Basically we have two methods to survive. We can kill something. Or we can pay someone to kill something for us. In modern society, most of us choose the latter, and so we have capitalism, the religion of outsourcing.
It seems that in preliterate societies, there was a general assumption that everything is real. Then we got clever and thought some things were real and some were stories. Now we know that, while there is likely a reality, it’s inaccessible to us. We interact with it, but all of our perceptions of it are mediated by our own psyches. We will only ever have second-hand knowledge of reality. We will only ever have stories.
Likely you saw the flaw in my reasoning above. I said “we” interact with it. But what does that mean? When you say, “I”, do you mean your body? How even could you, if it’s yours? Whose? Your body interacts with reality. Your body is part of reality. But you? Your self?
Some people convincingly argue that the self is an illusion. There is only your body and the phenomena it produces. There are neurochemical phenomena, experiences, thoughts. But where is the you there? And then when you look at matter, you just find more phenomena. Waves in fields, manifesting the illusion of particles. It’s just activity all the way down. It doesn’t exist, it just becomes. But this is just another kind of mistake. While it doesn’t exist, just like stories don’t exist, yet it does exist in the way that stories do also.
So I don’t exist, and you don’t exist. Only processes exist. And you and I exist insofar as we are processes.
So then we have these complex macroorganisms. We kill them and eat them. Or we pay someone to.
Capitalism is the story of how these payments take place. In the 20th century, we started getting some good ideas about this story. Provide the customer value so that they will buy your product instead of someone else’s, as cheaply as possible. Be as honest with yourself as you can be, in service of this aim. Be as empirical as you can be, in service of this aim. In other words, perform experiments and learn. Be as responsive to the apparent demands and vicissitudes of reality as is conducive to providing more value at less cost.
There have been some strange ideas about the customer in the 20th century. Most of the discussion of customers is condescending and trite. We talk about making them happy, pleasing them—delighting them, even. It’s distasteful. In capitalism, every customer has customers. Every process has outputs.
Every output has paying customers, or the process that produces it dies through some variety of predation.
The purpose of a supplier is to understand the value that its customer provides to that customer’s customers. You should be an expert in your customer’s value proposition to its customers. That’s how you can provide it the most value. That is how you will cultivate loyalty. Not by delighting it.
Most discussion of customers in the 20th century is parasitic. This discussion is how we got ourselves into this situation. This unsustainable mess.
Note how I’m using customer here. I mean a customer in a SIPOC. I am not trying to be cute with the word customer. I am not trying to liken all interactions to transactions between a shopkeeper and a patron. But typically if a microorganism is expending calories engaged in a process, it is doing so with some expectation of a return, and that return is rarely monetary. Think of the processes that you perform daily. How many of them result directly in remuneration?
Many of them result in a surge in dopamine, which is a kind of promissory from the universe saying, “If you do more of that type of behavior, you may increase your likelihood of procreating.”
The old model is, understand your business, and sell a product to a customer. A better model is, understand your customer’s business, and sell them a product or service that enables them to provide more value to their customers.
That’s virtue. Everything else is a variety of predation.