Equal opportunity makes us materialistic.

The concept of equal opportunity is that we all have the same chance to be rich. The idea that we could all be rich some day has made our society materialistic, something many people complain about daily.

The concept of equal opportunity is quite new, and very different from back when royalty was royalty and peasants were peasants. In those times, few people climbed the hierarchical ladder of society, and that was alright. Rather than finding happiness through gaining power or money, peasants found happiness in day to day occurrences.

Simple things made them happy, such as the birth of a farm animal or an exceptionally large harvest. Both of these examples, do in fact provide them monetary gain. However, to them, this wasn’t a step closer to the castle they hope to live in some day, but rather a way to feed their family good food.

Politicians gain popularity by promising everyone a richer and better lifestyle. Marketers sell their product by showcasing how luxurious ones life could be.

Everyone can be rich. You can be rich too. Act rich, look rich, and you will be come rich. Money is happiness. Equal opportunity.

Photo from Flickr. Thank you Max Shearer.

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Equal opportunity also leads to depression.

I just recently wrote about how equal opportunity makes us materialistic. I just found a study that links materialism to anger and depression.

  • If equal opportunity leads to materialism,
  • and materialism leads to anger and depression,
  • then equal opportunity must lead to anger and depression.

At least materialism also makes us work harder, which increases output per unit of human capital. This means a higher GDP, and that’s all we care about, right?

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Google Instant #1 results: A through Z.

Google instant will start giving you suggestions as soon as you start typing a word in. Awesome. So I thought it would be fun to find out who the number one searched result was for each letter of the alphabet. Some of the results surprised me at first, but then I realized it’s probably pretty personalized to the profile google has stored for me. Creepy.

A – Amazon.com
B – Bank of America
C – Craigslist
E – eBay
F – Facebook
G – Gmail
H – Hotmail
I – Ikea
J – JetBlue
K – Ktla
L – Lakers
M – Myspace
N – Netflix
O – OC Fair
P – Pandora
Q – Quotes
R – Ralphs
S – Skype
T – Target
V – Verizon
W – Weather
X – Xbox
Y – Yahoo
Z – Zillow

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Freakematics is a word I just put together now as a way to describe a habit of mine. Freakematics is the application of pure mathematics to diverse subjects not usually covered by “traditional” pure mathematics. The inspiration came from the term Freaknomics, which is “an application of economic theory to diverse subjects not usually covered by ‘traditional’ economists (Wikipedia).

Pure mathematics should not be confused with applied mathematics. Pure mathematics is more about the beauty of finding patterns, and not necessarily used for practical application. A central concept of pure mathematics is the idea of generality. It’s the pursuit of a generality that can describe everything.

The idea of Freakematics is to use logic to show that the universe is connected. The core idea is that everything makes sense and nothing doesn’t make sense. You must always assume there are factors you don’t know and haven’t thought of. It isn’t always practical, but at least it’s never wrong.

A good way to explain why you must always assume there are unknown factors is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is calculated by an enormous supercomputer over a period of 7.5 million years to be 42.” When we apply Freakematics, we’re only doing an analysis of what this supercomputer can do in a split second.

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The Third Place

The Third Place is a term coined by Professor Ray Oldenburg back in 1989. He describes the importance of informal gathering places such as bars and coffee shops that allow you to escape from your two usual environments. Your two usual environments are your home (the first place) and your office (the second place).

As a way to skip the process of rewording what’s already been said, here is an excerpt from the wikipedia article on Oldenburg’s writings:

Oldenburg calls one’s “first place” the home and those that one lives with. The “second place” is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests these hallmarks of a true “third place”: free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance); involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.

The beauty of Third Places are that they are public spaces for informal social gatherings, such as coffee shops, bars, and parks.

  • Public – (Almost) Everybody is welcome. The beauty is that it allows interaction between people of different backgrounds. During a walk through a park, you wouldn’t be surprised to interact with liberals, conservatives, kids, adults, accountants, rock stars, tourists, or scientists, whether it be simply smiling at them or actually engaging in conversation.
  • Space – Any social gathering requires a setting. There is usually a “host” to any third place. At a bar, it would be the bar owner, manager, and bartenders. At a public park or beach, the host is your government. The host often provides a lot to and has a lot of control over the space. More recently, we see a lot of social interaction on the internet; an interesting topic to discuss is social networking sites as Third Places and the power of the host.
  • For – In this case, this word is used to indicate purpose of both the host and the guest. What kind of space and environment does the host intend to create? What is the mindset of the guests in the space?
  • Informal – By definition, this is referring to the absence of formality. This can create a sense of neutrality between two people that may not exist in another setting. In your office, it could be a taboo for you to walk up to the CEO of your company and discuss with him your opinion on this year’s football season, but if you happened to sit next to him at a bar, that conversation suddenly becomes (more) acceptable.
  • Social – The Third Place concept puts a lot of emphasis on the interaction between people. It is a study of sociology, which is using “various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge about human social activity, often with the goal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare” (Source: Wikipedia). This knowledge can also be applied to business decisions such as by marketers or business owners who host third places.
  • Gatherings – Not one, but many gatherings. You must look at the culmination of the many gatherings that change constantly over time both in size and numbers. Each interaction, no matter the duration or importance, is a gathering.

I am not writing about the Third Place concept because I believe that bars are more important to you than your home or office.

I am not writing about the Third Place concept because I believe that third places are distinct from your home and office. Nor do I believe that they should be.

I am not writing about the Third Place because I want to argue for or against anybody. The writing of this blog is part of my research process. I hope to find a thesis someday, or do I?

I am writing about the Third Place concept because it’s an interesting way to look at our lives and society. Live, work, and play is only one way of categorizing your mindset, it’s neither right nor wrong. But when you apply these categories to your observations about human interaction and physical location, you might notice something you didn’t before. That’s all I’m saying.

You live at home, work at the office, but where do you play?

For sake of full disclosure, I’d like to share that I have not read either of Professor Oldenburg’s books on this subject which are The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community and Celebrating the Third Place: Inspiring Stories About the “Great Good Places” at the Heart of Our Community. I hope to read these books soon, and I will share my thoughts along the way.

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