Incentives Matter. Indeed, They’re Everything.

Show me the incentives and I will show you the outcome. – Charlie Munger

Munger, Warren Buffett’s wise partner, thinks incentives matter; indeed, he thinks they’re everything. I wish I’d understood this at an earlier age. If I had, then I probably would have understood better myself and others and been more effective at my endeavors. And life would have been just a bit easier to navigate.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy wrote about misguided incentives.

In Vietnam, under French colonial rule, there was a rat problem. To solve the rat infestation, the French offered a bounty on rats, which could be collected by delivering a rat’s tail as proof of murder. Many bounties were paid out, but the rat problem didn’t improve. Officials soon noticed rats running around without tails–people were cutting off the tails and releasing the rats to breed, so as to increase the pool of potential bounty revenue for themselves.

The same thing happened in Colonial India: a bounty was offered on cobras because they were attacking people, which caused people to breed cobras for more bounties, and ultimately resulted in a higher cobra population when the bounty system was abandoned and the breeders released their now worthless snakes.

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Luck, Extra Days and Unnecessary Roadblocks

I haven’t been feeling too altruistic lately. Which isn’t a good thing. There is no substitute for giving. I suspect you know what I mean.

We can give in different ways. Our money. Time. Effort. Lives. The list is endless. I’ve previously discussed my problem with the money route. Simply put, most charities and other nonprofits are poor stewards of their money and other resources. I’m tired of the waste and, in many cases, the subterfuge. At this point in my life, I’m more interested in effective altruism than simply throwing more money at nonprofits.

So, lately, I’ve been thinking about what I can do besides writing a check. I tried volunteering at a local hospital but found myself doing things that really didn’t need to be done. Or that could (and should) be done by employees. I don’t want to be taking a paying job from anyone. Or doing makeshift work.

One good thing that came out of my hospital volunteer work, however, was an awareness of a particular dire need. I came into contact with families of patients who were receiving organ transplants. Sometimes from deceased donors. Sometimes from living donors. (A kidney from a living donor is far better. It’s more likely to work and last a lot longer.) Continue reading

Your Ancestry

Vera, when your dad was your age (almost exactly the age you are today), we took him and his brother (your uncle Andrew) to Disney World. In truth, it may have been for us, the adults. After all, experiencing life with a youngster is a blast.

Despite his small stature, he walked the parks for a couple of days, with few rest stops. Here is one of them.

But, of course, he and his brother did eventually crash.

 

The Good Kind of Battle

If you don’t know what this is, you haven’t lived.

I suggest you get yourself to Costco or Dicks or some other retailer who carries these puppies.

And then let the battle begin!

P.S. I hope you learn to love these, Vera. If you recall, we had them at your birthday party. You would drop them on my feet but weren’t keen on throwing or trying to catch them. Your grandma said the bruise on her leg, from one of my well-placed throws, took two weeks to disappear.

Is Social Media Good or Bad?

I’ve grown more concerned about the adverse effects of social media over the past year, resulting in my disengagement from Facebook and LinkedIn. And I’m flirting with the idea of disengaging from Twitter, too. I’ve opined on how I’d keep distance between social media and young children if I were of the age to have youngsters at home. And I worry about the online world you, Vera (my granddaughter), may encounter and all the ways others will try to manipulate you and sap you of your individuality and independent thought. And make your life worse. Which led me to Jaron Lanier’s new book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

Lanier isn’t someone I can dismiss lightly. He’s a deep thinker. Highly intelligent. And concerned.

I won’t attempt to summarize Lanier’s arguments here. The book is a short, easy read for anyone who’s interested in the topic. But perhaps I can whet your appetite by listing Lanier’s 10 chapter headings:

  1. You are losing your free will
  2. Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times
  3. Social media is making you into an asshole
  4. Social media is undermining truth
  5. Social media is making what you say meaningless
  6. Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy
  7. Social media is making you unhappy
  8. Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity
  9. Social media is making politics impossible
  10. Social media hates your soul

Take a Walk

“It is only ideas gained from walking that have any worth,” wrote Nietzsche. Well, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the point is well taken: walks seem to have the capacity to foster the generation of sound ideas.

Seneca agreed. He advised us to “take wandering outdoor walks, so that the mind might be nourished and refreshed by the open air and deep breathing.” (On Tranquility of Mind, 17.8)

Ryan Holiday added these thoughts in his The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living: Continue reading