Do you ever wonder what Einstein would have done with his time, had he been born a hundred thousand years earlier? When you think of all of the brilliant scientists, authors, thinkers and Steve Jobs, you wonder how they would have occupied their days, when there was effectively no way to truly take advantage of their thoughts and skills.
Admittedly, you have standouts like da Vinci (who most likely was from a future era and was accidentally transported back in time). When you look at da Vinci’s works, it is almost painful to think that he had astounding ideas, but apparently no one or group of significance to share them with.
Today, a person can come up with an idea, have it developed with a couple of friends, and a year later have a business worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course, these cases are rare, but they still prove the point. The point is that the distance between thought and realization is very short in this day and age. In the past, great thinkers could take their ideas with them to the grave.
The advantage to being able to realize your thoughts and dreams, ties in with a medical article I read this morning. The article is named “benefits of the purposeful life“. The conclusion of the authors of this article, based on the research they did, is that having a life purpose increases people’s compliance with a healthier lifestyle. A life purpose lowers inflammation in the body [which is associated with many/most diseases], improves brain health and overall is associated with increased resilience and probably longevity.
Interestingly, religiosity had only a modest positive effect. I guess that means that you only benefit from a belief system, if you actually believe. Just going through the motions doesn’t seem to add much. This is actually consistent with the principle that one should do a commandment, even if not desired, until a time when it becomes desired. Or, in the more common business lingo, “fake it till you make it”. This might give some people an added incentive to stay awake during Yom Kippur services.
The question is often raised, what will humankind do when robots and artificial intelligence can effectively replace all that we do. I think this paper actually answers this question to a certain extent. When the day comes that we do not have a purpose forced upon us [such as getting a job to pay the bills], we will simply have to decide whether we find a purpose in life, or just exist.
I think that intuitively, we can already say that those that manage to find a purpose in life will benefit in every way from having that purpose. This, is effectively the top point of Maslow’s triangle. In a world where we have no forced responsibilities, there will be those who simply self-actualize and there will be those who drift. And the choice will be ours.
Empirically, you can already see the benefits of a purposeful life in today’s society. For many people, retirement is far from a blessing. It incurs loneliness, perhaps financial difficulties, boredom and the like. In this day and age when a generally healthy person of 70 can actually expect to live another 20 to 30 years, people must find their own reason to get up in the morning.
In the Jewish world, retirement can actually be a tremendous opportunity. I’ve seen older religious people embrace this time for study that they have never had the time for, before. I know of one physician who took it upon himself to write multiple books on a specific historical Jewish commentator. Many others leave their homes early to attend morning services and then stay late to study the daily page [daf yomi] from the Talmud. By the time they get home, it is nearly lunch and time for a nap. The end of the day can be spent catching up with friends, children, TV shows and Facebook.
By the way, providing interests and tools and activities to occupy those of retirement age and beyond, is a huge market and a huge opportunity for any start up. I’ve spoken of this before and I wish to repeat it here. If you create something that creates purpose in the lives of older people who crave it, then you will have more money than you know what to do with. I have also said before that the collective intelligence, knowledge and expertise in the minds of older individuals is astounding. It also pains me to think that all of this brainpower is not being put to use.
Voltaire said that “If there were no God, it would have been necessary to invent him”. I think that this brilliant quote can be nevertheless reworked for our present day.
If there was no purpose, it would have been necessary to invent it.
Thanks for listening and thank you for giving me a purpose.