Not Overlooking The Most Important Ideas

2019-03-02T16:08:28.000Z Honest Cash

Today I read an Aeon essay by Derek J Skillings… Life is not easily bounded. I emailed him…


Maybe dandelions aren’t the best example, given that they are notorious among gardeners for having wind-dispersed seeds. A better example would be Bryophyllum delagoense… aka mother of thousands, millions, gazillions. The leaves and flower stems of this species produce “individual” plantlets that easily break off and grow. My front yard has this plant everywhere, and it’s doubtful that any of them grew from seed, especially since I live in Southern California.

Your essay was quite enjoyable. I’m very interested in the topic. If you haven’t already done so, you should read this relevant article by Jonathan Birch… The Philosophy of Social Evolution. It includes these passages…

The conception of cells as ‘elementary organisms’ led to the further opinion that our own human organism, just like all higher animals and plants, is actually a ‘cell state’, composed of millions of microscopic citizens, the individual cells, which work more or less independently, and co-operate for the common purpose of the entire state. — Ernst Haeckel

Hence we are warranted in considering the body as a commonwealth of monads, each of which has independent powers of life, growth, and reproduction; each of which unites with a number of others to perform some function needful for supporting itself and all the rest; and each of which absorbs its share of nutriment from the blood. And when thus regarded, the analogy between an individual being and a human society, in which each man, whilst helping to subserve some public want, absorbs a portion of the circulating stock of commodities brought to his door, is palpable enough.— Herbert Spencer, Social Statics

For me it’s obvious that cooperation is inherently beneficial, and cooperation depends on communication. Here I am transmitting my information to you via words and email. One of the most important bits of information to transmit is importance.

When a bee discovers a particularly important patch of flowers, she communicates its importance by dancing energetically. Her willingness to sacrifice so many of her precious calories persuades the onlooking bees that it is worthwhile to make the effort and take the time to inspect the patch for themselves.

We humans also use sacrifice to convey importance. Spending money is a sacrifice. If you spend money on artichokes it communicates that they are important to you.

At the top of Aeon it says “Friends of Aeon donate as little as US$5 a month and enjoy exclusive benefits.” Aeon is in a market, but it is not a market. We can use our money to communicate our perception of Aeon’s importance, but we don’t have the same opportunity with any of its essays. Well, nothing technically prevents me from sending you a quarter for your essay. But this transaction is something that Aeon certainly doesn’t facilitate.

Should Aeon facilitate monetary feedback on its essays? What difference would it make if we knew the social importance of your essay? It would certainly influence how much attention it received… just like with artichokes.

My theory is that the market is the best way for people to put their heads together. You should help me test this theory! There’s a new website that facilitates monetary feedback on the content…

If you sign up, let me know your username and I’ll tell the founder to activate your account. When he does so I’ll follow you, so whenever you spend your money on a post, it will show up in my feed. This way everyone that I follow will help allocate my attention to the most important ideas.

Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Youtube all use voting to prioritize ideas, but what rises to the top is trash rather than treasure. It seems self-evident that democracy guarantees that we all regularly overlook the most important ideas.

What do you think?