Is This the Most Important Civilizational Pattern?

hard times

I’ve always been fascinated by this aphorism.

The original form pretends women don’t exist.

Hard Times Create Strong People. ↓
Strong People Create Good Times. ↓
Good Times Create Weak People. ↓
Weak People Create Bad Times. ↩

In this model, the only thing that can create strong people is suffering. And the only thing that can create good times is strong people. And when you have prosperity for too long, it removes the struggle for existence—which produces people with less character and strength.

…which then results in weaker people who then mess everything up.

Like I said, I’ve always thought that was smart and interesting, but over the last couple of years it’s started to scare the living shit out of me.

I see this all around me, and while I am cautious of peoples’ tendency to believe in models because of anecdotal experiences, I don’t think I can discard what I am seeing. Think about your own experiences and what the data say as well.

  1. The vast majority of exceptional people I know are either recent immigrants to the country, grew up relatively poor, or are part of some sort of persecuted group.
  2. The people I see thriving in our current economy are mostly immigrants. In the Bay Area, tech is strongly represented by first and second-generation East Asians and Asian Indians, and a massive percentage of people working the hardest and most frontline jobs are Mexican immigrants.
  3. The longer a family generationally stays in the US the more average they become.
  4. Hard-working and financially successful parents have eternally struggled with the concern that the life they have created for their children will rob them of the character that they themselves have.

These all point in the same exact direction, i.e., the highest quality people come from a life of struggle. And the highest quality societies are built by the highest quality people.

It’s been 75 years since World War II. Do the math. That’s roughly two generations.

What if—and I’m just wildly speculating here—we can basically expect things to go to shit right about now?

Like, set your clocks, because it’s going to happen.

Forget the politics of it. Who to blame and who not to blame. It’s important in some ways, but not for this conversation.

What I think might be most important is declaring a species-level problem that the smartest people in the world need to work on. Namely, breaking the cycle of malaise that comes from good times.

We must learn, as a species, how to have our young people experience struggle and hardship—as if they were in hard times—even though they are in good times.

How do you do that?

This might be the best possible application of the metaverse and immersive VR I have ever heard of.

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I read 20+ hours a week and send the best stuff to ~50,000 people every Monday morning.

We make it part of school to deeply immerse into the hardship experienced by others, and give them the experience of living that hard, grinding life themselves. For years, as part of schooling, in a way where the spell isn’t broken when they take off the headset or unplug the Neuralink at the end of the day.

If this sounds crazy, that’s because it is.

I’m starting to think the only thing crazier is thinking we can avoid this happening repeatedly without acknowledging the problem and doing something drastic to fix it.

The stakes are unfortunately rising. It’s getting way easier to kill large numbers of people, so we can’t afford to keep advancing technologically while simultaneously providing generations of kids a lack of struggle and meaning during their formative years.

I think it produces a sense of emptiness in people, and makes them open to all manner of ideology—just to feel something.

We don’t want to crush people and rob them of their pride, because then they’ll look for a leader to tell them they’re the best and they should rule the world. And we don’t want to give them everything they want without having to work for it, because they’ll grow up empty and weak.

So we have to apply some sort of healthy struggle, even if we have the means to remove that struggle.

I honestly think this is one of the most important challenges to maintaining a healthy human civilization on this planet.

We should be working on this instead of trying to increase the clickrate on advertisments.