different scenarios correspond to the change, or the persistence, of the very concept of job that exists today, and of some structures, in particular the monetary system and the production of energy. Easy to understand that if the necessity to earn money vanishes, and if the necessity to pay the energy vanishes, more easily also the necessity to work vanishes.

I want to try to analyze the two possibilities. On the first one I can offer a personal point of view, considering that I’m living with it already: I don’t have a job and I have a lot of free time. In this case, it must be evaluated what will happen if the percentage of people that live like me, today a minority, will grow in the future. However I prefer to start from the scenario that is more familiar and therefore easy to imagine: the one in which humans will continue to work most of the time.

Humans will continue to work

It seems obvious to me that technology will keep on being developed, so inevitably the trend that has been going on for awhile now will continue: i.e. humans will continue to be gradually replaced by robots in their jobs, since the robots in most cases are more precise and efficient.

For many people that tried to predict the future, this argument meant automatically that will come the day when humanity will be freed from labor. But I’m not sure of sharing this optimism. To me instead, it seems better not to underestimate the possibility that, as human jobs will switch to robots, more and more fake jobs will be invented to keep the humans busy.

With fake jobs I mean unproductive jobs, that don’t generate concrete resources, or superfluous jobs, that generate resources in excess that later are thrown away. Actually many jobs of both types exist already now, and keep the humanity busy already now. So what I’m talking about is nothing else than a continuation of the phenomenon already in progress, that could survive and get amplified.

Today very evident examples of unproductive jobs are seen in the banking sector and in politics, while of the superflous jobs the evidence has become internet, that by now is definitely ultra-saturated, because it’s flooded every day with new contents created by armies of journalists and authors, contents that however reach an audience that is more and more microscopic. Even many of today’s schools are factories for superfluous jobs, dedicated to provide the students with a lot of knowledge that they will never use -so they’ll throw it away– in adult age.

It’s plausible that the future will present a picture in which, even if in the context of a great abundance of resources generated by robots even more advanced and efficient than the current ones, humans will continue to have very little free time, because they’ll be very busy with jobs invented… exactly with the purpose of keeping them busy.

Someone could ask: jobs invented by whom? A conspiracy theorist would probably answer “by the estabilishment”, and there’s definitely no doubt that the estabilishment gets benefits from having the majority of people busy working, with little free time. In this way there’s a more ignorant and tired mass, easy to manipulate. However I believe that in large part it’s people themselves that tend toward these useless jobs, with no much need of some “secret agenda” to push them.

To understand the reason it’s sufficient to observe how people behave when they have free time: the majority, actually, is not at all at ease with free time.

Free time is a trigger that can cause an increased level of consciousness, and a high level of consciousness often is hard to sustain: questions hard to be answered appear, a lot of uncertainties appear. It’s for this reason that often people, when they’re not working, do a systematic job to actually lower the level of consciousness: eating junk food, watching television, going shopping, drinking alcohol.

In addition to this spontanous tendency, as anticipated above, two determinant factors are money and energy. If a financial system similar to the current one persists, many humans will continue to find themselves in a situation with great abundance of resources (abundance that will probably become more extreme thanks to the robots), but they will be able to access those resources only through money, that they will try to earn by working. Similarly for energy: if it will not become abundant and easily accessible for everybody, humans will continue to work to pay for it.

Also, a whole series of new artificial needs could arise, to which many new artificial jobs would reply. Here a number of more or less distopyan scenarios can be imagined, for example a planet where despite robots will have solved the problem of producing the essential resources, humans will be absorbed anyway by a gigantic industry of entertainment, made of virtual realities and videogames, inside of which they will continue to work many hours per week.

The idea sounds rather disquieting, but actually it wouldn’t be anything else than the acutization of what happens today. In this sense we could say that the future is already now. The only difference would be that, if today the percentage real jobs vs artificial jobs is something like 30% vs 70%, in the future it could lean even more toward the artificial jobs, and become something like 5% vs 95%. Within the small percentage of real jobs that will survive in the future, probably there will only be jobs in which the “human factor” (imagination, creativity, emotions) is an advantage not challenge-able by robotic efficiency.

So as a quick recap, in this first scenario many humans would continue to work also in the future, either to escape from free time or because they would continue to believe that they have to work. This implies that they would continue to adopt the concept of job that exists now (it’s “job” if it’s compensated with money), and implies that they would continue not to realize that by working for money, in a financial system similar to the existing one, they basically play a poker game rigged to their disadvantage.

It’s the scenario I’m less attracted to, because it involves a very unaware future humanity, but it still holds some positive aspects, especially for that minority of people that will decide not to work. In fact, since everybody else will be busy with their jobs, for those who will have more free time there will be more opportunities available, less competition, less traffic, less lines, and so on.

Humans will stop working

The second possibility comes from a more radical transformation of consciousness, and I believe that it’s also the most likely scenario. In fact, I would tend to give for a fact that we will go toward this scenario in the future, if it wasn’t that the question “but then why it didn’t happen already?” makes me cautios. My impression is that a transformation will take place, but much more slowly than some people predict.

In this vision, people will abandon in mass the things that today are considered jobs. Willingly or not, unemployment will come for nearly everyone: some will abandon their jobs consciously and voluntarily, others instead will be pushed into unemployment by the robots, by profound changes in money (maybe from fiat to cryptocurrency), by entrepreneurs that will make energy abundant and accessible, by smaller and more efficient governments.

Those that will be pushed into unemployment, probably, will try more than the others to keep alive a market of fake jobs, that unlikely will disappear completely. The others however will have finally surrendered to the obviousness: in a world that is highly technological and abundant of goods and services, easily produced by the robots and accessible to everyone, the old concept of job doesn’t make sense anymore: its motivation to exist, simply, disappeared.

So all these people will find themselves in front of the same question that I faced already few years ago, when I quit my job: what do I do during the day? Until today, for many people this question would probably sound as threatening: they would associate it immediately to the question how would I avoid boredom? It’s from here, in fact, that begins the search for distractions, for activities that “keep us busy” (as many existing jobs are, at this point).

But what will happen in the future, if people will look inside this boredom, instead of trying to avoid it with entertainment? In fact, if fake jobs will have lost any credibility as option of partial time-fillers, extending the television fictions and the videogames to the whole time could feel as unsatisfactory for many people. Even traveling in the real world, an activity that many fantasize to do “if it wasn’t for the job”, if done constantly could not dissipate the feeling of a lack of purpose.

What do I do with my time? is a difficult question -even existential– since inevitably it originates other questions in chain: what do I do with my life? and so what is the meaning of life? In front of this last question a huge number of people could land in the future, a lot more than today. And from the great variety of answers that will come, the planet and the society could really be transformed in unpredictable ways.

It’s possible that, after several reflections, many people will reach a conclusion similar to the one that I reached: unless we decide to live life waiting for the manifestation of some “divinity” or “superior authority” to reveal to us a universal meaning of life, valid for the whole humanity (something that maybe, probably, will never happen) it makes sense that we assign it by ourselves, individually, a meaning to our life. The meaning we choose is exactly the meaning of life, the “right” one.

This choice will be crucial to decide if even in the future we humans will continue to do something during the day, rather than becoming an almost completely inactive species, fed by robots. Those who will take the time to decide how to use their life, will have the motivation to act.

But at this point, these actions will be part of a totally new concept of labor, profoundly different from the previous, just because the motivation that generates it will be profoundly different. The motivation will not be anymore obtaining the “old” goods and services, at this point redundant and not really interesting, but it will be an impulse coming mostly from the inside, and not anymore from the outside.

To such a substantial change in the motivation that will generate labor, probably a substantial change in the fields toward which labor will be addressed will follow. Hard to imagine, in fact, that in a scenario where labor will be highly optional and humans will decide to work following a process of introspection, the efforts will be employed to produce souvenirs or irrelevant education. Possibly those that will get a strong momentum will be new fields like genetic experimentation, space exploration, and in particular the research on how the mind works.

So, the one I’m describing here is a scenario in which humans would stop working -but for what is the old concept of work-. However many of them could stay active by adopting a new philosophy, and according to it they could more often start to feel to want to “work”.

My journey

I’ve been lucky enough to reach the question what do I do with my time? well prepared. Unemployment is something that I searched for and that I wanted strongly. The reason for my determination came in fact from having taken the time to decide what was the meaning of life, for what I wanted to use mine.

The answer that I found, that went through refinement with time anyway and that is still being refined, is that the meaning of life is love: the love that we give and the love that we receive. Secondly, the meaning of life consists also in exploring and understading better the universe, enjoying the beautiful things that exist, and producing new beautiful things.

This type of vision had effects in many areas of my life, and obviously also on my practical concept of job. The concept I had before became obsolete and not proposable anymore. Working has become adding something beautiful to the world, and having high quality. To me favoring quality over quantity seems necessary at this point, considering the degree of saturation reached by the human production in many many areas, both of material and immaterial products.

I find that for me it works well, to keep this general principle in mind: in fact whatever is the specific project I decide to work on (be it writing an article, producing a documentary, building a house…), it always reminds me why I’m doing it and how to do it. This doesn’t imply certainty of good results, but I find that it motivates me to act. It’s a principle that created and creates with ease activities to insert in my time, when I feel that I want to “work”. To be honest it’s difficult at this point to label it as working time or free time, as the boundary between the two has inevitably become very blurry.

Picking up a paper in the street is work? Taking care of the garden is work? Even when people ask me what is your job? I’m not really sure what to answer, even if lately I solve the doubt by using the quick and elegant answer “entrepreneur”.

About how much to work, in these latest years I felt like working on my projects just few hours per day, a small amount of time that anyway made me obtain several results that seem good to me. The reason why I didn’t work more are essentially two: the first one is that, actually, I don’t want to miss all the beautiful things “out there” in the universe (there are so many) working most of the time.

The second reason comes from one of my biggest internal conflicts, explained well by the famous allegory of the cave by Plato. In short, I have the impression that some of the most valuable things I have to give to the world (e.g. the useful information I found) often are not of any interest for the world, so spending many hours working on them maybe doesn’t make sense. At the same time, I’m not sure I want to work a lot on something for which there is more interest, but that I don’t “feel” is my strength. This is a doubt I haven’t solved yet, but anyway I believe that it belongs to many other people, so I don’t feel lonely in the conflict ūüôā

Actually, I believe that is right through this type of internal “journeys” (introspection, as I wrote above) that the redefinition of labor could pass in the future. If jobs will survive taking a new form, abandoning the current one -often grotesque- of fake jobs, such form could be influenced by processes like the one of disidentification by humans with their job role. So here we’re talking of “reviewing” the relationship with the ego, a relationship not easy… at all.


Notes: While fascinating, this topic is to say the least theoretical and philosophical. The article could have some contradictions, however I believe that it contains several useful points.

Related: The function of labor, What is your work ethic?

Manipulation techniques in the media

Many people are convinced that they have their own opinions: about politics, the economy, the latest news, sports, and so on. But instead very often their opinions are not theirs: they are born, grown, and orientated, under the astute guidance of newspaper columnists, or television news producers. The opinions of people fall into a furrow that has already been plowed previously.

media-manipulation-techniques-frontIn this article I decided to collect some of the manipulation techniques that the media use to influence the masses, among those that I’m able to see, and among those that impress me the most for how sneaky and damn effective they are. These techniques are used by the media more or less always for the same purposes:

  • get attention (and therefore get money through advertisements)
  • promote the agenda of some political party or corporation

Of course the people who are influenced by the media are never aware of it -they think they have “personal” and “free” opinions- so I hope that, if you are victim of one of these manipulation techniques, this article will be useful for you to realize it. So let’s start with an all time classic:

1. Keeping figures who don’t count much constantly under the spotlight

media-manipulation-techniques-spotlight-for-irrelevant-figuresA fundamental pillar of media manipulation is to keep at the center of the stage, constantly, figures who don’t count much. Often they are figures who are likely to make “hard” declarations, racist, sexist, that easily generate indignation in the public. These figures are typically unpopular and the media are perfectly aware of it, they keep on interviewing them frequently, and their nonsenses are immediatly broadcasted in all the news generating “flames” among people, i.e. fierce arguments.

From their side, these figures who don’t count much are often pleased for the attention received, and they’re not aware themselves of being puppets that are playing in a much bigger game, a game that has the real goal of keeping behind the scenes, far from the spotlight and unknown to the mass, the faces and the names of the figures that really count a lot: bankers, lobbyists, leaders of corporations, and these certainly are much less visible in the news.

It works perfectly: people channel all their hate and insults on irrelevant figures, without realizing that the practical life they have every day (alarm – coffee – rush out of the house – traffic – office – grocery…) depends instead very very much upon the decisions of completely different figures, who are far from the spotlight, and who can use their power undisturbed.

Maybe, sometimes, even these other figures have racist or sexist thoughts, but they certainly don’t make the error of vocalising them on television: they’re smart enough not to make any declaration that could negatively impact their public image, and they are very careful not to overexpose themselves. They prefer to leave the puppets at the center of the stage.

2. Keeping places that don’t count much constantly under the spotlight

media-manipulation-techniques-spotlight-on-parliamentDo you really believe that the parliament is the place where the important decisions are taken? Rarely. The important decisions by now are taken in completely different places: in private villas, on bar tables, in restaurants. And they are taken right by those figures that are unknown to the mass, who discuss contracts worth billions without the interference of tv cameras.

In the meanwhile there’s plenty of media coverage for what happens inside the parliament: the voting sessions, the declarations of the politicians, the bagarres in the main room when the opposition gets upset, the squabbles on marginal issues, and so on.

Let’s clarify: in theory in would make a lot of sense to keep the attention on the parliament… if the parliament really was the place where the laws are made. Unfortunately in practice, and this is true for many governments, the parliament in its entirety is a machine of monstrous inefficiency, that produces a law every once in awhile. It’s not a matter of right, left, center or opposition: it’s the whole parliament that is an unproductive organ.

And in the few cases in which they really get to produce a law, often the process is not very democratic. In fact there isn’t any dialogue between the parts: each politician gets up, takes the microphone, makes his declarations that the opposers barely listen to, and sits down. The scene is repeated with reversed roles. Then everybody votes following indications arrived from the top, from the leaders of the two factions, that often are not even sitting in the parliament, or are not even part of it at all (lobbyists, bankers, etc).

So in a similar way to the previous case, a second manipulation technique by the media -very effective- consists in putting the spotlight on the parliament, suggesting the idea that that in the center of the action, leaving instead that on the tables of a bar, few blocks away, someone else is deciding the fate of the country in front of a coffee.

3. Flooding blogs and online news with trolls

media-manipulation-techniques-internet-trollsIn case you’re not familiar with the slang of internet, in the context of blogs and online news websites, a troll is is someone who comments an article with specific purposes: create divisions in the community, ridicule the author, insinuate doubts between the readers, dampen the enthusiasm.

The estabilishment understood one thing: it’s easy to manipulate people through old monodirectional media, like television. With television the propaganda is delivered to the audience, and the audience can’t do much more than absorb it. But it’s a lot more difficult to keep internet under control. Non only there is a huge variety of opposition sites that spread “inconvenient” contents, but those same opposition sites allow a bidirectional exchange: the users can comment the articles, discuss among themselves, share contacts. And all of this is extremely dangerous for those who keep the power.

So the most effective technique they found to manipulate people -also on internet- is to flood these sites with trolls. Trolls who, as soon as a new article with potentially “dangerous” contents is published, get to work and fill it with comments loaded with skepticism, pessimism, sarcasm, or simply insult the other real users creating flames, so that, if nothing else works, at least they divert the attention away from the original theme that was discussed in the article.

Trolls are difficult to identify, especially because thanks to the anonymity typical of internet they can appear with different names, and seem numerically many more than how many they actually are. The effectiveness of their work stands on the fact that many people have a natural tendency to let their opinions align with the collective opinion (or at least that they perceive as the collective opinion).

In spite of this, with a little training you’ll develop enough sense to be able to unmask them with ease, and at that point you will also realize which are the sites that do real opposition to the estabilishment, because usually they’re exactly those where the troll infestation is more severe.

4. Distracting people with the rights

media-manipulation-techniques-pinkwashingMedia use different strategies to distract the audience, taking the general attention away from important themes and repositioning it on minor themes. A good example is the great relevance that they give to the “rights”, and of these a very popular case are the rights of women and homosexuals.

A word that explain this technique extremely well is pinkwashing, or in other terms “pink” brain washing, that is realized on people by governments and corporations. Media are full of examples of pinkwashing: food products that sponsor the research against breast cancer, interviews to politicians who repeat like a mantra the importance of having gay marriages, countries that promote LGBT tourism and encourage events like the gay pride.

All great causes obviously… if it wasn’t that these governments and corporations often are so friendly with women and homosexuals for convenience¬†more than anything else (after all it’s a strategy that doesn’t cost much and brings great results in terms of reputation), but even more if it wasn’t that while as facade they are so sensible to the problems of these categories, behind the scenes they use horrible practices, that range from “not very ethical” to “criminal”.

In fact, from one side a food corporation remarks the importance of prevention in women’s health, on the other side behind the scenes they fill their snacks with chemical additives that cause addiction (often even carcinogenic…) and use marketing models that are destructive for the environment. From one side a government broadcasts frequent pro-gay spots on television and in the name of equality, on the other side behind the scenes they colonize foreign territories and practice racial segregation. And so on.

There’s a strong emotional component, that of women and homosexuals, that is exploited to manipulate the public. Among the people who belong to these categories, that often historically have been disadvantaged, and that more often have been victims of abuses, there’s a strong desire for validation. And those who control the media understood this well: they provide this validation by pushing constantly the button of their rights, so that then they can trample on the rights of many other categories without too many interferences.

5. Distracting people with meaningless problems

media-manipulation-techniques-meaningless-problemsA second technique that the media use to distract people is to discuss meaningless problems, and among these a case that I like to mention often is the case of dog abandonment.

In my country, Italy, it’s a great classic which is re-proposed every summer (probably each country has its own peculiar case). Looking at the coverage given to this “problem” in the national news, it would seem like every year the roads of the country are invaded by thousands of cruel people, who drive back and forth searching for a street pole at which they can tie their animal. The idea is ridiculous, but unfortunately it works very well because it takes advantage of the emotional component of many people who are passionate of domestic animals.

Obviously, we all agree that abandoning a domestic animal is a terrible practice, but giving so much coverage to this theme, that is numerically irrelevant, means to take room away fron the possibility of showing real problems, much more impactful for the life of people.

Unfortunately the method works, and the result is tragic and comic at the same time: while the parasitic banking system causes unemployment and debt, while in the middle east thousands of people are brutally tortured and killed, while there’s an epidemic of problems linked to the lifestyle, like depression and food intolerances… the news viewers and the readers of newspapers get angry and emotional for the abandonement of pets.

6. Demonizing the real opposition

media-manipulation-techniques-demonizing-real-oppositionThe estabilishment uses the mainstream media to neutralize the real opposers, those who reveal the abuses and start to gain enough consensus to represent a serious threat, with a simple but centainly effective strategy: they give them little coverage, and when they give them coverage, they sling mud at them.

It doesn’t matter that a politician, activist, journalist, philosopher, has a flawless past. If he’s identified by the establishment as a target, there are a thousand different ways¬†to depict him in the media to make him appear as extremist, dishonest, immoral, crazy.

All they have to do is to take a long speech given by the opposer, maybe hours long, and from that speech extract a single phrase that can be misunderstood, and then publish it everywhere in the news. And simply in terms of images, the opposer can participate to a public event and talk almost always with a relaxed expression, but from the recordings of that intervention the media can extract anyway a single frame in which the oppositor had a scowling face, or was frowning, and place that on the first page with an insinuating title.

Obviously, if the person we’re talking about doesn’t have a flawless past everything becomes easier. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to discover that some governments, or various groups of power, have created entire offices dedicated to search for fiscal errors of the opposers, to try to tap them on the phone, and in general to dig trying to find their mistakes. If they made the minimal error, almost certainly it will be exposed sooner or later and will be published everywhere in the media.

7. Giving coverage to the fake opposition

media-manipulation-techniques-coverage-fake-oppositionThose who control the media know well that there is the need for opposition, at least one.

Many people “in the mass” often are not able to see the main causes of many of their problems (i.e. the parasitic nature of the banking system, the corporations that encourage consumerism, the government that works for itself and the lobbies rather than for the citizens), but this doesn’t eliminate the fact that they can feel the pain consequent to these causes: the frustration due to the lack of free time, the boredom/stress due to meaningless jobs, the unhappiness due to too many objects and too few human relationships.

The elite that holds the power understands well that this negative feeling needs a vent valve, otherwise there would really be a revolution that would change the system. And so they provide it, but setting up a fake opposition.

And it really doesn’t require a lot of work: there are many figures that spontaneously fit well the role of the fake opposers, it’s enough to keep them frequently under the tv cameras. Politicians who, in the interviews, declare their contrariness to the actions of the government (and then behind the scenes make agreements with it) or politicians who are really contrary to the actions of the government, but have such bizarre personalities and ideas that they almost succeed in making the main party of the government appear like the “lesser evil”.

8. Giving positive names to crap

media-manipulation-techniques-language-gamesAnother classic manipulation technique, used a lot in the media, is all based on language: they use names to which people instinctively associate a “positive” connotation to call some big crap produced by the corporations and the government.

A simple example, easy to recognize, are the commercials on television (note, to understand if a product/service is garbage you can apply this simple but practically infallible criterion: if it’s advertised on television then it’s garbage). There’s an enormous variety of snacks full of colorants, preservatives, various toxic sludge, whose names contain the words special, happy, diet, light, natural.

But then there are other examples of higher level manipulation, like many actions taken by the government, that are not as evident to the general public. War missions in foreign countries and military occupancy become missions of peace. Tax increments are included in plans for the recovery or treaties for stability. In my country the institute for fiscal monitoring is called equitàlia (from equity). And above everything else there is it, the nonsense word that clogs the news and is repeated everywhere in the media like a mantra: growth.

Political leaders and leaders of corporations continue to repeat everywhere the importance of having economic growth, and people often don’t realize what’s really behind this message, just because often to the word growth they associate something good.

The reality is that pursuing infinite growth -of the economy, the production, the population- on a planet with finite resources is a nonsense and dangerous. It would make more sense, in my opinion, to talk about development, but this words is never used in the media. The reason why the leaders of politics and corporations insist instead with economic growth is that growth generates taxes, and taxes pay the salary to the politicians themselves (who then re-distribute in cascade the money to the corporation “friends”), and allow them to do what they want to do.


Let your opinions be really yours

Many other techniques can be discussed, but these that I described in this short list are definitely among those that I “feel” more, and against which I consider more useful to keep the attention bar high.

It seems to me that there are evident effects of the media manipulation in many people, who have the habit to talk regurgitating someone else’s opinion, rather than talk giving voice to their own opinion.

media-manipulation-techniques-regurgitate-someone-elses-opinionsThe best method to avoid to fall in this trick, and to avoid that your opinion falls in the pre-packaged, pre-plowed furrow of the media is to apply critical thinking. Don’t believe a story simply because everyone else believes it, or because the source is an authority. Become aware that most media are constantly hunting for attention (“attention whores“), and that consequently they intentionally publish many news that generate strong reactions -rage, indignation, excitement- exactly with the goal of capturing the audience.

And always ask yourself, each time you listen to the news or read the newspaper, if the intention of the person who is spreading that news is really to show unaltered facts to inform the public… or instead his intention is to manipulate the publis, at his own advantage.


Notes:

Related: What is the “system”?, How to free yourself from the system

The function of labor

The function of labor has changed profoundly in modern times: today it’s not about producing resources anymore, but rather about controlling the access to the resources. Incredibly, it seems like many people still have not noticed it.

funzione-del-lavoro-copertinaUnproductive labor

Every day a river of employees plunges into the traffic, and then they lock themselves 8 and more hours in the office… but¬†practically they’re not producing anything. A minimal part of these workers, sure, really produces useful resources. Maybe they create innovative technological applications, or do research in the science field or nutrition field.

But unfortunately this minimal part is overshadowed, crushed by an enormous mass of employees who, in hours of fluff in front of the computers, doesn’t produce any concrete value for the society. I’ve also been part of this mass, and currently many of my relatives and friends are part of it, so I know well the feeling of “not having produced anything” and the end of a day in the office.

Why does this happen? Are the workers the cause, who are too lazy and demotivated, and who therefore in many hours of labor don’t produce anything worth noticing? Actually, just in minimal part. The main cause of the unproductivity are not the workers, but labor itself: it’s conceived bad, and even more importantly it’s not needed.

Labor is conceived bad

On the fact that the modern labor is conceived bad I’ve written already, so here I’ll be very brief.

The problem is that we insist in using a model of labor from the industrial age, obsolete, that was valid in the past, when an employee who was assigned to work at the lathe for 8 hours moving a handle, was really spending 8 hours moving the handle. But this model is still in use today, and applied to the intellectual labor, of concept, it doesn’t work. I will never repeat enough that the idea of carrying on intellectual labor for 8 and more hours a day is unrealistic.

There is the stubbornness to bind labor to the time that the worker actually spends working, like if the customers who buy a good/service would care about how many hours it was necessary to work to produce it. This bond doesn’t make a lot of sense, for a growing number of jobs. What makes sense, instead, is to bind labor to the value that is created and delivered to the customers.

Labor is not needed anymore

But there’s something even more interesting: the fact that labor is unproductive, actually, is not a problem. I know that this statement seems counterintuitive, but we need to consider that we reached a point, in history, where we don’t need to increase the production of resources, because there are already resources for everybody. As a matter of fact, there are definitely too many.

For example in terms of food. Currently we’re over 7 billion people on the planet, but we produce food to feed 12 billion. So we produce too much food and we throw it away, but we’re able anyway, in the meanwhile, to leave millions of people die of starvation (in Africa and other poor countries). The waste of the resource food has been put in numbers by a report published few years ago, that highlighted how a percentage between the 30 and 50% of the food produced on the planet never reaches a human stomach. And without consulting the numbers, we see it well in our houses and in the supermarkets: a lot of food is thrown away, too much.

And what can we say about the food for the mind? Even of this there is a lot, infinitely more than the amount that the current society seems to desire. The shelves of the libraries contain many great books, but the majority of people will not read any of these books, or at best just a handful, in an entire life. There are way more documentaries and interesting movies than those that the average person will ever watch, and the world is full of wonderful places (with natural and artistic beauties to be left breathless), but of these places the average person will see just a microscopic fraction in the span of a life.

My recent article “Rome vs Barcelona” (still unavailable in english), in fact, is born from my astonishment to realize that my city, Rome, is full of extraordinary places, and yet the majority of the people I know -many of them residing in Rome and surroundings-, has never seen them, and doesn’t even know they exist. They spend most of their time working (unproductively) and as consequence they don’t have a lot of residual time to “consume” the artistic resources of the city.

Another example is the resource house. Often there’s a discussion about the problems of those who don’t have a house, and have to live in the street, or the large families that live amassed in a couple of rooms. However it’s rarely pointed out that in the cities and in the towns there are a lot of empty houses, unused. Houses where nobody lives, and that are not even put on the market for renting by the owners.

These are few examples, but they should already make one thing evident: the truth is that today there is a disproportion between the amount of resources that the humanity has available (food, houses, art, knowledge, entertainment…), and the amount of these resources that are actually consumed: only a part is consumed, sometimes only a part which is ridiculously small.

For this reason the mantras repeated often by the politicians and the media, “we need to produce more” and “we need growth”, are a nonsense. Why should we worry about producing more, if the humanity already now has an immense patrimony of resources available, of various types, that is not used?

There’s not much sense in this river of workers that runs every day between the traffic and the office. Not only their labor is condemned from the start to be unproductive, because as I mentioned above it follows a model which is obsolete and absurd, but really it doesn’t even need to be, productive, because the humanity doesn’t need more resources.

All this labor is not useful anymore. Not to produce, at least, since the originary function of labor is over at this point.

Nevertheless people continue to work

Yes, nevertheless people continue to work, and even a lot. The big traffic snake activates every morning. The alarm, a coffee on the run, the nerves for the time spent in the traffic, and then hours and hours locked in the office, of which only a part to produce something useful, and the other part wasting time in meaningless activities. All of this should at least do “something”. All this labor should have some sort of function. And in fact it does have it.

The function has become to control the access to the resources.

funzione-del-lavoro-controllo-accesso-alle-risorseThe fact that the resources exist in great abundance, in fact, it’s definitely not a guarantee that everybody is able to access them, not at all. Today for example a lot of people cannot afford to eat healthy food, to own a house, to increase their knowledge through books and documentaries, to explore the world. And if they cannot afford it’s because there is something that is keeping them at distance: it’s exactly their job.

The job is the reason why people return in the evening tired at home, and don’t have mental energy to read a book or watch a documentary, so they end up watching the game shows on television.

The job is the reason why people don’t have time and energy to cook healthy food, which usually requires more time to be found and prepared, so they end up eating pre-packaged industrial foods, highly processed.

The job is the reason why people don’t have enough vacation days to leave their city to travel for some months around the world, so they end up having to be content of 2-3 weeks of freedom per year, in summer, in which obviously everything is more expensive: airplane tickets, hotels, entertainment of various types.

The job is the reason why people remain uninformed, too emtpied phisically and mentally in the evening to have the energy to search to alternative information to that provided by the mainstream television, and don’t see that it’s exactly the politicians and the heads of the corporations who decide that the resources have to be thrown away, rather than be made accessible to those who need them.

For example, the reason why a lot of house owners prefer to keep their properties closed and not rented, rather that putting them on the market, is that the government makes the renting not convenient. Between the high taxes and the zero support in case of infractions by the tenants, they created a system in which often is preferable to keep the resource house unused, rather than putting it on the market.

This is just one of the many modern paradoxical situations, but many workers don’t even notice these situations, because they are too absorbed by their job to wonder about the reality that surrounds them.

Keeping people busy and distracted, at this point this has become the predominant function of labor, since the old productive function is practically extinct. We arrived to a degree of development in which the essential resources, those that people concretely need (food, house, clothes, medicines and little more) are already produced by a small fraction of the world population for all the others, in great abundance, thanks to the support of the machines.

All the other workers instead, the big snake that runs every day between the traffic and the office, is dedicated to superfluous jobs, mostly unproductive, useful to auto-feed the big snake itself. From the banking industry, to the pharmaceutical industry (for the most part), to the corporations that produce processed food, to the various public offices, it’s definitely not a surprise that the workers return home in the evening and they can’t repress the feeling that they “haven’t concluded anything”: the fact is that there was nothing to conclude!

All that there was to do, actually, was to stay busy and distracted. And to achieve this their job helped brilliantly.

The advantages of unemployment

If you open your eyes, you will realize that today the people who struggle more to access the resources, those who for example struggle more to buy a house, or simply to maintain a healthy lifestyle, are exactly the people who spend more time in the big traffic snake. Those who hold their job tight as a precious, and who work a lot of hours.

To these people it’s often repeated that “working is the solution” to their problems, that by working more they will get more close to the resources that they desire. Instead, just the opposite is true: it’s exactly their working that is keeping them away from the resources. Their job is the problem. For example, it’s all those hours of work that take away from people the desire to discover what money is, how it’s produced, by who, how it works, taking them away as consequence the possibility to learn how to earn more.

Even if it’s continuously repeated everywhere, without applying any critical thinking, that “there’s the need of having a job” and that “we need to have more employment”, I think that today the entire society would have great benefits if unemployment would increase, significantly. Since a lot of labor today is unproductive and sterile, or maybe it is, productive, but produces anyway an excess of resources that is later thrown away, surely there would not be damanges if a lot of jobs would disappear.

There would be a lot of advantages instead: people would have more occasions to look around, inform themselves, to have a more complete vision of the reality they live in. They could prevent the diseases by maintaining a natural diet and a non stressful lifestyle, rather than curing the diseases after they manifest. They could tend to research, art, study. All activities, these, that would accelerate the development of the society, rather than its “growth“.

Because, it’s important to remark it, it’s from development that a society obtains well-being, not from “growth”. Infinite growth, on a planet with finite resources, doesn’t make sense. It’s just an empty slogan that the politicians repeat to carry on this system based on unproductive labor, because from its effects (the general lack of information in the population) only them, and few others who belong to corporations and media elites, get benefits.

The future belongs to unemployment

I want to try to answer to an interesting question: how will labor evolve in the future? Will people work as many hours as today?

robot-cashier-in-a-barI leave the answer to this picture, that I’ve taken recently in the airport of Barcelona. It’s one of the bars that sell beverages and sandwiches to the travelers. At the cash desk there is not only the human cashier anymore, who manages the payment by the customers. No: between the human cashier and the customer a robot stepped in, and a quite cumbersome one. So the customer doesn’t pay directly in the hands of the human cashier anymore, but he puts the money inside the robot intermediary, and from the robot itself he gets the change.

I found it amusing how the human cashier was almost buried behind the bulky robot, and I wondered how much time will pass before she will completely dissapear from there, leaving the robot alone to manage the transaction, in a completely independent way. Not much, probably.

In fact, even if the job of the cashier today is still mainly done by people, it’s quite easy to predict that in the future it will be almost exclusively done by the machines. The trend is already evident now in the supermarkets, where there is a constantly growing fraction of automatic cashiers that replace the cash counters with human operator.

For how many types of human jobs is this trend going on? A lot: essentially all the manual jobs, or those that require just a minimal logic ability, like accounting. For other jobs instead the shift still has to start. In the construction sector, for example, the buildings are still built with a lot of labor by the human workers, but it’s not difficult to imagine that soon also this job will disappear, and that the buildings will be “printed” with technologies like the 3D printers.

In the past we’ve seen the progressive extinction of a lot of human jobs, at a continuous rate, and I think that this rate will continue naturally in the future. The jobs that more rapidly will disappear will be the manual ones, while those with the highest chances of surviving will be the creative and artistic jobs, in which the human has the edge over the machines. And it’s exactly in this types of jobs that what counts is the value: the ideas, the intuition, the inspiration, the passion. All things that have little to do with the hours spent inside an office.

Even if a lot of people who have non creative jobs tend to be scared of change, opposing to the idea that their labor is not needed anymore (because the machines do it more efficiently and productively), the increase of unemployment is natural and physiological. It makes perfect sense that in the future people will work a lot less hours per week than what they do now.

A future scenario, toward which we can head, is one where more than now the machines will take care of producing the essential resources for people, while people will concentrate on activites aimed at development, like art, science and research. A scenario where the bound labor-income is very weak, and in which obviously those who will want to, will work a lot of hours per week, but they will do it for the passion, and not because forced by the financial system.

We are already heading toward this scenario, but in an incredibly painful way, at the expense of the enormous stress that many workers immersed in the traffic snake feel every day, and at the expense of their not being able to access the resources because they’re too busy working (unproductively) to access them.

Understanding that all this labor, at this point, has almost exclusively the function of social control, of regulating the access to resources that already exist in great abundance, is an essential step to facilitate the journey. Having read this article should have helped you taking it.


Note: The study mentioned about the waste of food is “Global food – Waste not, want not” by imeche.org.

Related: How to earn money without working, How to free yourself from the system

Important things I learned

These are some of the most important things that (I think) I learned, or that I am in the process of learning, in these last years of my life.

Spirituality

‚óŹ The enormous power of the words thank you.

‚óŹ The concept of consciousness. That there are different levels of consciousness at which people can live. That also music, movies, art, objects have their level of consciousness.

‚óŹ It’s not consciousness that is created by matter, but exactly the opposite: matter is created by consciousness.

‚óŹ Atheism has a fixed point of view, rather sterile. After graduating from the religious non-sense, a further graduation from atheism is possible, and necessary, to progress in the path of spiritual evolution.

‚óŹ Chronic skepticism is a very counterproductive attitude. I used to be a chronic skeptic before, not believing “in anything”. These days I prefer to keep chronic skeptics at distance.

‚óŹ I learned some great lessons from Eckhart Tolle’s books, in particular these three:

  • what being present means, the idea of being here and now. And I realized that only a fraction of the thoughts that flow in my mind are useful. The rest are useless, repetitive, distracting noise.
  • what the ego is. I realized that I do have an ego, and a terribly difficult one to tame.
  • the mechanism of drama that drives many human relationships. Most people tend to create unnecessary and avoidable drama, to feed a little “beast” they have inside, a beast that feeds on negative emotions.

Of these three concepts, I think I understand well the theory behind the first two, but I still suck at turning the theory into practice. There are still more unobserved thoughts and more pretense in me than I would like to have. With drama, instead, I think I do well both with theory and practice. I’ve never been a big drama queen.

‚óŹ The best rule to apply with people who are trying to start drama is: do not engage. Let them scream, gesticulate, cry, while staying absolutely calm, composed, in silence, just replying things like “yes, you’re right”, until they turn off.

‚óŹ Life is about finding balance in the middle of two types of awareness:

  • that we, human beings, have an enormous power and control over our lives, and we are able to realize wonderful, huge, sensational things.
  • that there are things in our lives that we don’t control at all, and those things could destroy everything we built, in any moment.

The trick is to recognize that both are true, but then decide to have faith, and work hard to realize the wonderful things.

‚óŹ Healing doesn’t correspond to feeling relaxed and comfortable all the time. Healing, usually, happens through pain and struggle.

‚óŹ The law of attraction makes great sense, however it seems like many people don’t get the part attraction of it. After believing that something will happen, it is necessary to work -usually hard- to make it happen.

‚óŹ Every person can be a hero. Even if most people today consider courage as a trait reserved for movie characters only, everyone can cultivate courage and apply it to real life, this life.

‚óŹ Life tries to “talk” to us constantly, and tries to teach us lessons all of the time. The people we meet, the events that happen around us, they usually carry a message for us. We must stay receptive, like an antenna, to get the message.

‚óŹ Dreams deserve much more attention than they’re commonly given: “normal” dreams that we have during sleep, lucid dreams in which we can manipulate the environment -they are a lot of fun-, and also daydreams. It is true that, as I read somewhere, dreams are not meant to make us sleep, but to make us wake up.

‚óŹ Jesus Christ, probably, never existed as an historical figure. He is a fictional character that was invented by the ancient Romans, as a tool of propaganda to dominate the Jews of their times. I heard about this theory in the documentary “Caesar’s Messiah”, and I consider it not only very credible, but also a super huge revelation!

Love

‚óŹ Love is much bigger than just romantic love, the “couple relationship” type of love that is extensively depicted in movies and books. That is just a part, but there’s also the love for friends, family, strangers, animals, plants, art, work, life.

‚óŹ Jealousy doesn’t make sense. It’s basically a consequence of mistakenly assuming that the couple relationship type of love is all the love there is.

‚óŹ If there is a meaning of life, it is love. At the end of the story, what really matters is the love we gave, and the love we received.

Myself

‚óŹ The most important and difficult challenge in my life is learning to manage my emotions. I am aware now that if I want to succeed at achieving my biggest goals, this is a necessary skill to master. I have no other way.

‚óŹ I won’t make meaningful progress in life by learning a lot of new notions. I will make it, instead, by learning some specific notions, and by cultivating virtues like courage, honesty and discipline.

‚óŹ Practicing introspection, to discover what’s inside myself, is very difficult and painful. It’s also the most exciting adventure. And it’s sort of weird: I research, I study, I make efforts, all this without even knowing what it is that I am searching for. But I have a strong feeling that I have to continue digging.

‚óŹ The inputs that I feed myself with (movies, books, music) impact directly the way I think, and the way I feel. As obvious as it seems now, I wasn’t aware about this connection some years ago. These days, I consciously avoid watching horror movies, or reading books about killers and psychopaths, for example. I prefer to feed my mind with happy topics.

‚óŹ There are so many things that I don’t know. But the more new things I discover, the more grows in me a sense that there are others to discover…

People

‚óŹ Having original thoughts is extremely rare. Most thoughts that circulate in people’s minds are someone else’s thoughts.

‚óŹ A lot of people, when they talk, simply regurgitate what they have been taught as kids. They do this over and over, their entire life, without ever applying some critical thinking to decide if those teachings made sense or not.

‚óŹ Just because someone speaks louder, or has a microphone in his hands, doesn’t mean that he deserves more attention.

‚óŹ There’s a huge difference between education and wisdom. Many of the people I know are fairly well educated, but very few of them are wise.

‚óŹ The world is full of corruption, hate, dishonesty, and still in the middle of this mess there are some people with super beautiful souls. They are so precious that they are worth the quest.

‚óŹ It’s a great skill to be able to talk, and act, without being driven by emotions. And it’s important to recognize when other people, especially those who are close, like family and friends, give advice that is dictated by their fears and insecurities, so to discard it.

‚óŹ Many people never change. As much as they’re exposed to clear, useful information that they could use to solve their problems, they will ignore that information and keep on struggling with the same problems, over and over, for their entire life. It’s better not to lose time insisting in helping them, but to focus instead on those who are ready to accept solutions.

‚óŹ The best way to deal with depressed people is to stay away from them. Happiness is a choice, and most depressed people simply choose to be unhappy.

‚óŹ There are things that the masses do, but no matter how many people do them: they still make absolutely no sense, so there’s no need to join them. Two great examples in this category are:

  • turning to politics to have the problems of the society fixed.
  • working at jobs where time is traded for money.

Money

‚óŹ Money is an exciting topic, and not boring as I used to think. Money is very useful to understand people’s emotions, especially fear.

‚óŹ Money is ultimately just a mental construct.

‚óŹ Money favors those who produce and control it (banks and governments) and enslave those who have to use it (citizens).

‚óŹ Having a regular job is not the only honest way to earn money, passive income systems are another option, and a much smarter one under many points of view.

‚óŹ Economy and finance are two very different things. Economy is more about people, how they behave in the market to meet their desires. It’s a much more concrete, useful topic to study. Finance instead is about paper money, banks, graphs, titles: these things are part of a circus that adds no value to the life of people.

‚óŹ Making the transition from employee to entrepreneur requires a huge shift in the mindset. An entrepreneur needs very different skills: for example it’s necessary to understand more the psychology of people.

‚óŹ Understanding the law of supply and demand is super useful, and not just for an entrepreneur who runs a business, but for everybody, because it applies to many situations in daily life.

‚óŹ You can’t do the right things, if you’re in the wrong place. For example, even if you work hard, diligently and efficiently, but you’re providing your labor to institutions that produce zero (or negative) value for the society -like banking corporations or cigarette producers- then you’re illuding yourself that you’re “doing a good job”.

‚óŹ I think I understand money enough, now, to be able to become very wealthy if I want, in a honest way, and without even working too much. However, I haven’t decided yet if this is really what I want. Lots of money would allow me to develop some beautiful projects on a big scale (like building hospitals, schools, educational media), but on the other hand, it would inevitably attract the attention of the government. And I’m not sure I want to spend my time dealing with such a gigantic and predatory structure. I need to reflect more about this.

‚óŹ One of the craziest things of the modern world is that most people spend an entire life working for money, without even understanding what the working is for. They never take some time to learn how money is produced, by who, how it works.

‚óŹ Few things will put you in an uncommon position as becoming financially free. While everyone around talks, acts and moves driven by the desire of making money, you’re part of a very tiny minority that focuses on other topics.

Health

‚óŹ Having a healthy diet requires essentially two things:

  • developing a knowledge about nutrition (in particular understanding the concept of density of nutrients of foods).
  • discipline.

‚óŹ Products based on refined flour (like pasta and bread) are almost as unhealthy as white sugar. It doens’t make sense, as I was doing until some years ago, to avoid sugar as a fundamentalist, but then splurge on pasta and bread everyday.

‚óŹ If there is one food that I always have to stay alert not to eat, it’s burnt food. The black spots under the pizza, toasted bread, and grilled meat are loaded with a disastrous amount of toxins.

‚óŹ Most of the honey sold in the stores is as bad as white sugar, because it’s pastorized, heated at high temperature, that’s what makes it as transparent and fluid as syrup. Raw honey is the way to go.

‚óŹ Dairy products with reduced amounts of fat, or completely fat-free, are actually less healthy than their whole counterparts. The fat in milk, yogurt and cheese is useful to digest fat-soluble vitamins. So it’s better to eat these foods whole.

‚óŹ Diet impacts the overall health, and also the body figure, more than exercise does.

‚óŹ Exercise is useful, but too much of it can stress the body and worn it out. I used to go to the gym 3/4 times per week, these days I prefer to go a couple times and pay more attention to the way I eat, instead.

‚óŹ Despite being super popular, jogging is actually not so healthy. When a person jogs, tissues and organs of the body jump up and down, up and down, up and down, and that’s quite stressing, and pro-aging, for the organism. It’s much healthier in the long run to prefer activities like moderate weight lifting, yoga, gymnastics.


Notes: I expect that these insights will be valid for many years to come, so I wrote this post as a reminder for myself, with some useful indications to follow in the future. It will also be interesting to see if I’ll change my mind about some of them, and if I will feel like adding more.

What is the utility of the bank?

Probably you are used to the presence of the banks in the society. And you are used to bring the money you earn to a bank. To withdraw the banknotes from the cash machines of the bank. To ask them for a loan, if you have to buy a house.

In short, you see it since forever… you use it since forever… but did you ever ask yourself exactly what is a bank? And what is its utility? Today I try to explain it to you, casting a new light on its nature and making you understand why, actually, the bank represents mostly a problem for the modern society.

a-cosa-serve-la-banca-copertinaFor some aspects, nothing special

For some aspects, a bank is a commercial activity similar to all the others, in fact it’s a company that works with the purpose of making money.

From this point of view, it is perfectly identical to the butcher, the barber, the bar in the neighborhood. In the morning the employees of the bank wake up, executive, cashier, financial advisor, and they go to the office to give their labor contribution to make the bank earn more money, in change of a salary.

For one aspect, slightly special

But a bank often doesn’t have only one office, it has many offices, in different cities and often also in different nations. In fact it’s a corporation, a huge company, tentacular. And this is already a first remarkable difference with the little shop of the butcher.

But so far there’s not even anything too strange: there are a lot of corporations in the modern globalized world. For example, in addition to the banking corporations there are other types: food corporations (eg. mcdonalds, ferrero), fashion corporations (eg. versace, dolce e gabbana), consultancy corporations (eg. accenture, ibm), technology corporations (eg. apple, samsung).

For one aspect, SUPER SPECIAL

But there is one characteristic that makes the bank unique, absolutely unique.

All the other activities, from the little shop to the big non-banking corporations, earn money because they provide goods or services in return. The butcher provides meat. The barber provides the haircut service. The fashion corporation provides clothes. The supermarket provides food. The bar provides coffee. And so on.

What does the bank provide? The answer is: a gigantic nothing. The banking activity is the only one in which money is earned without providing any good or service in return. All the bank does is moving money. So the bank earns money… to move money! If you think about it it’s a very weird characteristic, that surely no other company in the world has.

It’s weird, in fact, that while all the other commercial activities revolve around “something” (meat, shoes, clothes…) with the desire of earning money, the banking activity revolves exactly around money, with the desire of earning money. It is very close to this object, for the very own nature of its activity.

This proximity gave birth to some really interesting situations.

They earn money with your money

A first interesting situation is the fact that the banking corporations have become so powerful, with time, that they influenced the approval of laws that give them huge advantages. These laws would probably be considered “scandalous” if made for any other commercial activity… that is not the banking one.

A notable example is the fractional reserve, i.e. the bank has the duty of maintaining in its office only a small fraction of the money you deposit, they can use all the rest the way they like: making loans to other people (earning money on it) and do speculations of all types.

The bank puts in circulation money that is not theirs to earn money, and this is the reason why, if you go to the bank and ask to withdraw 10.000 of your dollars from your account, two things happen.

First: you have to reserve them. The reason is simply that they don’t have that money in the office. Second: they’ll make up a lot of stories when they receive a request of this type. The reason is that, for them, that amount is worth much more than it is worth for you: by making loans with that money n times, since often after each loan the money comes back in the bank deposited by someone else, they can “magically” multiply the amount.

Paper money

Another interestinf fact is that the central object of the banking business, i.e. the money itself, it’s been transformed with time. For the worse.

Some time ago, the bank had some duties regarding money, meaning that they could only put in circulation banknotes if they had a corrispondence in gold in their safes. Let’s say that they could issue a banknote of 100 only if they really had 100 pieces of gold in their safes.

Now, this duty has been eliminated: money has become fiat, meaning that it doesn’t have any bond with gold anymore. The bank issues big quantities of banknotes, without having in their safes gold that actually covers those banknotes. This means that the banknotes are really just some pieces of paper, and their values is based now just on the reputation. A reputation that exists only until there is the ignorance, in the masses, of what money really is.

I want to clarify why it is important, in a negative way, that the banks got rid of the duty to own gold that corresponds to the banknotes they issue.

Gold is very different from the paper banknotes. Gold has intrinsic value, meaning that it has physical characteristics that make it perfect for medical, technological, industrial applications. Real life applications, that can improve people’s life. Instead, with paper you can’t do much more than lighting up a fire.

But gold is limited in the world: there is a certain amount and not more, and extracting it is also complicated. Paper instead is very easy to produce. So the move with which the banks got rid of the obligation to issue banknotes only if covered by the gold that they own, gave them the opportunity to create wealth for themselves… based on nothing.

More powerful than governments

A second situation is that with time the banks have become even more powerful than the governments of the nations. This is valid also for other types of corporations today, but the banks are definitely first in line.

The situation evolved in a way that today many heads of the governments, when they have to take decisions, almost always have to consult the bankers. Even more: often they have to ask permission to the bankers… and sometimes they even have to obey to the bankers.

When you hear in the news that the debt grows constantly (did you ever hear that the debt is diminishing?), the creditor of that debt are the banks. The reason is that these pieces of paper that we use to pay stuff, they print it and they lend it to the government, and the government commits to return it in the future with the interests.

But… how will the government pay the interests, if money is printed by the banks only, and it only has the money it borrowed previously? Simple: it will ask to more money to borrow, making other debt, always more debt. Debt that can’t ever be repaid.

This is the reason why it’s said, maybe you heard this already, that “money is debt”. They’re the same thing. Take a banknote in your hand and look at it. That banknote has been lent by the banks to your government, with the agreement that your government, one day, will give back as much as it’s written on the banknote… more the interests.

The bank doesn’t produce anything

I want to repeat and remark the central message of this article: the bank doesn’t produce any useful value for the society. At best, it can be defined as a freeloader that makes money thanks to the job of other people, a parasite. What people really need is food, clothes, medicine, technology, culture, art, and not a circus that make useless paper spin around.

The most humble workers, like the shoe repairer, or the farmer who grows potatoes, they produce an immense value for the society compared to that of the bank, whose concrete action is just to move money around.

Do you work in a bank?

Every morning millions of people in the world wake up, jump in the car and go to work for a bank. Lines at the bank offices, computers munching data, executives doing meeting, it would be nice to have an animation that could show daily how much motion is produced by the banking system in the globe. To realize, indeed, how much energy is sucked by this industry that produces the galactic nothing, apart from moving money. It would be comic and tragic at the same time.

Now, and if you’re inside this industry? And if you’re an employee who works at a branch? What if you’re an accountant? Or you’re the head of a branch? Or you’re a super-head of the european central bank? Or you even come from a family of bankers?

In this case I would say that there are two possibilities.

The first is that you’re in that place because you are unaware of the real nature of the company you’re working for every day (or at least you were before reading this). This unawareness is very frequent at the “lowest” levels of the chain, but I am sure that also many executives work for a bank without being fully aware of what is the real meaning of the company they work for.

I’ve been part of this group. I found myself working for a bank in the past. Actually as an external consultant, for few years, and in the technologic sector, but I’ve been definitely a small active part of this industry.

Those were the years when I understood what “bank” means, and that comprehension has been for me one of the strongest motivations to leave that job. I like to think that I can give, with my job, a contribution to make the world a better place, to help others, to produce something that can have a true impact of the life of people.

The idea of using my time -and my labor talent- in a circus that makes useless paper spin around is really depressing for me. I like what the professor of dead poet society says: life is a big poem, in which each of us has the chance of adding a verse. I surely don’t want that my verse is to have spent 40 years manipulating useless pieces of paper. Today I can imagine a million other ways to give more value to the society than I would do working in a bank. An example is providing education, writing articles like this.

The second possibility is that you live in denial. You know how the banking system really works, but you silence every voice that tells you that you’re contributing, with your work, to a futile cause.

The resources that your bank uses could be used to create concrete wellbeing, to make people happy, rather than load them with debt? You prefer not to think about it. You put your tie on and go to work without asking yourself too many questions. Similarly to those paople who eat meat produced industrially, when you ask them “but do you know how that is produced?” they reply “oh I don’t want to know, otherwise I will end up eating nothing”. Blue pill.

What is the adtantage of knowing this?

I want to clarify one thing: the people who understand how the banking system works and what is the utility of the banks (a big nothing) are a minority today, and will be minority still for quite a while. The majority of people are still unable to understand this mechanism, or they’re not interested in understanding it.

If you, instead, are among those who have reached this comprehension, and I hope I have given a little contribution, then in what position are you?

Well, you continue to play in a world where the bank is part of the rules. It’s unlikely that you will be able to do anything without entering in contact with the bank. The job salary is sent directly to the bank. You have to make bank cheques to buy a house. Everybody keeps on considering paper banknotes valuable objects, so they will ask you for them in return for any good or service.

But you can do several things. First, if like me you think that the meaning of life is to give to the world your unique and wonderful talents, you will stop employing these talents in a bank, if you work there.

Some time ago I watched an interview to some personality, I don’t remember who it was, who was asked “what would you do if you’d be elected president of the Federal Reserve?” and replied “I would shut it down”. I thought it was a great answer, because it’s exactly what I would do if I’d be put in command of such a mega-banking association.

Other thing, you can stop subsidizing this useless circus with your savings. Aware that the entire world sits on a giant paper ball that could burn in any moment, you can turn your savings into commodities (like gold and silver) that preserve their value with time, rather than keep on focusing on modern money that loses value gradually, every day, because its value depends on the decisions of the government and the banks.

Understanding how volatile the value of money is will free you from an enormous distraction. It will make you assign more value to other things, for example your time. It will help you understand that the indoctrination that you received since you were a kid, telling you that money is so important, is just an indoctrination. As soon as you reassign the proper importance to your time, you can use it in activities that make life more enjoyable and adventurous. And this looks like a big advantage to me.

Useful readings

To better understand the banking system I recomment two great books: the real story of money, health and religion by Loren Howe and you can profit from a monetary crisis by Harry Browne, that contains very intelligent advice on how to manage your savings. In the first book, instead, there’s a famous quotation that I write here too:

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. -Henry Ford-

It says a lot. A lot!


Notes: Translated from the corresponding article written in Italian, published in this blog on September 12, 2014.

Related: What is the “system”?, Inside an intensive pig farm