Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Conversation with My Greed Self

Conversation with My Greedy Self

We all live in a world of abundance; if we live within our means, there's always enough for us.

Hang on. There seems to be a contradiction here: if there's abundance, why should we force ourselves to live "within our means"?

What I'm trying to say is that, beyond basic survival, scarcity is a condition which we choose ourselves. We don't feel we have enough simply because we always want more. Deep down inside, all of us are inherently greedy.

Hold on, isn't a bit of what you call "greed" necessary to drive people to excel? "Greed, is what drives the upward surge of mankind", says Gordon Gekko in his famous "greed is good" speech in the movie Wall Street. If greed is a motivation force for us to succeed, and we don't hurt anyone in the process, what's wrong with that?

Hold it there. We need to proceed carefully here because greed means possessing more than what we actually need. You have to ask yourself very honestly: will your desires ever be fully satiated? We all like to claim that we don't need to be very rich to be happy, We just need to be "rich enough". But when is enough enough? Why isn't what you already have considered enough? Let's say you have assets worth a few million dollars, is that enough?

(Gordon Gekko: "It's not a question of enough")

I would think so. With a couple of million, I should be secured for life. Like what Robert Kiyosaki likes to say, income from my assets will then pay for all my expenses.

Think again. Can you really be that sure? By then you would have acquired a taste for the kind of pleasures that cost a million dollars. You won't be contented with luxury holidays in Bali and or shopping trips to Paris, you would think of becoming a space tourist too.

No, no, I just want to have enough to retire.

Well, strictly speaking you can retire now if you want to. You just need to reduce your wants and live very frugally--like a peasant in the countryside. You'll be happy.

But that's not good enough. I won't be happy with that. No one will ever be satisfied with mere survival. I cannot do without a phone, a broadband connection, the occassional travel overseas and the pleasures of movies, books and wine. That's not too much to ask for, is it?

Let's say all that is covered, will that be enough?


Let's say, you are as rich as Bill Gates. Will that be good enough?

Of course!

Don't say that with too much certainty. If you have that kind of money, you would want to have even bigger dreams: Why not embark on a project to reengineer the atmosphere of Mars to make it habitable for human beings? You can probably afford it can't you? It'll be an interesting enterprise.

But why would anyone want to indulge in such megalomaniac pursuits?

Well, why do we want to build houses on landslide-prone hillslopes, turn coral sanctuaries into luxury marinas, chop down our forests to build theme parks and resorts for the rich?

Because we can. All these are reasonable luxuries. Human beings are entitled to enjoy their lives, are we not?

Why not terraform Mars? We need the space. We can reduce the congestion and pollution on earth. We can build a new and better world properly from scratch.

Hmm...maybe it's not a bad idea, but why not the Moon first?

I think we should plan for both. And after that, tackle the moons of Jupiter. Europa is a good candidate.

*Sigh*. Isn't life too short for us to do all the things we want to do?

Don't despair yet. If we pump our money into Longevity Research, we can do something about that too...


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