Meaningful Mental Capital
Jul. 21, 2023.
11 min. read. Interactions
It is not difficult to get people's attention, but it is difficult to get their meaningful attention. Henriq C explores paths that can facilitate universal and decentralized value generation.
It is not difficult to get people’s attention, but it is difficult to get their meaningful attention. This article describes a collection of steps that aim to facilitate universal value generative participation through impactful interdependent contributions to common processes. We all have ideas, preferences, views, opinions, insights, dreams, and the wisdom that grandparents pass down to their children and grandchildren over generations. However, much of this remains unexercised and never realizes its true value. People usually deploy their mental capital in their day jobs as well as in their private lives. The former is limited by its substance or topic, while the latter is limited in scale. It is difficult to provide the full potential of a person’s knowledge for the benefit of everyone. Facilitating this would be of great value, given that the nature of disruptive technologies depends on the values of their contributors.
Every one of us has both real information and noise. Collectively, when we put many people or viewpoints together, noise cancels out due to its randomness, leaving only real information. That’s why the wisdom of crowds is so effective. Diversity is something that everyone can contribute to, no matter who you are, what your background is, or what skills you have. The more independent decision-makers and problem solvers we have, the more functional outcomes we get. Thus, it is worthwhile to research how to make this more attainable for people and accelerate the flow of information. As technologies become more powerful day by day, it is crucial to have a diverse set of inputs from everyone going into these emerging systems. But how can we make that happen?
When a new level of intelligence arises, how can we ensure that it is a comprehensive continuation of the intelligence of the previous level – the level that comprises all of us? How can we get people to share their thoughts and then build those thoughts into systems? How can we incentivize and choose wisely the correct pieces for the correct puzzles? One should ask how to let people invest not only their financial capital but also their mental capital. Let’s start by bootstrapping from something we already have: the current financial system – the only serious decision-making resource in existence at scale. We can gradually expand investment opportunities all the way into micro-businesses and further into individual actions.
If preferences and ideas can be channeled into building financial investment decisions, all that mental work becomes comprehensively utilizable. This leads people to begin participating in a meaningful way and rewards rational thinking instead of rational ignorance. To make this possible, it requires a radical expansion of the potential investment space, which starts by removing artificial restrictions blocking access to global markets.
The internet, as an open protocol, made it possible to move information instantly around the world. However, universally verifying claims about the information has been a difficult challenge. Therefore, it has not been possible to digitize property without a trusted party. Nevertheless, the rapid rise of information technology and digitalization created enormous amounts of valuable substance in a short period of time. That substance is information or data.
All the data has ended up with service providers as bulk matter. There has not been a chance to trustlessly combine all the data nor ways to track the contributions of each piece of data. Due to the history of the internet, there has not even been an identity system to make claims or verifications about data across environments. To make value out of data, you must analyze it, and to analyze it, you have to combine it. To identify individual contributions coming from different sources and services, you have to have an identity system. So without an identity system, all the data remains and accumulates in large silos, cross-contributions of individuals are not identified, and you either accept to completely give away your data to a few service providers or be left without any services. A piece of data has not been an asset but a pile of data has. One can’t negotiate about the price/conditions of a piece of data so one can’t negotiate about the price/conditions of the service either. Both are free and the business model moves elsewhere with devastating consequences. Any brainpower in data generation has sunk into the mass of information and therefore there have not been any benefits of investing in generating the highest value data. Mental work is not rewarded. Preferences of people don’t become part of new products and services. Instead, the services consume the weaknesses of people by disempowering them. Any mental work you do often gets used against you.
If people are not shaping the future of services then who is? Who decides which endeavors will see daylight? Currently, it is a very small group of people who control initial financial investment decisions. This mental capital through primary investments is controlled by a few business/investment managers and VC operators. For everyday people, the investment options are mostly a bank’s few mutual funds or stocks of big companies. The public investment space has been narrowing for a reason. The reason is to protect people from uncertainty. Uncertain decision-making from a diverse set of opportunities rewards thinking and thinking people are difficult to control. Maintaining hierarchical social structure has required increasing regulation as the market mechanism has removed natural restriction with accelerating pace.
Programmable decentralized infrastructure
Since ancient times, markets have continued taking up space from hierarchies as a decision-making mechanism. Great centrally governed empires have always broken down into smaller units and toward more federated systems. The golden era of mega-corporations was in the 1950s, after which sizes and lifespans of companies have shrunk significantly. More and more economic activity and value channels through small businesses. At the same time, the costs of being a listed publicly-traded company have increased dramatically, and the number of listed companies has gone down. Investment options for the crowds kept diminishing until the emergence of suitable trustless infrastructure: the internet of verifiable information.
The rise of new decentralized open protocols has changed the game once again, and markets eat the power of hierarchies faster than ever. Tremendous growth in the number of digital assets in recent years offered investors brand new opportunities to deploy their capital. The infrastructures that enable making basically any forms of value tradable units, at negligible cost, have already created whole new asset classes into the economy. The size or location of the company, business, commodity, or any economic entity are not anymore the determinants of whether the value can be freely traded in public. Similarly, one can now truly own one’s digital identity and present oneself on different circumstances and platforms. Many people who have previously been excluded from financial markets for technological, political, or informational reasons are now gaining access to the global financial system. All this has also opened a whole new world of investment opportunities for everyday people.
Mental capital investments arise
Investing, at its purest, is telling how resources ought to be allocated and what choices to make. Everyone has great views on these questions, but how to give proper weights to those ideas? What is the way to take responsibility for ideas and then collectively come up with eventual choices? How do you truly own your choices and have skin in the game? Having investable assets corresponding to these views and ideas makes it possible. Naturally, the most obvious form currently is a financial investment. And with our new programmable decentralized infrastructure, it is all increasingly real.
When a single investment can determine whether some idea becomes reality, investing begins to look a lot more like problem-solving instead of predicting. One is not anymore investing in how one would bet the world is going to be, but in how one would like the world to be. That makes it rewarding to think, rewarding to write, rewarding to be intellectually honest and participate. That could mean, for example, reading, learning, taking notes, building knowledge graphs, having meaningful conversations with people, and trying to understand multiple perspectives. You begin finding your worldviews more impactful. You start feeling more empowered with your ideas.
Regarding the investment process itself, there is an increasing amount of randomness in the outcomes of individual investments, especially when all that happens at scale. Individual innovations regularly disrupt all the legacy solutions. Investment approaches for controlling single event dominance and other tail events become powerful. With exploding token space, asset classes become much less well-defined. One can invest in startups, ideas, and pieces of data. Being able to own pretty much anything asks for toolsets to utilize mountains of information in a reliable way.
The explosion of all kinds of investment opportunities results in a question about how to process all that information. That’s the case, especially when we are talking about people who have zero interest in that kind of activity. People often say that they understand nothing about investing, so it is very difficult to make investment decisions. Knowing about investing to be able to invest should not be required. It should be enough to know something about anything. And that is something that people do. They have plenty of knowledge. This knowledge may be expressed explicitly or implicitly in everyday actions.
The digital footprint, data from life, can be consumed not only by external parties but also by the person him/herself. That means a digital preference learner which performs investment operations on behalf of you. AI assistants or digital twins are increasingly common in several subject areas, and there are definitely resources and momentum behind this technology. One can focus on learning substances and recording them in any form without having a need to manually scrape through the tremendously large investment space. The system doesn’t need to be anyhow perfect for being able to function purposefully. It learns by doing.
All of the above takes us quite far along in empowering individuals to make a difference. It enables a great impact on the development of the world around us. However, it is still restricted by the simple one-dimensional information systems. Traditional business logics are still required to get ahead in competition. But with these tools, one is ready to dive deeper to catch finer details of value and choice.
Information systems enabling new asset classes
The value of traditional assets is based on its property of generating financial income or direct practical utility. On the other hand, sometimes the value of an asset may be pure information value, as in cases of some collectibles. By applying this logic to valuing choice in general, one doesn’t need to build any money-earning mechanism to do something useful.
When the price of having evidence and making independent measurements and valuations is less than building an earning mechanism, then it is the way to go. With many actions, having money-based business logic is outright impossible. So far, these actions have naturally been outside the scope of any serious investment markets. In addition to verifiable information, the main issue here has been making impact measurements and valuations. However, scalable automation changes the picture.
It is paradoxical that sometimes people don’t speak out their thoughts and ideas in fear that someone ‘steals’ them. But when you can have timestamped permanent proofs of your contributions, these insightful views can be confidently valued due and according to their informational content. You don’t benefit only from finding investable assets corresponding to your ideas. Those ideas themselves become ones. Similar logic applies to opportunities for evaluating agents’ capabilities in different situations. Showing your personal value in specific tasks, as well as rating positively truly valuable contributions, become highly incentivized. When manual processing by humans is not anymore the bottleneck of information utilization, the investment opportunities are not anymore limited by simplified information systems and traditional business logics. Not only anything is investable, but anything is investing.
There is a demand for meaningful participation. There is a demand for having crowds of independent people to deeply think for themselves and share their insights, views, and desires with the world. There is a demand for empowering each other to make sense of all the valuable contributions and deploying them for the benefit of everyone. Once there is all that mental capital baked into AI twins who process and evaluate surrounding information, help with individual biases, and evolve in action, much has been achieved.
Firstly, through investment decisions, people’s wisdom and preferences begin to flow into new products and services. Secondly, people are training digital versions of themselves which make their values built into emerging AGI systems. Thirdly, the language and interpretation barriers between individuals get removed as machines learn individual interpretations of words and actions. It leads to increased understanding of each other, more purposeful discussions among people, and more meaningfulness in participation.