how much for some evolution?

the human race's current faillings can be illustrated in some of the smallest ways.

yes, i realise that the big stuff includes famine; terrorism; torture.... truly terrible things. but those same faillings are so deeply ingrained the fibre of the modern world, that we can't even get the small stuff right.

like the fact that you can put fifty people with university degrees into an office and - as a group - they won't be able to organise buying milk for morning tea. everyone thinks someone else will buy some - they either don't want to pay for it or just can't be bothered. so you end up with 20 tiny cartons of milk (30 if you count the ones which have gone rank because nobody cleans the fridge) and a bunch of people who just drink black coffee or go to a cafe.

stepping outside the tearoom, for a long time i've felt that two of the greatest illustrations of humankind's inability to evolve are 1) peak-hour traffic, and 2) use-it-or-lose-it budgeting.

how is it that we - as a culture, a species - manage to hurl tin cans full of humans into space on a regular basis, yet we can't figure out a decent way to get everyone to work? what the fuck is wrong with us?

we have to work to live. things have to be done. ok, accepted. i think we fucked that system up too, but that's beside the point.

what fuckbrained monkey decided we should all show up to work at the exact same time? seriously? what logic says you should put an ever-increasing number of people into the same space all in one go... then all of them again later that day? so, a drive that takes 10-15mins becomes anything up to an hour with traffic. that's an hour of my life every fucking weekday, down the toilet because someone decided 9:00am was the time we should start work.

would it be so hard to stagger it? some people start at 8am, some at 9am, some at 10am...? or maybe create a public transport system that's actually effective. in brisbane we have a service which is unreliable, slow and expensive. the only reason anyone catches the bus is when they work right in the city centre and it costs more to park. me..? it costs me less to park than it would to catch the bus. and even with traffic, it's a shitload faster to drive. on top of that, in my car my personal space is mine. i don't get some rude fuck sneezing in my face.

then there's budgeting. i already think that large organisations only survive because people are social animals. people talk to each other. they have coffee, they go to the pub. they chat. they share information. if they didn't like each other and know who to call to fix problems, large organisations would fall down in a fucking heap. they'd collapse under their own weight.

why? well consider how an organisation divvies up the money. in year A, your teams gets amount A. if you meet your goals, get all the work done and you're under budget... well done, eh! maybe you'll use that extra money to upgrade your workstations, or even better; take everyone out for a great dinner or a day of skirmish.

but wait, no. if you use less than sum A in year A... in year B, you'll get less than sum A, because apparently you didn't need that much money - after all, you didn't use it all. so you get the money taken off you; and even more galling the money goes to some other team who blew their budget. the reward for saving money is to get less money. yes, that's right. bean-counters really do come from another fucking planet.

so what do people do? well, at the end of the budget period human nature kicks in; and people find shit to blow the money on. make-work, unneccessary equipment, whatever. dump the cash so you get it again next time. so, instead of rolling your excess into next year's budget, you spend a whole lot of money that didn't need to be spent. then you get that extra again next year because on paper you needed that much to get the job done. if you ever get audited you're in trouble because you've been wasting money.

result: the organisation has paid twice for the good team, and they've had to pay to prop up the team who had a bad year. then they audit the good team and rake them over the coals even though they do their job well.

this is apparently the best system anyone's been able to implement.

...and people think Dilbert is fiction.

at least in part, i think it comes down to this: humans are incapable of looking after each other. they're incapable of evolving to cope with the world they've created. humans cannot change in the fundamental ways they need to change.

sure, friends and family look after each other. some individuals are rays of light in the world, and they look after everyone around them. but as a group; as a species; humans can't get it together. we can't even merge on the fucking freeway.

so what's the underlying cause? what keeps us from evolving?

money? well, it sure doesn't help.

take cars, for example. we can build a car that's so safe the occupants would probably survive even major collisions... but it's too expensive. so we let people die. we can build electric cars, hydrogen engines... but they're expensive so we pollute the planet. besides the expense, i fully expect the oil companies work hard to keep alternative fuel down since they currently make billions anyway.

it doesn't help to let rich people make the big decisions. most of the time, they're not adversely effected. in fact, they usually profit. take the recent australian tax cuts - the more money you earn, the bigger the tax break. excuse-fuckin-me, but that does not make sense. if you are rich, you don't need the break like the poor.

basically humans can't bear to change a little. "think outside the box" is something that people really can't do. people are told they should start work at 9:00am. they are told the budget just works like that. they are told people wouldn't buy safe cars because they cost too much.

if we really gave a shit about other people, hell if we truly gave a shit about ourselves, we'd say no. no, we do not accept that cars can't be made safe. we'd say make all new cars safe and clean. every single fucking one. what's stopping us? money. it's just money. supply and demand govern prices - you can't make something cheap until you're selling a lot of them. so make a whole lot of them. it is just money. bits of paper. numbers in a system. a bad idea some apes had. money doesn't mean a fucking thing. we can make that problem go away if we want to. just fucking do it.

if humans could evolve, they'd say to hell with 9-5. they'd say people can work when they want to - whatever works for them, so long as they get the job done. if they do a great job, we'll reward them. if they come in under budget, they can decide how to spend the money they saved. if they finish their work in five hours, let them go home.

we'd say we can do better than this. we can come up with a better system. we can make the world a better place for everyone. we can stop letting 20% of the population take 80% of the money. people are starving because very rich people squeezed their wages down. people struggle to make ends meet because they work for people who wanted to make a few more million than last year.

if humans could look after each other, they'd just say what the hell - there's enough of everything, for everyone. let's divide it evenly. that way we all do well.

why let the CEO get rich when the cleaners are poor? the CEO needs a clean place to work. they need the guard on the door to let them in. they need everyone to do their bit to make the organisation function. they think they're more important than everyone else, and they think that means they should get more money. well fuck that, everyone does their bit.

so what if we capped peoples' personal wealth? bill gates has enough money. he could retire and spend the rest of his life in insane luxury and he'd never run out of money. so he has enough. give that money to other people... it makes no difference to bill gates. he cannot possibly run out of money. he does not need more.

even better, do away with money. imagine if you could have everything you wanted. everything. every material thing. all you had to do in return is give your productive time to the system. work a few hours a day. i'm not talking about communism. i'm talking about Iain M. Banks' culture (a utopian world where there is no money and personal safety is all but guaranteed).

if money was no object, if material wealth was assured, what would be important to you? would you care about getting to work at nine, or would you care that the people you love were happy? if you could go to work when you wanted, if you weren't going to get in trouble for something as stupid as arrival time, would you care if someone merged in front of you?

if humans could rid of money, perhaps they could look after each other.

if only humans could evolve.

2003.06.08

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