The meaning of Life, the Universe and Value!

I was inspired to write this blog entry from a thread in Facebook.  We all know that the internet is *free* right?  Using Google, G+, Facebook, Twitter and loads of others I could mention cost no money to use.  How can that be, how can companies be considered worth upwards of $100bn yet provide their services to their customers entirely for free.

The business model is actually dishonest because it takes advantage of a human condition we in the civilised world have developed around value – more specifically our own value!  Pretty much every civilisation has a universal mechanism for their people to measure value – it’s called money and it’s the fundamental device that enables trade and commerce so its important.  Money is also this device that people use to value themselves as an individual often comparing themselves to others; we call this wealth – think the Rich 500 list.  If you have lots of money one week you feel “flush” and you might go on a shopping spree or treat your friends to dinner, and when you’re doing these things you feel good and in some way elevated, important or in a leadership position within your social group. If you have more money than your peers you feel more successful – these feelings are addictive and that’s why craving money is natural, because it leads us to get those feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need to measure our own success and money is certainly a great and universal barometer,  but one of the side effects of this is what the term “free” mean to us. We are taught from an early age that more money is good – get a good job – get a nice house etc.  So the natural assumption that you derive from this is “spend less and get more for it” is good – we all love those bargains right!

So anything that you get for “free” must be good – right? That is surely the best bargain of all.  It’s so easy to think that because the idea of getting something of some value to us without having to pay money for it appeals so much that we are blinded to what is really happening.   Bottom line is that anything you get for free you are actually paying for indirectly and yet you don’t know it and that’s what free services take advantage of – and if you work out the *real* cost to you personally it will almost certainly be a much higher cost than if you actually paid money for it.

Don’t talk rubbish I hear you say, how can that be?

I can’t really answer that for you, if you really want to know the answer to that you must answer it for yourself.  All  you really need to do is work out what is valuable to you individually in non-monetary terms and you will have your answer.   To help you on your way let me give you some questions you might want to ask yourself that might point you in the right direction of discovering your own value?

  • How much do you earn an hour on average over your working life?
  • How long is your life?
  • If you worked a normal life, spent nothing and saved all of your money how much would you end up with?  What would you do with it when you have it? And when would you do those things?
  • If you had a child, how much time (in hours) would you spend splashing around in a pool on holiday with him or her between the ages of 1 and 14?
  • How often have you found yourself on a mission that has involved you spending a vast amount of your own time justifying and claiming for that $10 meal expense or that parking ticket that you did not deserve?
  • How often have you put off the opportunity of going out or traveling to somewhere new?
  • How often have you sat their for tens of minutes waiting for your Microsoft Windows computer to update and reboot its self so you can get onto the internet and just accepted that as the norm?
  • How long did you stand in that queue in the January Sales to buy that top you wanted for 30% off the tag price?
  • How much time do you spend in Facebook rejecting those pesky apps that want you to give away your personal information?

I could go on but that should be enough.  Work out what it is that you personally value and then work out why things that are “free of charge” are not actually “free” to you – and once you have worked that out you may well find that getting things “free of charge” is not as valuable to you as your instincts would lead you to believe. But you already knew that right?

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  1. Very interesting write up. I really enjoyed starting my Sunday with a bit of existential philosophy.
    That’s a pity that most of us undervalue non-monetary aspects of our lives and I really wonder why the definition of “free” is so shallow. I believe it’s changing though.
    Accurate point about MS windows 😉

  2. I stumbled upon your blog while looking for some info on digitally controlled PSUs. Very interesting blog and your viewpoints and interests largely match mine. Including the one above. Thanks for sharing. Much appreciated. Miron

  3. I really like seeing other INTPs*:
    – asking questions instead of imposing opinions
    – taking things apart
    – following projects through at the right pace
    – not connecting logic and philosophy, but rather showing that they’re already connected
    – being at the same moment aware of their strengths and modest about it
    That’s what I love the internet for – enabling rare types to not feel alone…

    * yes, the mbti is an oversimplified theory – but also predicts that I as an INTP would say that 🙂

      1. That’s the kind of reaction I anticipated (and why I also think mbti is “oversimplified”) 🙂
        I also liked the SOA-article! Is there something coming up on BTC maybe?

  4. Stumbled across your blog, some great content. As an INTP, I agree the model is too simple .. I also agree with the premise in your article.. and would go further perhaps …

    If we are to live to the mythical age of 83 (most of us don’t), then by the time we hit 30 a few ‘truisms’ exist.

    At best we have less than 500,000 hours left. It’s not much, working >100,000 hours, sleeping >150,000 hours chances are the first 10 years (88,000) are going to be healthier than the last, certainly more mobile, so the preeminent question becomes what are we doing with the time we have..

    It’s a great question, it can change our lives…. Do we willingly spend time watching advertisements,… TV …Microsoft updates, working in paid employment, waiting in McDonald’s…. etc answer has to be an emphatic No !…

    If TIME is the only thing we really have to trade, then anything that takes time is NOT FREE. great article !

    1. Hi Peter,

      Thanks for the comments and sorry for such a late reply, I missed this one for some reason. Yes I agree, TIME is the real currency of life, its sad that most people do not really appreciate that because you can easily end up old and full of regret for the things you wanted to do but did not.


  5. I wonder when the first insurance company refuses to give you a life insurance based on data from an Android phone/watch? Don’t move enough? To high pulse? Our relaxed attitude about “free”, when we actually sell information about our self is coming back to bite us in the ass in a not to distant future.

    By the way, used your excellent resistor decade circuits today to impedance match a GPSDO with a Raspberry Pi NTP server. Great stuff.

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