Better People

Reaching our potential. Problem profile.

Goals of this post: Convince the reader that they should make it their #1 current focus in life to either a) level up b) work on this problem c) work on another valuable problem d) do something else that they believe is as important as a), b), or c).


Helping people become better is a valuable problem.

What is better? Here, better means a) experiencing more satisfaction and b) creating more value for the world. This primarily involves the higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy: love/belonging (friends and family, great relationships), esteem (self-efficacy, respect from and for others), self-actualization (problem solving, accurate view of reality, independent thinking).

Examples of people who are at the highest levels of value creation (satisfaction hard to measure from afar): Elon Musk, Dustin Moskovitz + Cari Tuna (work on Asana, Good Ventures/Open Philanthropy), Sam Altman, Tim Ferriss, Naval Ravikant, Bill + Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, Reid Hoffman.

What is value? Here, value is something that over the long term (100+ years) enables either a small number of people to be much better, or enables a large number of people to be a small amount better, or enables a large number of people to be a large amount better.

The problem here is allowing any given individual who already has addressed physiological (level one: food, water, sleep) and safety (level two: security of family, of health) needs to a) experience more satisfaction and b) create more value for the world, should they want those things. This means allowing people to solve their desire for love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

Why is it pressing?

In the next 100 years more people than ever before will have their physiological (level one: food, water, sleep) and safety (level two: security of family, of health) needs met. They will have the lower two levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs solved.

“John D. Rockefeller was the richest man the world had ever seen. But for most of his adult life he didn’t have electric lights, air conditioning, or sunglasses. And he never had penicillin, sunscreen, or Advil. This is not ancient history: One in twenty Americans were born before Rockefeller died.”

For the rest of human history, most people on the planet have spent their lives battling to solve their physiological and safety level needs. They therefore haven’t focused on addressing their love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs.

Note: Small numbers of people throughout history had their lower level needs addressed and thus worked on the higher levels.

In the next 100 years, billions of people will begin to seek to address their love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs as the world moves out of poverty.

The demand for solving these higher level needs over the next 100 years will dwarf the levels of demand throughout the rest of humanity.

What does a world where this problem is solved look like?

Everyone that wants to can spend money on products that substantially increase a) their satisfaction levels and b) their ability to create value.

These products would do this by addressing their love/belonging needs (through great friend relationships, great family relationships, and great love relationships), their esteem needs (through the development of self-efficacy, respect for and from others), and their self-actualization needs aka desire for fulfillment and purpose (through the development of a more efficient perception of reality and comfortable relations with it, more autonomy, more acceptance of self/others/nature, more resistance to enculturation).

These products work well enough that within 20 years after their creation, >50% of customers who deeply want these needs addressed are using these products.

Why is it valuable?

Better people mean a better world. Better people are a solution to the meta-problem of “how can we identify and solve more problems that create value / how can we increase innovation?”, and “how can we make the world more enjoyable, satisfying, fun and good?” More people should be working towards this goal.

The world has the problem of wanting better people / wanting more problems solved. People have the problem of wanting to be better (generally to experience more satisfaction and happiness).

What can you do about this problem?

What’s most needed to contribute to this problem?

  • Level Five Value Creation People who are obsessed with solving this problem
  • Level Four Value Creation People who become “barrels” and work with the Level Five Value Creation People “There are two categories of good people: there is ammunition and there is barrels. You can add all the ammunition you want, but if you only have five barrels in your company you can literally only do five things simultaneously. If you add one barrel you can suddenly do a sixth, if you add another you can do seven. So finding those barrels that you can shoot through is key.” — Keith Rabois
  • Millions of people to level up their own greatness, both in satisfaction and value creation
  • More capital allocation towards this problem
  • Better organization/collaboration of the various people and organizations working on this problem

What skill sets and resources are most needed?

  • People with high levels of determination to solve this problem
  • Capital towards meta level work on this problem (thinking on the problem, organization of people/groups working on it)
  • Capital towards marketing to convince people that they should work on this (tech companies spend lots on marketing people to work for them. In a relative sense, there’s not nearly enough money spent convincing people to work on this problem)

Who is working on this problem?

These groups are working on solutions for people who want more satisfaction and who want to create more value.

Working on this at a meta level

  • Abraham Maslow, K. Anders Ericsson (10,000 hrs study)
  • The US military cares about some aspects of this. They want people who are better able to focus and remain calm and logical, so that they are more effective in the battlefield [this is a possible source of revenue for companies working on increasing human capabilities]

Working on physiological and safety needs

  • Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna, Good Ventures
  • Gates Foundation
  • Companies listed in each of the important problem profiles here
  • Everyone working on basic income

Working on love/belonging

Working on esteem

  • Social media companies? (respect from others)
  • Companies that improve allocation of people (Y Combinator, AngelList, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Companies that help people feel more satisfied in their work (peer groups for various employee roles, awards for people in tech — many of these also attack belonging/finding like minded peers)

Working on self-actualization

  • Peter Thiel, Zero to One (ability to create value)
  • Dave Evans and Bill Burnett, Designing Your Life
  • 80,000 Hours (ability to create value)
  • Rationality community (ability to create value, accurately perceive reality) [1]
  • Tim Ferriss, podcast and books

Working on organizing the people and groups working on this

What can you concretely do to help?

  • First, become greater [1] [2]
  • Level up your friends and family
  • If you are a risk taker type, set up organizations aimed at solving this problem
  • Solve a subset problem
  • Work on any other highly important problem (doing so will allow more people to get the basic needs solved so they can work on higher level wants, and prevent catastrophies that would inhibit basic needs for billions of people). List of highly important problems here
  • Find and add value (by solving problems) with a Level Five Value Creation individual who is working on this
  • Convince others that this is an important problem

Next step

If you think this is important I want to be able to keep you updated as I move forwards. Only if you think this is seriously important. I.e. if someone had a compelling strategy that was working, you would move cities to work on it with them. If this is the case, either email, hit recommend or follow and then when I have substantial updates you’ll receive a notification