Learned helplessness

How do you think power works?


Well, the post from yesterday about open-source left us with a bad feeling: I see the problem, but is there a solution? Is every idea going

  • from something-agreed-only-by-some
  • into something-most-people-ridicule
  • into something-some-people-fight-against
  • into something-most-people-agrees-with?

Well, Gandi said so, so it must be true, shouldn’t it? Putting away the fact that it was not said by Gandi, this is only true for those ideas that persist. People are irrational. Most of the time we do not notice if a key ingredient of an idea has changed. Open-source lost the voluntarism part to it. Agile development lost the constant feedback part to it. Crypto-currencies that are going to be used by the majority are in danger of losing their immutable, anonymous and decentralized parts to them. All these great ideas were/are being distorted into their unrecognizable counter-thesis while retaining their original names.

The root of all these issues is a single problem we need to solve: Democracy has lost its key ingredient where the source of power is the consent of the people. We live in a world where we are taught from young age that the source of power is power itself. You got money? Use it right and that will “earn” you money. You got power? Use it right and that will give you more power.

Except, as Aral Balkan put it brightly, this is just an illusion we all seem to believe.

Power is in unity and cooperation

I grew suspicion about things that are unquestioned. The world is constantly changing as we explore things and create new ideas. Things that were true 100 years ago became false.

  • It was impossible to speak to someone on the other side of the globe, now it is not
  • It was impossible to create a library of all the books ever printed and make it available to everyone, now it is not
  • It was impossible to analyze the behaviors of millions of people and predict their reaction to a piece of news, now it is not
  • It was impossible to keep track of all transactions made by millions of people and validate their balance in real time, now it is not
  • It was impossible to keep a conversation private with someone you never met before with a spy constantly looking at all your messages, now it is not

There are alternative theories for economics. There are alternative theories for politology. Since I am not an expert there, I will not try to convince the reader to blindly accept my views. But I challenge them to read unorthodox theories and decide for themselves.

The message here is just that whatever we have learned in our studies is just one side of a coin that is well-filtered by those founding the schools. Do not try to get permission from the power to cooperate and unite, because you will not get it. 85 people on the world controls half of the resources. They will do anything to keep this power. The lie they spread and most of us seem to believe is that this cannot be changed.


Surprise! We now live in a world when people have the right tools to make this power irrelevant. We are free to unite, free to gather, free to exchange goods, free to learn and teach, free to hide, because we have the innovations that are able to ignore regulations.

“Oh, that is dangerous!” — you say. Well, look back to history and watch out for laws being more and more unethical. I stick to ethics and dare you to keep standing if it becomes illegal to behave ethically. What you should be really afraid of is not people ignoring regulations, but people ignoring ethics.

“But different people have different ethics!” Sure. That is why in the past there were different communities. Local governments. Local rules. Most of the ethics is simple and global, the evil is usually in the details. “Divide and rule” is a well-known tactic in power. Is the dress blue or white? It is irrelevant, but the advertisement industry gained much knowledge about those people who were fighting about that. The more things a community wants to regulate, the more people will be forced into something they cannot identify with. If everybody is feeling left out, power becomes illegitimate, but very strong. The opposite of this trend is voluntary compromises made by everyone to find the commons and focus on common thoughts.

“Oh, but we need someone to protect us!” Agreed. Not everyone is strong enough or likes enough to fight to protect themselves from unethical moves. Specialization of members is not a bad thing inside a community. Probably we still need some kind of armed defense. And something like an arbitration office for more peaceful disagreements. And some written rules that a community abides by. Question is, why do these branches of power have the monopolies they have today? Why are you left out from deciding how much we want to spend on these? How did we lose transparency and accountability of these offices? How come that in many countries these branches of power are not separated any more?


Maybe you are still a bit uneasy about letting the power go. You still want to shift responsibility to your circumstances and want a scapegoat for all your failures. It is convenient to be kind of irresponsible for everything in the world, isn’t it?

You can start today to reverse this trend: Give more than what you receive. Money? Not money, trust. Do not be afraid to approach others asking for a favor. People might often say no, but you lose nothing by that. Talk to strangers on the commute! You will be surprised to learn that people are not so bad as you thought they are.

Spoiler alert: If you accept this challenge you might learn that people are not that selfish, egocentric, dangerous weirdos you were told. You will see that superrationality is a working strategy and selflessness gives you more in average even if many times the stranger takes something from you. You might learn that cooperation is a beneficial thing even if there are some bastards around you.