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The Usefulness of Human Beings -- Why Anyone Could be Useful

Updated: Mar 10

A photo of a man in an orange, foggy room.

I don't believe there are people who are useless to society. Even the most mentally ill people can be used to advance scientific research in psychology, sociology, criminology, and so forth. For example, prisoners in maximum security can be used to study the effects of long-term incarceration on the human psyche (not necessarily through human experiments). And even babies can teach us something about the parents' biology and/or reproductive systems, genes, and so on. After all, they came from them and thus carry data related to them; data that can be learned from.

Even those who are unable to work are not necessarily useless. They can still be of purpose in other ways, such as making their families happy, volunteering, or even opening their own business/es. These are some respected purposes when you are unable to work due to an extreme disability, for instance.

Even if you are worthless to many, you can still be important to at least one person -- a parent, a friend, a child, and so on. While it's not necessarily true that "no man is an island," it is true that we all can leave an impact on this world, and no matter how microscopic it may be, it is still an impact. And an impact that can go down the line of time. It's one of the benefits of influence. And since we can influence others around us, we may be more useful than we might think.

Purpose does not always have to come from employment, and purpose does not always have to be directed to other people than yourself. After all, you are also a person. For others, you are a person, just as they are to you. What objectively, therefore, makes you and I different from people in general, when we are all people? Being useful to ourselves, is also a form of usefulness, is it not?

I watched the classic movie "Rain Man". It's one of the most well-known movies about autistic people in a time when autism was not very well known. In the movie, the main character's autistic brother, who was mostly a burden and unemployed, actually proved to be very competent in gambling. He thus helped his brother return his large debt, to the point that the casino they were gambling in expelled them because the casino was losing money. All because of this unemployed, institution-residing genius.

My grandmother in her final years believed her life was meaningless. It was one of the reasons being she felt very lonely (even though I visited her regularly) and was retired. However, she was a great artist with phenomenal talent, and to this day my mother has paintings made by her; paintings I've only seen similarly in art museums.

The main reason we did not sell her paintings was because she was never well-known artist. Unfortunately your name as an artist is also important when selling your creations. It is sad how negativity bias can make you easily devalue your talents and potential contributions to the world. It can blind you from your own promising worth.

What we can conclude from all of this is that no matter who you are, as long as you are human, you have at least some degree of potential you can use (or others can make use of, not necessarily in a bad way) in the name of self-actualization and productivity. Where there are humans, there is potential for productivity and for creation. The same applies, of course, to animals as well; to the animals we domesticate to be our beloved pets, the animals that we produce meat from, and animals that entertain us at the zoos.

2023 Note: We, as humanity, are in the middle of the A.I revolution. While some thinkers, like one of Philosocom's guest writers, believe in its legitimacy, I view it as competition. The competition is expressed not only practically, in terms of industry, but also philosophically. Human beings need, more than ever, to prove their usefulness and, thus, their value to others, in order to compete against their potential replacements. While some writers may choose to join forces with these language models, I refuse doing so. Because if I will, as a writer, I would mainly contribute to a growing technology that can be used against my empire.

Let us, therefore, not fall victim to the delusion that we are utterly meaningless, because as long as we are alive, we have the chance to be helpful and/or productive to a degree. In addition, few are the people in the world, theoretically, that don't matter to anyone whatsoever. Remember that, even when no one cares for you, you can still have the power to make some change, and thus alter at least one thing in the environment you're in.

To be useless is to have no use at all, and since we are all capable of using something, or be used for others, finding at least one person who is or was completely useless, is therefore extremely difficult.

Feel free to convince me otherwise, and respectfully. Those who choose to be useless on purpose do not count, because what we choose to do with our potential, is still ours.

And allow me to critique the philosopher, Yuval Noah Harari, for his "useless class" idea. The idea's premise stem from the notion that one can be useful to others only through monetized work. That's not true at all, when one can volunteer, as explained before.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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