Friday, October 25, 2013

Knowledge is the Currency of the Future: time to show how much you’re worth

I am not a mean person. Shit, I’m not even unpleasant. I do my best to find the best in everybody, find something that they are passionate about, find something I can learn from them. To that end, I love meeting people. All kinds of people. I love talking to everybody I know.

Except for one person.

This is a person who I have done my best to cut completely out of my life. When I see him, I don’t acknowledge his presence. When he speaks to me, I keep my responses short and curt. I don’t engage with him on any level, for any reason, and I can honestly say that I don’t care on whit about him. All of this because he’s a compulsive liar.

I sometimes feel that my treatment of him is unfair, even cruel. But one of the most important lessons I learned growing up is that who you associate with is a choice, and your friends can reflect back on you without your even realising it. So I made the decision that I don’t want somebody in my life who I know will lie to me for no reason.

This is because I am, forgive my lack of humility, very smart. I recognise patterns that are invisible to others, I learn things quickly, and I just know a shitton of random bullshit. And one thing I am certain of is that knowledge is the most powerful resource in the modern world.

Asymmetrical knowledge gives a trader on the stock market the ability to make millions of dollars in seconds. That’s why there are rules against insider trading: it makes the game ridiculously unfair. Or think of the “classically” prestigious professions of doctors and lawyers. They both have to go to school for a long ass time because they need to know a lot of things, basically all the time. I don’t know limbs from the limbic system, so I’m grateful that there are people who are willing to go through the arduous process of learning all the little bits and pieces of my body so when i start leaking blood they know where to put the plug (that’s how medicine works, right?)

Knowledge has absolutely paved the way to where we are today. If you, dear reader, have not yet read about how Jeff Bezos quit his job at a hedge fund to sell shit on the internet, please do so. The gist of the story is he knew the internet was growing incredibly quickly, and he made a smart bet that it would keep growing.

And here we are today, with many tech startups offering web services to a variety of clientèle, and some of the fastest-growing spaces involving lowering the barrier for entry to the internet. Knowledge gave Bezos enormous power, and facts continue to propel the new, digital world.

One needs only to read of the trials of some of these startups to realise the power and value of data-driven techniques. I’ll point you towards this excellent post by Alex Turnbull, the founder of Groove, to illuminate what a data-driven approach means. In this approach, the facts are the most important part of the iterative process. Not whose idea it was, not necessarily what others are doing, but does the applied method get results. And this pattern repeats everywhere; Jezos’s is notoriously data-driven, and it’s seemed to work out pretty well for them so far.


If knowledge is power in the digital age, the next most important element of success is honesty. If you have data that’s painting a clear picture but you ignore it, you’re being dishonest and you will suffer. Enron execs were able to lie to their investors to make short-term stock profits, but when a mountain of bullshit collapses it has catastrophic effects for those unlucky enough to get caught up in the lie-lined casket.

Corporate lies are one thing, but you’d be a fool to not understand that these struggles are repeated in miniature with interpersonal relationships. It’s easy to spot a failed relationship when the partners no longer feel like they are able to be honest with one each other. Toxicity between people I feel can be measured exactly in the amount of dishonesty that exists between people.

There is, of course, a line, faint and wavering though it may be. If you walk up to somebody on a bus and tell them that they’re wearing the ugliest hat you’ve ever seen, you are an asshole because, even though you’re being completely honest, that didn’t need to be said. The person is unlikely to thank you for pointing out how atrocious their headgear is; more than likely they are wearing it because they like it. If your honesty isn’t helping, it could very well be hurting.

Still, I wish we lived in a world where people’s honest opinions were valued above the personal ego. I wish we lived in a world where I could tell people exactly what I was feeling all the time. I wish we lived in a world where I could know exactly what others thought of me, because I’m certain there are aspects of my life where I am lacking simply because nobody has pointed out to me that I’m doing something silly.

But that is not the age we live in. We’re lucky if we can get one person with whom we can be completely open and honest, let alone everybody we know. And yet, we are not totally powerless. We have the power to choose the person who we are, and we have the power to choose who we spend our time with.

So for you, dear reader, I am trying to do my best to be as honest as I can without harming myself or others. I want people to know my experiences, to listen to what I have deduced in the life I’ve lived so far. I wish I had more to offer the world at this moment, but the best I can do is to share my well-formed thoughts, opinions, theories, and the things I know to be true. I’ve never regretted giving up a lie, so I‘ve no qualms about surrendering the essence of my being in a text-based bottle to the sea of information.

I would be overstepping my bounds to ask you to like me; you are going to like what you’re going to like. But I hope that you can learn. I hope that something I say resonates as true. I hope you appreciate honesty. I hope you desire to always be honest. Because honestly, I fucking hate liars. Fuck ‘em.

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