Optimize For What’s Necessary

Technology optimizes for performance.

Business optimizes for profit.

Biological evolution optimizes for survival.

Spirituality optimizes for compassion (non-aggression).

How does this work out in real life?

Performance Optimizations

To be successful, any technology must optimize for performance.

That means running the same process with less energy, in less time, or with greater accuracy.

Take computers, for instance. They were optimized primarily for performance (measured in speed of CPU and data storage). If you compare the evolution in size of computers from, let’s say, the last two decades, with their evolution in performance, you would get incredible numbers. In terms of size, they probably shrunk 10-20x. A desktop from around 20 years ago is roughly 20x bigger than a laptop. But in terms of processing power and storage, the increase was 100-200x, at least. An order of magnitude higher.

In technology, all resources are concentrated on performance, and cost is less important.

Profit Optimizations

A business is measured by the profit it creates. What’s left after you take out investment and operational cost, that’s the core of the business.

That means a business is running the same process with increasing financial returns.

Look how business is only slightly overlapping with technology here.

You don’t always pay the same for the same amount of performance. All smartphones have roughly the same technical characteristics. And yet, some of them are selling for a lot more than others. Optimization done in areas like branding, communication, marketing influences heavily the returns.

Biological Evolution Optimization

An organism is said to adjust when it functions in such a way that its current structures will be predictably supported.

That means evolution runs the same process (life) over and over, with increased adaptation to the context.

We already know that survival is not a feature of the strongest, but of the fittest. And by fittest it means “the one most adapted to the circumstances”.

It gets interesting now if you combine the previous two optimizations. Sometimes, as a living organism, you need to generate profit (or fat, like bears do to adjust to the winter), and that’s a business type of optimization. Whereas other times you need generate more accuracy (if you’re hunting, for instance), or higher speed (if you run by someone who’s hunting you), which are both technology types of optimization.

These two optimizations are used differently, based on the context, because that’s what evolution does: it adjusts to the context.

Spirituality Optimization

A spiritual person does no harm (very, very basic description, I know, but bare with me).

That means spirituality runs the same process (living consciously) by avoiding violence and aiming for unconditional cohesion with other human beings, on the basis that we’re all the same, and we all want the same thing: to be happy.

Optimizing for spirituality means avoiding contexts in which violence is required, or even accepting loss or wounds, in order to remain in the non-violent space.

Optimizing for spirituality is also the most complex optimization of all.

You need to remain alive to be spiritual (dead people are dead, they’re not spiritual in any way), so that means optimizing for evolution.

You need to become better at your practice (whichever that is) so you need to optimize for better, more accurate processes (just like technology does).

And, once you understand that your well being is completely interconnected with the well being of all beings, then you also need to optimize for getting more returns, just to be able to give back to the others. Sometimes these returns are financial (the Church is one of the oldest, most profitable institutions in the recent human history), sometimes they’re just reputation (which is more fragile than cash, but also more flexible).

What If You Overoptimize?

Optimizing too much on some parts will get you beyond the goal.

If we talk about spirituality, for instance, optimizing too much on accuracy, like in doing empty prayers and rituals, without understanding the end goal (cohesion) will make you a parrot, at best, and a human bomb, at worst. Optimizing too much on the financial profits, will make you a short lived sect, by triggering greed in your adepts. Optimizing too much on evolution, like adjusting to the context, will probably make you give in to temporary politics, just to remain alive.

Which Is Which?

I find it difficult to stick to a definitive answer.

I think most of the time we are driven to optimize for profit. This is very visible in crypto, with all the apeing and endless hunt for chunky APYs. This is rooted in a legitimate fear that we ain’t gonna make it if we stick to the current context.

And with that we’re segueing into evolution, as crypto looks like a better bet in terms of adjusting to context. Even if it’s just a hedge, it’s an evolutionary advantage against actors who are using only one basket (government-backed fiat) for their energy storage.

Sometimes we also need to optimize for technology, which was the dominant trend in crypto for the last 2-3 years, when the main goal was speed and vertical scaling. At some point we will hit a certain wall, in which aiming for too much performance will simply become unnecessary, nobody will use that. 1,000,000 TPS looks sexy now, but who’s going to need that? What’s the use case? Is it worth it?

What I find extremely interesting, though, is that, somehow, crypto is better positioned for spiritual optimization, as in not doing harm. Hackers and exploiters aside, I think the entire blockchain architecture makes it way easier to just not do harm, it leaves less of an attack surface to greed. It’s as collective as a process can be (the blockchain cannot run without validators). It’s almost frictionless, once you learn how it works (every action produces effects almost immediately). It’s transparent, everybody shares the same ledger.

It isn’t perfect, far from that, but it’s better than the middle-man in traditional banks, or government created, violence-backed money.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash

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