People on the Internet

Anyone who has ever used the Internet is probably familiar with the notion that people on the Internet act in ways that they would not act in person. You don’t have to think too hard about why this is to come to the conclusion that the cause of this is anonymity and a lack of consequences.

We don’t have to go online to see this kind of behavior, however. How many drivers are willing to cut people off, tail-gate, honk, or just generally be a jerk behind the wheel? When you’re in a car, you’ve distanced yourself from the people around you. You are in your own bubble and save for the small chance of getting pulled over, nothing you do is going to have any negative impact on your life.

So far everything I’ve written is fairly obvious: When some people are placed in a situation where there are no consequences for their actions, they act differently than they would when there are consequences. You may be inclined to infer from this that some people on the Internet act different from how they really are. I think that in person people act differently from how they really are.

During our day to day lives, whenever we make decisions we weigh their consequences. If I decide to call my co-worker a douche bag it probably won’t have a positive impact on my life at work, so I don’t do that (even if he is one). Our desires are temerped by the consequences of our actions. These desires and impulses are all revealed when we enter a situation where we do not have to face the consequences of carrying out those desires.

If someone writes that bubble sort is the best algorithm for sort any type of data in any circumstance I might be inclined to write back “OMG You freakin’ idiot. Don’t you understand the time complexity of that algorithm with reference to the amount of data you’re sorting?! I hope you die in a fire!!!”. In person, however, I might say “Actually I think there are many different better algorithms. Also your decision should ultimately be based on the circumstances, as no algorithm is best in all cases.” Now consider what is the same and what is different in these two instances. In both cases I point out that the person is wrong, but in one I humiliate and insult that person. There is one more similarity: In both cases my desire is to humiliate and insult the person. (at this point you should note that when I say “I” or “me” I’m talking in the abstract, I don’t actually desire to humiliate people who make poor algorithm choices… OK that’s a lie, but not all the time).

The lack consequences reveals my desires, and from that you may be able to infer more about me than you would, had my desires been filtered by consequences.

Stuff that Matters

“What we fight with is so small, and when we win, it makes us small. What we want is to be defeated, decisively, by successively greater things.”

“Focusing on big goals rather than on making money, and on creating more value than you capture are closely related principles. The first one is a test that applies to those starting something new; the second is the harder test that you must pass in order to create something enduring.”

“That’s why a time like this, when the bubble is bursting, is a great time to see how important it is to think about the big picture, and what matters not just to us, but to building a sustainable economy in a sustainable world.”

Those are three quotes I pulled out of an article I came across that I think captures the perceptions and values we must aspire to in order to create a better world at a time when everyone is looking out for themselves. Those of us who are upset with the times, whether it be because of issues that are impacting us in America, or because of the ongoing crises around the world, the pervasive poverty, hunger, and sickness afflicting people who were not so lucky as to be born in a more affluent part of the world, should know that these are at least in part due to people looking out for themselves. This includes companies that focus on profit and the paychecks of their executives, and politicians who put the well being of the people second to the lobbyists. Rather than lament them however, we should focus on the positive. Those of us who are fortunate enough to go on to own a company or be a leader in some industry should remember what I think is the main point of the article:

Short term success comes from short term goals, long term success and building something sustainable requires that we focus on what matters in the in the long run. This means worrying about those around us in addition to ourselves. Companies cannot sustain themselves for long if their focus is not on their customers, governments cannot last forever if their focus is not on the people, and the world will be worse off for having left so many behind.

A professor of mine recently told my class something along the lines of this: We do not deserve what we have. It is only luck that we were born in America while so many others were born in a world where they do not have the opportunities we do. He went on to say that we should be ashamed of ourselves if we do not make the most of what we have while so many others have nothing. I’m paraphrasing, but I hope I captured his point.

…Wow that’s probably the most idealist rant I’ve ever gone on, but I do think that we have a responsibility to others and that an individual can still be successful without pouring all of effort personal gain.

Anyways here is the link  to the article:

Read Me!

Its a good read and it comes of less like a rant that what I just wrote.