There are two extreme ways to say “I deserve it.” One is a head drooping shoulders sagging feet dragging despondent mumble. The other is an oblivious not an ounce of self-awareness I fucking rule grand entrance, looking around to see if anybody noticed.
There’s plenty of both extremes out there. They’re archetypes—Carl Jung’s famous term for “a compact edition of people are like that.” Seems we see more of the former, to the point we barely notice. The latter? Hard to ignore and impossible to forgive—unfortunately memorable.
Are they both getting what they deserve? This deserving thing is tricky—it strays into blaming the victim on one side, strides boldly into narcissism and sycophantism on the other.
How about you and me? Are we getting what we deserve?
Yes, always—if you take the judgment out of it and recast it as cause and effect and probable outcomes. Life, it seems, is stupidly predictable—stupid like an algorithm. Put this together into that and you get these results, ranked by probabilities.
Trouble is, our brains don’t run on algorithms. They act like humans—fully analog. Meanwhile life has shifted to running on algorithms. That makes for lots of oops, didn’t mean for that to happen.
The first thing I noticed when I tapped my phone to wake it up this morning is that today is Ash Wednesday. I’m not a Christian, and I don’t do Lent. I didn’t even do Lent when I was a Christian. I thought 40 days of fake penance was a dumb idea then, I still think so now.
Besides, I’m penitent enough already. It’s called self-awareness. In fact, I probably need to confess to the greater sin of Wokeness. Which means I deserve it, by definition. Anybody who’s Woke has it coming. We should know that by now, but we keep trying.
We keep trying because we’re biological beings. Evolution has designed biological beings to keep trying. “Keep trying” is short for “life.” Living is what we do. And keep trying is how we keep living.
Life is biological, and biological design is why we keep trying—also why we can’t imagine our own deaths. Stay with me here. Evolution hasn’t given us any equipment to tell us what it’s like not to be here. So since we’re here we just keep living (and trying) until we reach our expiration date. Until then, life and keep trying are on the agenda—and as long as they are, we keep getting what we deserve.
And we keep not seeing it coming.
We keep not seeing it coming because evolution left life lessons out of the mix. It did that because life lessons don’t help us survive. We don’t need them to evolve. Evolution’s one unchangeable rule is “if it doesn’t matter, leave it out.” Life lessons are included in what doesn’t matter.
Think of the grand entrance I rule guy described above. He wrote a bestseller about how he did it. First thing to notice about his book is he’s a liar. He didn’t do it. He got lucky. Something was going on for him already. There was a context in place—a career, a family or educational or industry background or somebody who had money or … something. Whatever happened next happened out of that context, not in isolation like his lying book makes it sound.
I use male pronouns for the I rule guy because males are statistically (okay, anecdotally) far more likely to sing “I did it my way,” far more susceptible to the delusion that they knew what they were doing when they got lucky. (If you’re wondering why evolution favors male delusion, it’s because it keeps the military funded. War is good for countries—they all do it.)
Which brings us back to Ash Wednesday and Lent and Wokeness. What they all have in common is they’re all reducible to we always get what we deserve. We don’t make mistakes and learn life lessons from them, we just get what we deserve.
Life works like the Efficient Market Hypothesis. EMH says that everything there is to know that’s possibly relevant to a stock price is already reflected in the current stock price—which means you can’t ever be smarter than the market, it already knows everything about stock prices, so trying to outguess it is stupid.
EMH is sort of the capitalist version of a leaf falling in Tokyo that effects the weather in Montreal. Everything that can be known is already known. That means everything you do and think and need to make a decision about already incorporates everything that can be known about it, including the life lessons you might get from making a decision you will regret later.
We’re all connected, Grasshopper. Our lives already know everything they need to know. There’s nothing left to learn.
That’s how evolution works, too, by the way. Evolution runs on an EMH algorithm. You’re not going to fool evolution. You’re not going to do better than the entire destiny of everything there is at any given moment.
You might need to think about that a sec.
Finished already? Okay let’s move on.
Maybe the reason I’m thinking about the futility of life lessons is that penance is in the air today. I mean, with over two billion Christians in the world, and even considering that some of them think Lent is a dumb idea, there’s still enough fake penance in the Ether to affect the vibe. Ash Wednesday and the upcoming 40 days of fasting and prayer (like who actually does that?) are like a whole shower of leaves falling in Tokyo.
We always get what we deserve is why stories of inspiration and motivation turn into cautionary tales. Cautionary tales and lessons learned are both subject to the Great Efficient Market Hypothesis of Life, which means they’re both pointless. The Great Efficient Market of Life already knew whatever it was you thought of afterward that you wished you’d known at the time. The problem is you thought you were smarter than the algorithm ahead of time, so the other side of the trade won. You lost. You were left with the need to just keep living—which meant more keep trying.
Reflection? Don’t bother—next time will be different.
Penance? You already paid it. The cost of what you did that you now regret doing has already been paid. Like withholdings from your paycheck. You haven’t done your taxes yet, but the outcome of your return is already known. That’s what tax law is for. Tax law knows. Just like the Great Efficient Market of Life.
“I deserve it” means I’m fully paid up at every moment. If I just committed a crime, I’ll pay because crime doesn’t. If my startup NFT in Portugal just got lucky, I’ll have a self-help book coming out. It’s there already—the Cosmic GPT has already written it.
The algorithm, remember?
Does it bother anyone else to know that something called a Generative Pre-trained Transformer is writing content that’s… I mean, that’s out there?
The meaning of life isn’t 42, it’s I Deserve It. (Or You Deserve It if I’m talking about you,)
How can you know? Trust the algorithm—it already knows.
So here’s what we do to test the Great Efficient Market of Life Hypothesis. We create our own GPT algorithm. First we upload Howl, On the Road, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and I Sing the Body Electric. Then we get Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Ken Kesey (oh, and the rest of the Merry Pranksters, why not, we got room), early Tom Wolfe, and Walt Whitman in a room… oh wait, Elvis, too, don’t forget Elvis, he’s in the building… and we tell them to all talk at once for ten minutes without pausing, and we upload that too.
We feed it into a self-learning AI and out comes…
The algorithm, remember?