What are intrinsically meaningful and important?

In my previous post, I said we should do intrinsically meaningful and important things for individuals and humanity. I call these things IMIT (intrinsically meaningful and important things). In this post, I want to discuss what could be these IMIT, in the context of getting more personal fulfilment and acquiring more wealth. (Yes, you can do both.)

Before I start, I would like to get you into some bigger pictures.

earth centric view of the world
We used to center the whole universe around us, and we are hence confined in our little world.
Photo credit: Khan Academy

In the old time, when we didn’t have telescopes and rockets, we had no way to tell what is outside of us. We thought we are the center of the world and everything revolves around us. We also thought that everything that had happened, that was happening, that would happen, existed in our society and world; and that the only important things are these which we can see. This is a very narrow view of life and what is beyond us, for today’s eyes.

When we finally got a telescope and sent people out into space, we started to marvel at the sheer massiveness of universe and how small and short our lives were, compared to the cosmos both in time and space. This was an experience that humbled us and put everything ongoing in our humane world into perspectives. In other words, we are enlightened by this experience. We realised that there were things going on in the afar and what are going on in the world are not necessarily, if at all, the most important ones.

earth from the moon
When we first saw our small earth from the moon, we gained a third-person perspective.
Photo credit: Live Science

The sad thing is that, after gazing the sky and adore the universe, we often lower our head into the mundane world and life. We forgot the inspirations and magnificence we learned from the sky. We went back to the small concerns like doing whore, running some errands, partying with friends or impressing strangers.

dishes to wash
Don’t be tamed down by things immediately in front of you. Look into the sky, think about your ambitions.
Photo credit: Washington Post

I am no exception. I have had many similarly enlightening experiences that lifted me out of my own horizon to see the bigger picture. Because I loved reading philosophy and thinking about life, these experiences kept coming back to me so that I could constantly rethink and re-valuate whether I was doing IMIT. Does what I have been doing belong to a part of the big picture, paradigm and scheme?

I really wanted an answer for this question. And I have got some progress. The universe could belittle many things, such as cooking food, being annoyed by a stranger, the death of some close relatives, and the happiness when somebody complemented us. But there are works, jobs, tasks, and professions that connect humanity with the broader space and farther future, for example, science, education, technology development and so on.

We should relentlessly devote most of our time and effort to them, to maximise the meaning of our life. Of course we still have to do these daily, routine, and mundane things; of course we are still moved or angered by small things. But overall, when we look back to the dear life we have travelled, we shouldn’t feel that we have just had a life full of happiness and love. In other words, in life we should pursue more meaning. And meaning should not just be relevant for a certain period of time and certain generations of people. It should transcend time, language, culture and social class. And those things with the transcendental meaningful are what I call: IMIT (intrinsically meaningful and important things).

What are IMIT?

Let’s try to figure out what are IMIT. I will go through things one by one and then, in the end, we shall have a preliminary list of things that are IMIT. Note that I am aware that industries are not a well-defined subject and may well not be an appropriate level of assessment we should use. Also note that I realise this is a very controversial and subjective undertaking. I welcome your critics.

Let’s start from Non-IMIT industries:

  1. Entertainment (including the hospitality industry)
    This is completely waste of time and resources. Of course I love going out with families, friends, of course I enjoy those majestic views. I lived in Switzerland for a long time and whenever people envied me, I feel happy. Of course, the Swiss landscape is gorgeous.
    But do I really need it and the service provided by those hotels? No.
    Okay, let me take a step back and ask, do we all really need it? Yes, we need it. But is it IMIT? I would say no. It is not important compared to other industries and it is not intrinsically meaningful either. It might facilitate meaning-finding; and that is why many people travel. But itself has got no meaning. People might find inspirations from a trip to Paris or New York, but they can do so through books, TV, documentaries as well.
    I shouldn’t feel proud if I become the founder and owner of the largest hotel chain in the world, though as a human, I will indeed feel proud; but again, I will tell myself that I shouldn’t. I should feel proud because I didn’t do things that are IMIT, that served intrinsic need of human being.

  2. Food and beverage
    I think this is also non-IMIT. In fact, in my previous post, I think we should eliminate our taste so that we only need to drink nutrition liquid.

  3. Agriculture
    When we only need nutrition liquid, agriculture, as we know it today, become redundant as well. New forms of agriculture that produce nutrition liquid will increase its importance. Ultimately, when we have our brain planted on a chip, we will not need agriculture, we will need the semiconductor industry. Furthermore, industries and things that sustain our lives are of paramount importance.

  4. Banking and Finance
    We have started to see some banking and finance job being replaced by automation. Banking will perhaps be completely eliminated whereas finance will stay for a long time, though definitely not the so-called "quant" sect of finance. Investors with good judgment will still be needed. Therefore, finance is important. But is it intrinsically meaningful?
    Some say that finance performs an intermediary function, it channels surplus capital to industries with potential. Perhaps this is the strongest argument for the meaningfulness of finance. Yet even it fails to make a strong case. It assumes that the market is imperfect and hence finance is needed to make it perfect. But what if in the future, the market is perfect? (I will develop this argument further. I know it is not a good one here.)

  5. Fashion (ordinary and expressively luxurious)
    This industry is totally a waste of time and resource.

  6. Foreign language education
    This is important for our world for now. But one day, the world will for sure speak only one language, which is also good for our society and species at large. Therefore, it is not intrinsically important for us. As for why a common language is good for us, please wait for my next article. But in short, the purpose of language is to communicate. If we speak one common language, the speed of communication will be must faster.

  7. Cosmetics
    This industry is totally a waste of time and resource.

  8. Consulting (as in helping companies run better)
    In its perfect form, consulting creates value, grows firms. Yet is it intrinsically meaningful? I am not quite sure. But I am tempted to say no.

  9. Media (including movie, theatre, drama, photography etc.)
    Entertaining media is of course Non-IMIT. Those media that serve a purpose of memory is IMIT, because our memory is part of who we are.

  10. Property developers, architectures
    This is non-IMIT. It is important, but not intrinsically valuable.

  11. Art and music
    Art and music express and strengthen emotions. Emotion is something we should keep a cap on. So, art and music are not important, nor is it meaningful.

  12. Bodyguard

  13. Agencies (as in doing things on someone’s behalf with delegation.)

  14. Publishing house
    The traditional publishing house is being eradicated by digital ones. And digital ones will also be competed out by self-publishing. Good content will be selected by the market.

If you are planning to, or are already, committing yourself in these industries, I advise you to think twice. It is by no means that I am advocating that we should remove these industries. Instead, we should do less of them and should maybe never devote too much time on them.

IMIT industries:

  1. Statesmanship
    A life as a statesman who advances the right and freedom of his people is well important and meaningful, intrinsically.
  2. Technology (programming, manufacturing, cars, robots)
    Technology that empowers people and saves time should be IMIT. People say that some technology, like games and social media addicts people. It is the individual who choose to be addicted and cannot get a way out. The individual is given the freedom and he failed it. It is him to be blamed, not the technology. So the technology industry is IMIT.
    But what kinds of technology? Nuclear technology?
    The IMIT technologies are these give people more freedom and time. Either the technology saves time, create more valuable time, or both.
  3. Transportation
    This industry saves time and offers freedom.
  4. Education
    This industry offers freedom.
  5. Healthcare
    This industry produces more time and offers freedom.
  6. Science (research and development)
    This industry saves time and offers freedom.

Borderline cases

  1. Advertising and sales
    The fancy part of advertising and sales add no intrinsic value. Nor does the part where marketers play with free credit, SkyMiles, tricks and so on. The real function of advertising, product discovery and perfection of market, is important and could be intrinsically meaningful.
  2. There are many cases that might fall into this category.

Using principles to select IMIT

After the exercise, let’s also try to come up with some principles to help us select IMIT.

First principle

Industries that can be automated bear no intrinsic value. If one is doing the job a robot can do, however he loves it, he is wasting his time.

Second principle

The design, production, and distribution of things that are consumed by people in a non-scalable or non-productive manner are generally not important and meaningful, for example, gold, food, clothes. Things that give people more free time and freedom are important and meaningful, for example, transportation, medicine, faster computers, and non-fictional books.

Third principle

Things that facilitate our progress towards fewer catastrophes, more individual liberty, better social order and justice, are IMIT. As a result, those fireman, police, and court juries are doing IMIT. One the other hand, anything that might expose us to the slightest chance of getting a distinction of humanity should be avoided at any cost. For example, the invention and production of nuclear weapons.

Fourth principle

Whenever we struggle to decide if one thing is IMIT, we should look up into the sky, see the universe, the moon; and then we should stand on the moon, look at the Earth. We should be silent, clear our thoughts out; after some time, we will know what is IMIT.
But the funny things about this way is that it tends to make everything unimportant.


So, next time when you decide whether something is worth of doing, or something is worth of learning, ask yourself: is it intrinsically meaningful and important?

I end here for you to think more about what you think are IMIT. Please tell me what you think in the comment.

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