It’s strange that the society we live in has shifted so far from how people would behave if we were still a bit more “wild.”
Consider that if you were stranded in the woods for a significant amount of time, you would inevitably come to the conclusion that you need to procure water, hunt and scavenge for food, build some shelter, and make a fire to cook or stay warm. All of that is the obvious thing to do.
Yet, in the society that we now live, most of the people doing the obvious things aren’t making all that much money compared to others. For that person stranded in the woods, writing comedy doesn’t seem like an obvious thing to do to survive, and back in our society someone like Jerry Seinfeld has more resources than he could ever use for doing exactly that.
Where does this come from? Why is society so different from nature? Well, part of it is the incredible sizes of organizations that can be reached due to human intelligence. No other animal could build a structured organization the size of FedEx or Wal-Mart. This requires communication, coordination, planning, not to mention a host of technologies to manage, but the result is that as we industrialize things, society can scale efficiency. With the right processes we can produce goods for everyone with remarkably few people. As a result, the obvious things, the things that need to be done – food, shelter, clothing, and heat are mostly taken care of in many nations of the world.
This undoubtedly creates tension because if these things are taken care of completely by such a small percentage of the population, what does everyone else do to create value?
The obvious thing to do is to find the work that isn’t obvious and show it to people.
If you stick to the obvious things that need to be done, it’s likely you won’t be rewarded much at all. Delight people in a new way, which is what Jerry Seinfeld did with his comedy, and you will be.
The obvious thing to do has never been as non-obvious as it is now.
P.S. This can easily turn into a conversation about UBI, or shorter working hours. However, for me, even if we achieved zero required working hours to have basic needs met due to total automation, I don’t know what I would do with all that time. I would undoubtedly still want to create. What would I create? I don’t know but if it was obvious, it still wouldn’t be worth doing because everyone else would have already done that too. So, even if our system holds or changes, the sentiment remains the same.