Tech

The siblings selling shares in their future shed light on how we see our past

A new company caught my eye this weekend, in a story by four tech entrepreneur siblings who are in the process of raising money from investors. But this is no ordinary fundraising round. Instead of selling shares in a traditional company, the Libermans sell shares itself.

If this idea uncomfortably reminds you of a time when it was commonplace for people to be traded as assets, I’ve got you covered. But as scary as it sounds, it’s worth remembering that the Libermans are doing this of their own accord. In addition, they believe that what they call a “people company” – which they hope to float on stock exchange – will not only benefit them financially, but could also “curb 21st century inequality”.

I should get it straight away: I think this is a naive and stupid idea, and it won’t do anything of the sort. The notion that turning people into holding companies will somehow make the rest of the world more equal smacks of a particularly dopey and deluded form of techno-Utopianism, and one should not take it too seriously. The Libermans aren’t the first to think of it either.

But I think it’s worth exploring the separation of the present self from that of the past and future. The supposed value of “Libermans Co‘ comes not only from profits from the siblings’ current ventures, but also from the money they will make over the next 30 years. The idea is that Daniil, David, Anna and Maria, who grew up in poverty in Moscow, can benefit not only from their current selves, but also from their future versions.

This begs the question of what the New Yorker calls “longitudinal inequality” in his article on the company: the notion that our current system is unfair to our younger selves, who have to struggle with very little while only our older selves benefited financially. But are we sure that we would help these younger selves by giving them wealth before they really deserve it? Would they be motivated if we did, and would their eventual success be just as rewarding?

After all, any Hollywood blockbuster will show you that the human brain craves a certain narrative: toughness followed by a happy ending. As psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes in his 2011 book thinking, fast and slow, We remember – and therefore judge – an experience not based on the sum of the emotions or feelings contained in it, but based on certain peaks or valleys and especially its end: the so-called “peak-end rule”.

There’s a conflict of interest, Kahneman explains, between the “experienced self” experiencing pain and pleasure when it happens, and the “remembering self”. It turns out that the remembering self is not only pretty bad at remembering; it also has little empathy for the experiencing self. “The experiencing self has no voice,” writes Kahneman. “What we learn from the past is to maximize the qualities of our future memories, not necessarily our future experience. That is the tyranny of the remembering self.”

This idea might sound familiar to anyone who has watched the brilliant series severance pay, where some people have chosen to put a chip in their brains that prevents them from remembering their work life when they leave the office, and vice versa. This means, in effect, that they become two different people — the “outie,” who earns a salary despite never being aware that he’s working, and the “innie,” who is eternally trapped in the workplace to never Having fun is none of the financial rewards of their work.

Without revealing the plot, some of these “innies” feel a lack of empathy from their respective “outies” who confined them to a life of unrewarded servitude. Having absolutely no recollection of their working selves, they have effectively viewed these experiencing beings as irrelevant.

Of course, memories of past experiences contribute to how we feel in the present, so we shouldn’t totally discount their value, even if they’re negative. But what we can learn from all of this is that we should be careful about how unrepresentative memories can be and use that awareness to guide our decision-making. This might help us treat our experiencing self with more compassion.

In a way, the Libermans attempt to “hack” the peak-end rule by smoothing out their own ups and downs over the course of life. But they sideline that psychological wealth that can come from the variety of experiences, including suffering. Also as severance pay shows it’s difficult to make decisions for ourselves if we don’t always know what others want.

jemima.kelly@ft.com

The siblings selling shares in their future shed light on how we see our past Source link The siblings selling shares in their future shed light on how we see our past

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