The Painful Progression of a Great Idea

First they’ll ignore you.

When they can’t ignore you anymore they’ll call you crazy, even dangerous.

And when they finally realize your ideas have value, everyone will claim it was their idea first.

Such is the nature of original ideas.

Britain 1871

In the early 19th century shipping was big business in Great Britain. And if you were a merchant who owned ships you knew one thing – The more cargo you can get on your ships the more money you could make. So it was a common practice in those days to overload ships.

The more cargo they placed on a ship the lower it sits in the water. That’s great as long as the ship stays in the harbor. But once it hits the open ocean the waves crash over the sides and swamp the ship. It eventually sinks and the sailors drown.

In 1871 alone, 856 ships sank off the coast of Britain killing nearly 2,000 sailors.

But the ship owners didn’t care because the ship was insured, along with all its cargo. That meant the owners got paid whether the ships made it to port or not.

Sailors could take one look at a ship in the harbor and know if it would sink or not. But the law said that seamen couldn’t refuse to sail on them. If they did they’d be thrown in prison for desertion.

But that didn’t stop thousands of them from trying. In 1871, 1,628 sailors were imprisoned for refusing to sail on these ‘coffin ships’. That’s how things wen’t along until one day a man named Samuel Plimsoll decided to make a change.

Plimsoll wanted each ship to have a safe load line painted on it’s hull. He fought for years to have the line mandated by law. But many Members of Parliament were ship owners. They had no intention of passing a law that would cut into their profits.

Plimsoll even threatened the Prime Minister, calling members of Parliament “murders”.

He said, “I am determined to unmask the villains who send our seamen to their death.”

It took twenty years, but Plimsoll eventually won. Today every ship must have a clear, visible, safe load line on it’s hull. A circle with a straight line through it.

It’s called the Plimsoll Line.

Stories Need Context

There are so many valuable lessons we can draw from this story. I could use it to reinforce the idea that you should fight for as long as it takes, even when the odds are stacked against you .

It could be used to illustrate how good things are today because we no longer treat life with such indifference.

I could use it to advocate for stronger regulation. Or against unfettered capitalism.

The point is, a story can be used in multiple ways depending on the context we frame it in. But today I’d like to use this story to illustrate the progression of a great idea.

Nobody Wants the World to Change

Despite all the talk about progress and change, most people would prefer things stay the way they are. Sure you might want to tinker around the edges of society but we are creatures of habit. Our brains create shortcuts that allow us to operate on autopilot most of the time.

When something changes it forces us to shut off our autopilot, increasing the congestive load on our brain.

Thinking is hard. That’s why most people do so little of it. And that’s why new ideas are generally met with resistance. Let me give you an example.

What is your reaction to this statement:

“Capitalism is an outdated economic system that needs to change.”

If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter that idea is probably met with resistance. There is no question that capitalism has provided more opportunities to more people than any other system devised my man.

Capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than all the social programs put together. It is the best systems we’ve ever come up with. So how can I suggest it needs to change?

Well, let me provide some context.

If you have an IQ below 84 there are virtually no job you can do to be of value to a society. We know this for a variety of reasons but for brevity I’m going to ask you to trust me.

Approximately 10% o our population has an IQ below 84. That means 10% of our population has no meaningful work they can do to add to the value of our economy.

As technology advances it’s making it harder, not easier, for those with low IQs to find work.

Then along comes AI. There is no doubt that over the next 10 years AI is going to eliminate many if not all of the redundant, respective jobs in the world. Jobs typically done by those with lower intelligence.

But what happens when AI starts chipping away at jobs done by people with higher intelligence? The median IQ of a human is 100. That means 50% of humans have an IQ at or below that level.

What happens when AI eliminates all jobs that require an IQ of 100 or less? What do we do when our world doesn’t have work for half the population?

You see what I’m getting at? A hardworking conservative might say, “Pick yourself up by your bootstraps. You can accomplish anything if you’ll just get off the couch and stop being so lazy.”

But that’s not true for a large portion of our society. And it’s only getting worse.

You probably thought I was crazy when I said capitalism was outdated. If the idea ever got traction there would be an army of people calling me ‘dangerous’ – ‘A threat to free markets’ or some such nonsense.

But in the decades to come this is a problem that will need to be addressed or million of people will suffer.

Just because people don’t understand your ideas doesn’t mean they’re bad. It means you see the future differently than anyone else. Your job is to paint a compelling picture of the future you want to see and then give people time to recognize your genius.

Mark Your Calendars

I started theorizing that we would need a new economic system back in 2020 with the invention of ‘Digital Autonomous Organizations’ on the blockchain. But I’ve never come out and said it directly…until today.

So mark your calendars and then be patient. It might take 20 years like it did for Plimsoll, but eventually more people are going to start suggesting we need a new system to replace capitalism.

I have no idea what that new system will look like but the writing is on the wall.

And that is the progression of a great idea.

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, until finally they align with you and claim they’ve been a believer the entire time.

So keep pushing for the world you want to see. Even if everyone thinks you’re crazy. Because its the crazy ones who change the world.

Until next week,


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