The Religion of Creation

This was originally published in my free weekly newsletter, How It Actually Works.

Good morning!

I hope you’re happy to be alive today. Have a great week.

- Trevor

David Foster Wallace on Worship

In his famous “This is Water” speech David Foster Wallace had a great closing:

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping… The only choice we get is what to worship…

“If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough…

“Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you…

“Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay.

“Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out…”

David strongly suggests we should be constantly aware of those default settings, but doesn’t really offer an alternative choice on what to worship.

I’d like to do that today.

The Religion of Creation

What idea could we elevate and – importantly – protect that would be beneficial not to just to each of us individually but to all of civilization?

If I had to pick our new religion it'd be creation. Building things.

Everything that makes it such a blessing to live in modernity - housing for billions of people, the CPU, massively efficient food production, dams, airplanes, the Internet, the smartphone - all these things were available to our ancestors in the earth as the same raw materials we use today.

The difference is we figured out how to use those raw materials to make things.

We know how to turn silicon, copper, and aluminum into a CPU.

We know how to make millions of homes using steel, concrete, wood, and stone.

(And - thank god - we know how to make air conditioners.)

Creation enables everything else we take for granted. The people who complain about modernity can do so because they have inexpensive food filling their bellies and CPU robots distributing their words.

By the luckiest circumstances we happen to be self conscious beings alive on a water rock circling a giant fireball in the vastness of space.

Let’s see how far we can push our luck in moving civilization forward.

What Does a Religion of Creation Look Like?

It means things like:

We already do some of this a little with things like Hollywood, in the sense that people are famous for what they’ve made. [1]

But we can do much better.

How to Participate in the Religion of Creation

The religion of creation would recognize the historical moment we’re living in: the wealthiest time in history, where more people on both an absolute & relative basis can create than ever before.

And we’d optimize society to juice that number of creators as high as possible.

We could encourage more people to become makers by giving them more status than, say, politicians and some types of newspaper writers.[3][4]

There’s a quote I like because it sums up the current world order:

“If you want to be successful, start a business. If you want to be more successful, start a country. And if you want to be the most successful, start a religion.”

Here’s to making creation the highest status religion ever.

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[1]: But this is a perverted, socially hacked version. We’re really more worshipping their popularity (“I just saw a famous person!”) than we are their actual work (“Who movie was she in?”)

[2]: Paper Belt talk by Balaji Srinivasan here, transcript here

[3]: Are there sociopaths who are makers? Of course. But at least they have to keep making things to maintain power. There’s sociopaths in far more powerful positions of society (enter your least favorite American president here) and all they have to do to maintain power is persuade people to click Like on them in the ballot box.

[4]: This isn’t a right/left political thing. You can sub in your newspaper or politician of choice into the example.

The Links

The Making of Amazon Prime (oral history article)

Best new read on Amazon in a long time. Interviews multiple people who were at the beginning for Amazon Prime way back in 2004.

Especially enjoyed seeing how many people doubted it, or felt the math wouldn’t check out. Also interesting seeing how organizational incentives pushed people in various directions.

A Conspiracy to Kill IE6 (article)

Post from one of the early YouTube team members on how they did a coup inside Google to rid the Internet of Internet Explorer 6.

Poet Stumped by Standardized Test Questions About her Own Poem (article)

Is the problem here that a standardized body invented questions about some copy, or the premise that asking kids about poetry is a useful way of testing them for college readiness? Or that college is the thing to optimize our children for?

Game of Thrones (video)

Yes I am linking to the actual series, and yes it is that good. Hurry and watch before something gets spoiled.

How to Fairly Divide Talking Time (article)

Fascinating idea on how to let people “vote” for who should be talking.

This was originally published in my free weekly newsletter, How It Actually Works.

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