I think that insights have the power to change the way we think and ultimately our lives. So I’ve decided to share some of my insights every month! Here are 3 insights I learned or I thought about in September.
Insight #1: “Information doesn’t deserve to be free.” – Jaron Lanier 1
This is one of the most important, eye-opening and life-changing ideas I’ve heard recently. Lanier, who is a VR pioneer, argued that information should not be free. I never thought about this before, but now that I understand his perspective, I can only agree with him.
Think about this. Do you read free articles on the Internet? Do you listen to free music on YouTube? And do you look at pictures on Instagram for free? So do I. And I bet you like having access to information for free – just like I do.
But do you know what this means? If you and me read articles for free, this means that bloggers don’t get paid for their doing research and writing. If we listen to music for free, musicians can’t make money from their talents and skills. If we look at pictures for free, photographers and social media content creators can’t make money from taking pictures, editing them and sharing these pictures and their thoughts online.1
The thing is that in order for people to make money online, they need to go beyond using their skills. They are left with few options which are often not even ethical or desirable. They can make money from advertising (which means that you see ads for things you don’t need and can’t stop seeing) or from creating different products that people don’t really need.
If we would start paying for the work that people put in and that we actually want to see, we would not longer be forced to see ads we don’t like, content creators will no longer have to promote products they do not even like or care about or create courses or products just to make money. I, for one, know that I would love to live in a world where content creators are paid for their skills, their work and their products, not just for selling out or end up not making money.
What you can do
If you also realize that this is a problem, there are a few things you can do. Here are some suggestions:
- If you follow a certain content creator that does quality work, support him/her. Buy their products (if they are good products) or repay them in some way (through Patreon or tell more people about them).
- If you see content creators that are selling out (promoting products they never use just for money and are always praising a new product), tell them. Make them aware that they are turning from a content creator into a salesperson.
- Pay for the products you want to use. Sometimes, you can illegally download content you should pay for. Do not do this since this is illegal. If you want to watch a movie or read a book, pay for it.
- Support websites, services or platforms that have this model of paying for your content. Some examples are Medium, Netflix, Audible and so on. Whenever you find a platform where some of the money you pay goes back to the content creator, be glad to pay for that.
- If you are following people online who are trying to make money ethically by creating quality courses, writing great books or offering great services, praise them and tell others about them. If we want to have more content creators (or influencers) that do a good job, are responsible, ethical and have a positive impact, we need to talk about them and make them known.
- Here’s the most important thing you can do: ask yourself how you would want people to treat your work. If you wrote a book, would you want to be paid for it? Then buy that book you want to read. It’s as simple as that.
I think we need to value people’s work and creativity much more than we do. And we need to do that especially when people take their work seriously and use hours and hours to create content the best way they can.
Insight #2: Hacking human decision-making will not only make Big Data algorithms more reliable, it will simultaneously make human feelings less reliable. – Yuval Noah Harari 2
In his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Harari warns us about the dangerous situations humanity could face in a few decades. According to him, as algorithms gather more data and become smarter, they will come to understand humans better and better.
Since people do not know themselves very well, he argues, it’s easy to imagine that in the future such algorithms will know us better than we know ourselves.2 At that point, it will be fairly easy for that algorithm to take better decisions for ourselves than we would.2 However, it will also know how to influence us, maybe without our knowledge.
The problem with this scenario is that such a future would change what it means to be human.2 How will we relate to our own thoughts, our feelings and our desires when we can no longer rely on them? What will happen to our plans? Will we ever listen to our instincts or desires? Or will we surrender all our power to an alleged all-knowing AI? Will we come to the point where we will treat those algorithms as an all-knowing God and ask it to tell us who to marry, what profession to choose and what to live for? Or will we surrender to such artificial intelligence without even realizing it?
Given the point in history where we find ourselves, I think that this is a possible scenario. However, it’s not one I am looking forward to. If like me, you are worried of the effect this would have on ourselves, on our societies and on humanity, I think it’s important to know about the power of AI.
What you can do
- Educate yourself on this topic. Learn more about AI by reading articles, books and watching videos. Harari’s book is a good start on this topic. Even though we can never understand AI as the people who develop it, we should not be ignorant about this.
- Listen to all sides. When it comes to AI, people have different views and reactions. Some are almost fanatics and can’t wait to see the day when we will all upload the information in all our brains online and connect them to create the Singularity. Others think that AI should be regulated and we should be careful about developing AI since it could destroy humanity. I think we should listen to different perspectives since the truth is often found in all of them.
- Try to keep your humanity. Lanier also discussed this in his book “You are not a gadget”. He thinks that technology is making us less human and we should fight against that.1 What we can do is try to limit the time we spend on devices such as computers and cell phones. We can rely more on ourselves than on technology.
Insight #3: If I had to pay for every piece of content I consume, my life would be much better. – Paula Ghete
As I kept thinking about Jaron Lanier’s perspective about free content, I asked myself this: what would change if I had to pay for every piece of content I consume? And I realized that this would make me much more careful and selective of how I spend my time and money.
For example, sometimes when I have a bad day, I may spend an hour scrolling through Instagram and looking at pictures I don’t really like of people I do not care about. It’s definitely not productive or enjoyable. If anything, it’s a self-destructive way to waste my time. But it’s easy, convenient and free.
However, if I had to pay for every picture I look at on Instagram, I would never do this again. If I had to pay, I would definitely not pay any money to see some immature girl who thinks she’s important posting pictures of herself in weird outfits and branding that as “fashion”. I wouldn’t pay to see the same useless “motivational” quotes or the same travel pictures with the same meaningless caption about personal development. But now they are free and they always make their way to my feed.
If I had to pay for every post, every picture and every video, I would be much more careful about the content I consume. I would definitely consume less and better quality content. So my life would only benefit from this.
And now, as I am thinking about this, I am a bit angry at myself that I am not already as selective with my time and attention as wish to be. But then I remember that all these apps and websites are designed to hook me and you and make us spend as much time on their platforms – regardless of how we feel. Basically, they are using, abusing and exploiting us and we allow them – because it’s easy and occasionally nice.
What you can do
- If you resonated with something I said, try to be more mindful of the way you spend your time online. Track how much time you spend online every day. If you have never done this before, you may be shocked by how much time you are often wasting on these platforms.
- Pay attention to the type of content you consume. Occasionally ask yourself: do I really want to look at this? Would I be willing to pay for this article/ Instagram post/ YouTube video? If the answer is no, it means that this content is not really valuable to you.
- Try to unfollow certain people or stop using certain apps or websites for a while. Do you miss anything or anyone? If you don’t notice nay difference, it means that following them or using that app was just a waste of time.
- Remember that time is the most valuable thing you have. You can never gain more. Don’t give it away so easily and freely.
These are some of the insights that I found really valuable and potentially life-changing. I do not know if you ever thought about these ideas, but these are the type of ideas that are definitely worth sharing. Let me know what you think of them!
- You are not a gadget, Jaron Lanier
- 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari