Bitcoin, WallStreetBets, GameStop and Decentralized Activism | Garrett Dailey
Why institutions Are Not Meritocratic
ON THIS EPISODE
Philosopher Garrett Dailey - @liber_rex comes on the show to discuss the roots of institutional and academic beaurocracy in European philosophy - plus the Robinhood/GameStop fiasco happens mid recording.
ABOUT GARRETT DAILEY:
Garrett Dailey is a philosopher, author, entrepreneur and generally a fascinating specimen of human being.
Garrett has written two books, lived alone in the desert, fasted for 40 days and been "Chief Philosophy Officer" for multiple businesses.
This is his second appearance on the show. His first can be found here.
Why Institutions Are Not Meritocratic
On today's podcast Garrett Dailey recounts a story that might be the worst example of the "Dilbert Principle" I've ever heard.
The Dilbert Principle is an idea coined by @ScottAdamsSays which states that in hierarchical organizations someone will continue to receive promotions until they reach a job they can not perform well at, then they'll plateau
Or, "your fate is your highest incompetence."
The story goes something like this...
A low-level executive at a company observed the CEO for months and noted his every mistake.
She wrote all these mistakes down in a power point and presented it to the board to prove the CEOs incompetence. The board fired the CEO.
After, the woman was promoted to CEO. (Surely because she's able to identify the errors of others, she must be able to think of and execute good ideas herself, right?) The company began to perform even worse after that.
The first moral of this story is that everyone involved in this story was incompetent.
The CEO was making all kinds of mistakes that were noticeable to others. The snitch was competent at snitching, but not at running a company herself.
And the board apparently were unable to spot how treacherous the snitch was - or the errors of the original CEO.
Then upon hearing of those errors, they fired the one person most qualified to fix them and their company was ruined afterwards.
The second moral of the story is that BECAUSE we rise to our highest incompetence, we all have an incentive to be treacherous within hierarchical institutions.
We watch this happen in Politics all the time. Candidates run on how awful their opponent is (not on how great America is) When they gain power they make excuses and change nothing.
In corporations everyone has an imposter syndrome that they don't really belong at their high level. Because they don't.
Because everyone knows this about each other and is afraid of being found out, there is a cold war going on behind the scenes constantly.
"None of us can do the job, but I can get mine" No regard for the company, the customers, the mission, or your co-workers.
Greatness can't flourish in this context. The truly competent will rarely engage with nonsense.
"Power" and mastery are not always overlapping pursuits. We can conclude that in hierarchical systems it is therefor common that the LEAST competent people will gain the most power. And these people are inherently the least trustworthy.
This is why our system is full of losers. The result of our system is incompetence.
Individualism and Collectivism are often posed as opposites. But as Howard Bloom will point out, "Opposites are joined at the hip."
Collectivism leads to genocide, and individualism leads to nothing getting done.
A system with equal focus on individuals and humanity is needed.
I'm walking this talk myself by founding WellspringCare.org - an accessible, affordable and convenient cash only telemedicine clinic for all Americans (with or without insurance)
Garrett points out this idea in the west that "Naïve Individualism" will lead to destruction. If you look out for yourself, that's fine.
But if you do it at the expense of the integrity of the system we all live in, then you are helping bring about failure of the system.
This will harm everyone and make the world worse for you in the long run. In many instances the purely selfish answer is not "selfish."
Naïve individualism can take many forms. I see so many young people saying "fake it til you make it."
Maybe I'm an old fart. But I believe you should "get good and not lie to people for careerist gain" It's not as catchy, I suppose.
If the Dilbert Principle is true and we rise to our highest incompetence, that means we have two paths to high success
- "Fake it 'til you make it" and other sociopathic nonsense
- Making sure our "highest incompetence" is higher than we'll ever be asked to perform
I like 2.
Our institutions themselves are designed for people to choose to fake it 'til they make it.
Of course the problem is, you can't tell a faker from the real deal until they've already messed something up and you're left holding the bag like a fool.
This is why MASTERY and SKILL are high values that are moral obligations for us as citizens. We can't be good at everything. In fact we will be bad at most things.
But we all have strengths we can master. This will allow us to act with integrity in our own relationships and provide stability to the system.
Our system only runs when competent people are taking the reigns because their highest incompetence is beyond the scope of work they'll ever be asked to do.
A meritocratic political system is made by people who about the merit part over the political part.
What happens if we extrapolate this principle to the realm of philosophy?
We get Immanuel Kant and his terrible legacy on our culture.
Many of our institutions (especially the academy) are based on the work of Enlightenment philosophers like Immanuel Kant.
Garrett explains here why Kant is a terrible person to take philosophy advice from.
The guy did the same thing every day, never married and never left his home town. He was possibly the single most boring individual person in history.
He wrote thousand page books in a strange mix of classical languages and his Germanic dialect. His philosophy was meant to exist inside a vacuum because that's the only place it ever did exist.
It never lived in a human vessel that did anything to test it. Kant wrote a lot of moral philosophy yet avoided every possible real moral choice by never *doing* anything.
As a doctor I personally feel my obligation is to not only be KNOWEDGEABLE about how to keep my patients healthy. But also to be physically healthy myself.
I do CrossFit multiple times a week, spend lots of time outdoors, get enough sleep and eat well.
Kant was the ultimate "fake it 'til you make it."
He faked his wisdom so well that his books succeeded off their ability to impress other egghead aristocrats that hadn't done anything.
Then they all got together and talked about it for a hundred years until Nietzsche shattered it, and that's the Enlightenment that we base our entire Liberal western world order off of.
So what's my point? There is a deep incentive in our social structures to choose to "play the game" to win.
And playing the game is often the anti-thesis of getting good at your skills.
This creates zero-sum dynamics and a series of incompetent people passive-aggressively battling it out with each other for power over all the other fools and yes-men.
This impulse to socially-mobile-mediocrity is so powerful that even the "great" philosophers of our civilization had trouble snuffing it out of themselves.
And they let it infect the society they dreamt for the rest of us. I say it's high time those of us who have chosen merit over careerism choose to learn both and save the system from it's own collapse.
I hope the philosophers of today can dream up a better functioning society, but by starting with their own bio-psycho-social dynamics, creative skills, relationships, etc.
A Philosopher who doesn't live life is no philosopher, just a man who likes to hear himself talk.