I admit that this thread is quite a mess of conflated philosophical, psychological, health, and personal threads. Well, that's basically how it started, so untangling it later on would be untrue to the nature of this thread, even if it was easily or even meaningfully possible (which it is not).
There has been quite a development for me in the meantime since I started this thread in a kind of personal crisis. Back then I have been on the pessimistic end, when I wrote this:
My miracle cheat code for resilient health
The point is that a miracle like that actually seemed to happen. At the moment I'm relatively functional, stable, slightly happy and productive. My situation has improved, but there are still lots of challenges facing me. What happened is a kind of phase change that I've achieved by stabilizing my health through a couple of interventions, some of which cannot be underestimated:
- I'm taking about 3 g of L-tyrosine a day. That works more reliably for stabilizing my mood than anything else I've tried so far, including other supplements, therapy, meditation, exercise, time and nature, and antidepressants! Yes, that's a small miracle, but hey, it works!
- I'm taking 1 g of Rhodiola Rosea extract each day. That's one of the best researched and most effective adaptogenic herbs right now. And its effects are truly remarkable. Since I've started taking this stuff, I've become increasingly robust. It's certainly one of the best and most effective supplements I've ever taken, and I've tried a lot!
Those little supplements all by themselves seem to be a kind of cheat code that boost my health and stress resistance to levels where I succeed without too much effort where I used to fail miserably before. That has an interesting downside of reducing my perceived need for other "soft" health interventions like relaxation, time in nature, mindfulness, and things like that. Sleep and exercise are still important, though. Those factors are pillars for solid health and performance, and I'm taking them relatively seriously, but not to an extreme degree. I'm doing pretty fine with moderate levels sleep and exercise with my new "cheat code" supplements.
A shift in the limiting factors
Before my rapid recovery with tyrosine + Rhodiola Rosea therapy, my limiting factors were health and energy (in this context this is a set of "coupled" variables). Now they are money and time (another set of "coupled" variables). The point is that I have a day job from whose money I could live reasonably comfortable with (mostly because I have relatively modest needs). Unfortunately, the downside of that kind of job is that this day job gets in the way of the serious work I want to do that could make this world a better place. And it's definitely not a day job that would contribute a lot to making this world a better place. If anything, it's rather neutral. I would be really glad to see this whole business I work for being automated, rationalized, or completely disrupted.
Things would be so much better with an unconditional basic income
I'd really prefer to have a reliable and robust source of income that wasn't dependent on working for a business whose value is questionable. And I'm pretty sure that that's a very common problem, at least if people were realistic and honest about their situation. It would help me a lot if I received an unconditional basic income, even if I just needed it for transitioning to an income source that was more in line with my wishes for meaningful work and value creation. It's those transitions that are made needlessly difficult by the lack of an unconditional basic income. This lack of income security is what makes people get stuck in far less than ideal situations.
Income from donations is the most ethical choice in the absence of UBI
My considerations tend to go into the direction that it would be the most ethical path to try living on donations for doing valuable stuff. But of course, that's hard. Working in a regular (or even slightly irregular) day job is rather simple by comparison. You need to become a kind of entrepreneur if you want to live off donations. And being an entrepreneur is really hard and time-consuming. Being an entrepreneur who doesn't pursue a regular business strategy but goes for donations seems to be even harder. But at least such a strategy would reduce the clash between questionable value creation with traditional business practices versus more clearly social value generating activities. Still, this avenue being very hard means the probability of failure is extreme, and only few people are able to succeed with that. In this day and age it still looks more rational to opt for more traditional approaches.
And even if you are successful with a strategy relying on donations, you will still be dependent on your donors and the chance of becoming stuck in a suboptimal state of affairs is still considerable. That's why an unconditional basic income would be a superior solution. It would create the necessary independence for pursuing truly passionate, disruptive, and innovative value creation efforts. Just imagine a truly collaborative open-source economy in which you could solve nearly any problem with a freely available piece of data, software, or 3d-printing blueprint. Such a vision is just not going to fly if people still waste too much of their precious time in their conventional old-school day jobs. It can be hardly overestimated how much inertia the bondage of people to their current traditional money generating activities creates. An unconditional basic income would probably release more disruption and innovation potential than other intervention.
Unfortunately, in the meantime we are stuck in this situation without unconditional basic income. Perhaps this might indicate that focusing our efforts on lobbying for the introduction of unconditional basic incomes would be the best general use of our time in this phase. Any remaining problem could be solved more rapidly and effectively with the subsequently unleashed value creation potential of humanity (in the big scheme of things perhaps meaning an upgrade from civilization 3.5 to civilization 3.8).
Perhaps that wouldn't be the best case of action. After all, there are other important immediate and future problems. Maintaining, safeguarding, and improving civilization in other areas is also important. Also, anticipating and preparing future necessary upgrades is something that scientists, researchers, futurists, and transhumanists should really do. Such future-aware persons are still rare, so perhaps it's not fair to ask them to focus on the next big necessary sociopolitical improvement of helping to get unconditional basic incomes in place.
Simple answers seem to be out of reach. Uncertainty and complexity turn decision making in this context into a really challenging endeavor. And of course, I'm personally affected by this. The future direction of my life is far from clear. Even if I accepted that studying economics was the best next option for me, studying and getting enough money even for sustaining my modest needs at the same time would be a very big challenge. Probably so much so, that it would prevent me from pursuing any other projects in parallel – especially the most important ones.
There might be of course an exception to that. If I managed to find some relatively high paying source of income in which I only needed to work about 10 hours per week, I might be able to pull that off. Earning about 25€ per hour on average would likely suffice. But getting into a position that pays you so much with only 10 hours of work per week, even in the preparation phase, seems to be a pretty far-fetched prospect. At that rate, getting some donors to pay for my expenses doesn't seem to be too hard in comparison.
It seems to be a cynical conclusion that the best alternative might be to apply for unemployment benefits and do the minimal required effort that would prevent oneself from getting those benefits removed. That's a highly risky and nerve wrecking strategy, however.
Of course, if I happened to be rich, these problems would not apply, and I could focus on creating value, rather than generating money for myself.
Having a wealthy patron would also suffice, but I don't even know what kind of skills I would need to pursue this strategy with any reasonable chance of success. And complaining about my failures in this regard in the hope that someone will eventually pay me to shut up also doesn't seem to be a terribly good strategy.
Anyway, I'm kinda stuck, but at least I'm stuck on a higher level. That's what progress looks and feels from the inside.