The Tragedy of the Commons and Decentralization

The post yesterday wasn’t up to the mark. Unfortunately, I feel like I was probably under the influence when I wrote it. The truth is that I was not. That would be a romantic idea of how a blog or book could be written. The fact is that I was just under the influence of the noise that there exists because of the world around me.

What should be the public policy to regulate the dissemination of information? In my opinion, the answer to that question can come either from an expert or simply a person who is observant about the world around them. However one needs to be mindful of all the factors and drivers of such a decision. This is the question about a policy for a policy. As someone recently told me it’s not a unitary or binarily dimensioned problem but rather a multidimensional problem. That is a very accurate description of many challenges that need to be solved in the world today. Identification of those factors that make the problem multidimensional should be step one of problem-solving. That also means defining the problem so that it could be understood by someone not familiar with the subject. This is almost thinking like a consultant. Perhaps a part of me is happy about this realization.

The topic in question is ‘the dissemination of information.’ The first question that comes to mind is dissemination to whom? Is it the people of the nation, is it the people in authority who may or may not have a certain political affiliation (‘always‘ would be the answer to that wonderment). Dissemination for the purposes of my examination here will be the spread of information to the common public. Even within the common public, it is specifically that part of the population that lacks a sense of determination. I particularly call it determination because not only does that take some sort of fortitude but also a sense and skill of separating what needs to be evaluated from what doesn’t. In some sections of the audience reading this that specification could be applied in a meta way on this topic and one could almost apply that filter to the very question that I raised.

In order to understand public policy one almost needs to understand what impact certain regulations or laws can potentially have on the public. If not in a prolonged sense of time at least in the near future. That understanding in itself needs the discernment of people and systems. Interactions of these drivers and an understanding of those drivers independently. Maybe not an exhaustive understanding of Jungian and Freudian psychology but just what drives people to behave a certain way. The outcomes that people desire are another topic of consideration.

I am afraid to introduce any topic in most discussions because I find that people lack a basic understanding of most things. This of course seems very egoistic of me but here I will also admit that there are others with whom I would very much engage in such debate very willingly as well. Most of the people that I pull into a debate wither away at the slightest thought of what it would mean if they were wrong about the position they hold. I, on the other hand, enter into conversations with the utmost confidence in my abilities to derive a conclusion from a given set of facts. My position might be incorrect due to the number of facts that I have taken into consideration but that understanding can always be updated and I am conscious of that result. Drawing conclusions is not the hard part for me. Neither is the emotional turmoil of being caught on the ‘wrong’ side of the debate.

So how does all this relate to the dissemination of information? I many times have experienced people failing to draw conclusions from a given set of facts. It is not the failure of their awareness but the failure to be curious or draw conclusions once those facts come to light during a conversation. This leaves me with a sense of concern about people deriving accurate conclusions from the information when presented to them. This concern was raised out of something that is now also a promise of the decentralization movement. The decentralization of information, technology, and resources among other things. However, I think it’s a valid question to ask – Is decentralization of information a good thing or bad when one is aware about ‘the tragedy of the commons’. A resource of any type gets optimized for individual consumption when released to the commons. This conversation will continue, perhaps for a few more units of measurable time in my head, at the very least.

I didn’t see it always, I strived to and now I suffer

I do not know his life story but I have heard about some of his life challenges. I appreciate his sensibilities and the way he struggles with his perceptions about the world. Recently he even grappled with the question of quitting his religion. He grappled with it and then made a decision. Perhaps the reason for all this happening is technology, yes, I’m convinced that it was the interconnectedness of the world brought about by technology was a reason for this to have happened. At first, primitive technology taught us that it was rather nonsensical to attribute to a god with a hammer what we could to electrons being accumulated within clouds. Modern technology now allows us to see the struggle of a people in a country on the opposite side of this planet we call Earth. In the face of such realities how could one call their tribe a tribe when they know that there are others out there struggling with the same tribulations as you have for all, if not most, of your life. Those struggles are not common to your tribe, they are the common story everywhere on this planet.

X could not care more about the policies of a government in a developing nation but he has served and he knows how policy influences the future of a country. If not the future of his own, the future of the country where military is deployed. Yet, his recent realizations also tear him apart in his conscience. This constant internal conflict occupies some amount of bandwidth but there is a limit to how much X can think about these things. One cannot just get up and leave their life. They have a life, responsibilities and expectations and want to work towards those expectations. When is the anguish enough that it causes X to leave and say enough is enough? The human experience can endure very well. If there is one thing we have evolved to do it is endure. So, X does not simply get up and walk away. They do not book a flight to a far isolated land to learn about the culture and the challenges of the people. There is too much at risk. They endure this conflict because there is too much at risk to take action. “Risk”.

Y is living the life he constructed consciously. In another universe he could have gotten dragged into the machinery of churning out experts but he didn’t and he resisted. Y chose a path where he would choose his own challenges because he thought and grew up to be a critical thinker. At the same time, he also chose to immerse himself in “life”. Perhaps that is the meaning of life. Understand the intricacies yet completely losing yourself in everything that comes your way on a day to day basis. If that means getting drunk every Friday perhaps that is what it means at the cost of liberating your organs from the dreary habit and ongoings of life. For others, optimization of those very organs could mean losing yourself in life but for Y this is not a factor. He has seen his loved ones perish due to causes what he later will realize are trivial at the global scale. But he did not choose that path to optimize himself. He loses himself in life in different ways. The material comforts and the chase of pursuits, maybe not wholeheartedly, justifies his zeal for existence. He sees the challenges on the other side as well and unlike X, who would spend more time optimizing his tax returns, he chooses to learn more about the underprivileged. He is genuinely concerned about the welfare of others who exist in less fortunate circumstances. Perhaps the guilt of their privilege needs to be balanced and this is how they choose to address that need.

Yet, Y doesn’t see the whole picture either due to limitations that seem to be set by reality. Y is passionate yet compelled to see people in more fortunate circumstances as the oppressors. That could be a reality, perhaps even in most situations, but every situation? Perhaps X likes to be cynical and critical when they look at the world they start from a position of extreme cynicism. It feels like that view abstracts the reality at times. And there could be times when the person is so far removed from the situation that they don’t seem to approach reality because cynicism takes them so far away. This almost seems like a confession and a realization of sorts at the same time for me to write about. Y and I will arrive at the same situations and realizations in life, but our paths will be very different, and our experiences will be unique. I hope they see what they are missing while I hope I don’t get lost in everything I see.

On another part of the planet Z spent their life raising children in what they feel like, even now, is a challenging environment. Despite everything or perhaps because of the situations Z experienced in life they do not have any more tolerance. They had expectations and they all came crashing down because the people around were either sponges or wilted away like dried leaves in autumn. Few even had a spine but were going through times which they felt were their own challenges are could not bear the heat in the furnace that Z placed themselves in. They saw the beauty in the finer things but also saw the harsh reality behind those smirking grins. What I have learned through books they learned firsthand even if they did not want to. As a result, Z is now scarred and yet tries to see the beauty in the sparrows that sit on the window sill waiting for the rice that is sprinkled without fail every day on the days that their peace of mind allows. Sacrifices were made on credit and as a result Z is now suffering as one does when they are in debt. Of course, not just financially but emotional, physically and financially as well. The body could never undertake the effects of what they were trying to give. They were filled with love despite not having received any when they should have. Z aspired to figures that they didn’t know could exist but had read from the books and cultivated themselves and everything they encountered along the same lines.

Z cannot bend to the reality that rots at the belly of society in general. Even though they tried too hard to remove themself and rise to an understanding that was uncommon. To see the reality would mean disassociation from all their principles and values. There isn’t much to hold on to, but they are being given a hope, being shown a silver lining in the midst of all that moist rot. Perhaps there are a few years of peace and joy, but they will be based on the work of someone who sees the painful reality. Their life is so intermingled with the struggles of their progeny that their identity is now tied to their existence. They might have been unique from their perspective but after all they too are just one of many. An all-important image in their eyes but just another iteration of fallible human existence otherwise. Fallible because their perception of reality is so clouded with their personal experiences, trials and tribulations just like it was for X and Y.

Me, who has mostly lived a life of privilege and feels am self-aware and can see through the farcical curtains of reality. Isn’t that everyone’s story and isn’t everyone in the wrong about that? I have played in the lap of luxury since I can remember. The house I grew up in might have had shaky foundations, literally and physically, but I never felt them disrupt my life. I never realized the floor of the house tilted. I was protected and grew up being taught about virtues and ideals which were arguably the highest for the environment. I had examples of lives that could be disrupted, and I had examples of lives that were unenthusiastic. I absorbed it all to the best extent that I could understand. I have memories that have shaped my existence just like they must have for X, Y and Z and yet I feel that lives are being led without the interrogation they deserve.

I will arrive at a point in my life when I will realize that interrogation and curiosity is not the most important aspect of life but for now I question, what if not satisfying that curiosity is the purpose? We are but stardust coagulated on another mote of dust in the words of Sagan. We will return to that state very soon. A few nano perhaps atto-lightyears and we will be gone. Perhaps my immersion of life is the attempt to understand all we possibly can. To what end though? I look at the world and it looks so sick right now. My investigation of the world affairs has caused me to think this but what if my investigation is flawed. Should I ‘buy’ another pair of glasses? There are others around me who’s curiosity has not led them down this conclusion. Perhaps they’re happier right now? What worth is that unquestioned happiness? All this conjecture can make a thinking head spin. It could even just mean ink/pixel blots to another who has a higher/lower thinking. Ironic. Even the uncertainty here is characteristic of an uncertain mind. I am ashamed of a country that is not mine. I detest the people of a country that is mine. I dread the future of women and children in a country that I don’t know about. Tomorrow I will return to a world that will pretend to care about justice, rights, and equality.

The world is burning, and people are finding random sentences on social media to mock the leadership that is flailing in every sense of the imagination. They ask for peace yet lack the moral courage to do anything through non-violence. The sentences are anonymous and that is perhaps the true nature of human beings when they don’t have much on the line. They don’t have skin in the game and are vile like we would have been in an age long gone.

What Is A Product?

‘If you are paying no price, you are the product.’ This is probably a pretty popular saying by now at the time of this writing. Though this saying might be obsolete and forgotten when this blogpost is read sometime in the future. This post is about ideas and thoughts that might not seem connected at first but will eventually make sense. Isn’t that how most stories are – a set of disjointed themes that ultimately have a common thread running through them. What value do products bring to society and what exactly is a product?

A few weeks now I have been spending some time on Clubhouse. It used to be this exclusive hangout for venture capitalists, prominent people in the entertainment industry and every other sort of mechanism that coalesces around these groups. The application in itself seems to be a rip-off of Twitter but with a refurbished interface. It sounds diminutive but that’s essentially how the world works. We in the previous decade tended to blame China for creating cheap knock-offs of everything from children’s toys to computers and everything in between like yoga-mats and plastics. The industry in China iterated though, enough times to now produce goods of better quality and made quality a metric. The state of China is another story though. The country is fueled by a government which rules with an iron fist behind a stone wall. Everything that is deemed a requirement by the CCP is a go-ahead with pomp and show and whatever goes against their beliefs is trampled without debate. The CCP has some grand visions for China, which every government should but absolute unchallenged power over a billion people is a bit terrifying.

When the capital market copies, they have to by definition innovate on an existing product. Mechanisms to differentiate businesses and hence their products exist and hence the field of business management. I could go on and defend capital markets but it has its failures as well and not a few. For starters, there are no free and fair markets that exist anywhere. There is a constant endeavor to make markets free and fair and it is just that and endeavor. Clubhouse is turning out to be a ’successful’ product in such a market. Clubhouse has a great audience – the who’s who of media discuss issues arising in society today. From politics – foreign policies of middle eastern nations to bigotry and racism almost every topic I can think of has audiences and speakers 24/7 every week of the year. The founders Rohan and Paul are pleasant to approach and seem like receptive founders, reviewing recommendations and organizing townhalls every week. Clubhouse started out invite only and now the number of invites being given out is increasing every month. This exclusivity looked like a successful beta test. The air of exclusivity was an automatic promotion in the marketplace of ideas and also a mechanism to receive solicited feedback for improvements.

Discord servers record 4 billion minutes of conversation on a daily basis. The potential to improve algorithms based on the amount of audio data mined is huge. In February 2021 Clubhouse had 6 million users, 10x from December and was valued at $1bn, 10x from May 2020. Discord is still stuck with 100mn active monthly users despite being in the market for 5 more years. Clubhouse has access to Marc A. and Ben H. and them being on the platform brings their network – friends and family and their networks. While Discord has Accel and Greylock on their side as well, the only person I as a lay person I recognized on their board was Mitch Lasky. Does all this matter to the end consumer/ user? Not really the app in the market and its features should impact the product’s performance in the market as a revenue generator and yet there are a few missing pieces. Discord has been in the market longer, has better features and also had a larger original user base and yet it still seemed to be out of mainstream view for the longest time. The air of exclusivity was a marketing tactic which was perfectly used by Clubhouse but I wouldn’t attribute all of their success to it.

This blog is a product of my ideas. How I present it on the platform is the deployment of those ideas. However, the content isn’t the only thing will make it successful. It might be a pre-requisite but it’s not the only thing that will make this blog reader friendly. This might seem incredulous that something besides the content will make it more attractive to a reader, who thinks that he or she is only interested in the content. Human beings have preconceived notions that are actively engaged in disrupting logical thought process. First impressions matter, references matter, appearances matter much more than they should not. A product then is only a part of what utility it provides, some part of it is perceived utility that is conveyed by factors that are not related to the use of the product/ solution/ service. This might be much ado about nothing or this might be an important psychological phenomenon.

People and their identities are more important than who they are as individuals or what they bring to the table in terms of their skills. As products ourselves we need to build an ecosystem around ourselves in order to bring the best of this short experience. In the larger scheme of things there’s always that omnipresent question as to what exactly is the point of it all but I wouldn’t be surprised that majority will deny the answer even if it was staring at them in the face. What then is the point of the question either?