[Updated with link to the graph I referenced. Thanks to the folks who found it.]

The other day I saw a very cool graph that showed which vitamins and supplements have good science behind them and which ones don't. The graphic was interesting on several levels. The first thing I noticed was how cleverly constructed it was. I could see at a glance which vitamins and supplements are supported by science. The graph was interesting enough to keep me staring at it, following its little lines and connections as if searching for Waldo. That level of engagement probably helped me retain more information than if I had skimmed it.

The next thing I realized is what a good public service this graph was. Millions of people would see it and come away with knowledge that directly applies to their own health. Some people might start taking useful supplements and vitamins and others might discontinue the ones that science doesn't support. There's a good chance that the creator of the clever graphic saved some lives. How many of you have a job that rewarding?

I was wondering about the artist who made the graph. Did he or she get this assignment and think I can save some lives? Or was it just another assignment and just another paycheck? People who are primarily working for money can do good work, but the cleverness of this particular graph suggests there was a stronger motivation behind it. I think the creator was aware of the stakes and elevated his or her game through intrinsic motivation.

Whenever you see the x-factor in someone's output - that little extra something that turns the good into the awesome - it's a marker for intrinsic motivation. Monetary motivation plateaus at the point you think your work equals your pay. For most people, that happens when the product is good but not awesome. To get to awesome you need to think you might be changing the world, saving lives, redeeming your reputation, attracting the mate of your dreams, or something else that is emotionally large.

One of my techniques for staying motivated is that I put everything I do in the context of how it might improve the entire world, or at least some subset of it. With Dilbert I imagine that at least some of my output makes people laugh, or smirk, or feel less alone in their misery. Laughter decreases stress, which improves health and increases both productivity and creativity. In a very small way I'm nudging the world in a positive direction. That thought helps me dig deeper to find the x-factor for tomorrow's comic.

Then there's this blog. I don't expect anything I write here to directly influence world events or to change anyone's mind about anything. But what I know from my work as a creator of content is that all creativity comes from putting existing ideas into a mixing bowl then swirling the whole mess around to see what happens. The more ideas you are exposed to, the more likely one of your mixtures will produce something great. If you read any idea in this blog that you wouldn't have thought on your own, your creative potential is increased. That's a big deal because nothing of importance has ever been done without creativity. I'm motivated by the thought that I'm contributing to civilization's creative pool.

This brings me to your job, whatever that might be. Is there any opportunity - no matter how small - for you to change the world through your work?

Leave me a comment and tell me what you're doing that could change the world, no matter now slightly, in a positive direction.
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Sep 1, 2012
I work on fuel injection systems in cars. One of my responsibilities is too make sure the amount of fuel dispensed is accurately measured. If I do this right, it allows people to effectively build, purchase and drive more efficient cars, using less fuel.
Aug 31, 2012
Also, Drowlord, you have my condolences on not being able to understand how "human ambition" could be about anything other than making money.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 31, 2012
Drowlord, pick up a history book before calling someone "crazy". The economic system you're referring to is mercantilism. A precursor to capitalism, but quite a different system. Otherwise historians wouldn't use different words. It wasn't until the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century that most of the population started to move away from subsistence farming. That is generally agreed to be the origin of capitalism as we know it.

"Libertarianism" is not a serious political philosophy, but a cult bent on the domination of the globe by the money-worshipping business classes. For a little more money and little more power, they're quite happy for the majority of people on Earth to starve. There's a practical example, which is their stance on global warming, and it is absolutely explicit in the tenets of the cult.
Aug 31, 2012
@Therion, you have some weird ideas about capitalism and libertarianism.

The primary tenets of modern political libertarians is that government is too big and spends too much money and that personal freedom is very important. While I can understand that not everybody agrees with the extremes of it, you sound outright hateful.

Your perspective on capitalism is crazy, too. Most scholars agree that modern capitalism began in the medieval era. The Amsterdam stock exchange started in 1602. Most capitalistic ideas were relevent and practiced millenia before -- like trade, land, and assets -- even if they lacked modern formality.

In fact, I'd consider the entire "exchange of goods and services" system to be a default economic behavior for humankind. I'm not at all convinced that "something better" can even exist, as human ambition is usually constrained by punishments and rewards.
Aug 30, 2012
You know, after reading your last post more closely, I think I'm wrong and you're right.

Libertarianism is only the second worst enemy. The main enemy is insecurity and hatred and egotism, and Republicans (or the Tories in England, who've been doing it for far longer) are extremely effective at tapping into this.

The injustice of capitalism far outstrips the injustice of affirmative action, but due to clever brainwashing the white working classes never see it that way.
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 30, 2012
They're important in the sense that they're the ones who spread the ingenious libertarian propaganda. But without the ideology, they'd get nowhere.

I don't think there's any difference of substance here; it's merely about choice of words.
Aug 29, 2012

You think the millions of people who own stock and businesses and don't want their value to go away aren't an important factor? You think the bad rep communism has is unimportant in peoples' acceptance of capitalism?

Conservatism refers to the entire spectrum of beliefs that are embraced in the modern conservative movement. That movement is significantly stronger than libertarianism (look at the number of elected libertarians out there. Now look at the number of elected Republicans), has embraced capitalism and is one of the main forces keeping capitalism going. And btw, its what I was referring to when I mentioned the millions of other people who stick up for capitalism out of simple dislike for the folks who say it stinks. Those poor people keep supporting conservatives and their capitalist ideology because the people who are against capitalism also try to force them to accept homosexual marriage, government funded abortions, losing their jobs because they 'aren't sensitive' to their black and female coworkers and a dozen other things they simply cannot accept.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2012
The "other factors" you mentioned aren't important on the grand scale. Let's take Saudia Arabia. What ultimately is wrong with the country? It has its share of corrupt politicians. In the final analysis, though, the problem with Saudi Arabia is ideology.

As for conservatism being the most important friend of capitalism. I don't know what you mean by "conservatism". Resistance to change? I don't think there is any such ideology as resistance to change. A conservative living in poverty will not be resistant to changing his situation. In practice, conservatism refers to a mishmash of very specific, antiquated ideologies. The specific ideology relevant to capitalism is the ideology of the trickle down theory of wealth. In other words, libertarianism.
Aug 29, 2012

[No, "single-handed" is accurate. People aren't so stupid that they're going to believe someone just because he's a politician or a guy in a think-tank. It's ideology that muddies the water and single-handedly prevents us from outgrowing capitalism. That ideology is libertarianism. ]

What do you think, Master Scott, of our friends' faith in people's intelligence?

I had no idea that libertarianism was as damn influential as all that. And here I thought conservatism was capitalisms biggest, most important friend.

And I notice you ignored all the other factors I mentioned in capitalisms continued support.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2012
@Whtllnew, Drowlord

No, "single-handed" is accurate. People aren't so stupid that they're going to believe someone just because he's a politician or a guy in a think-tank. It's ideology that muddies the water and single-handedly prevents us from outgrowing capitalism. That ideology is libertarianism.

As for this stuff about capitalism being the only option due to "self-interest". Nonsense. Capitalism didn't emerge until the 19th century in England. There's plenty of alternatives to capitalism. Giving people the means to earn their own living is a perfectly viable alternative, if you think about it. We already have enough luxury goods now that the traditional arguments in favour of capitalism no longer hold water. We're at the point where bread-and-butter bare necessities (job, housing, social integration) are far more important than continued production of consumer goods.
Aug 29, 2012
@Kuroneko, Being nice is fine and all, but the world needs people who do things, not people who do nothing in a pleasant manner. If you want to improve the world, make things or repair things. I'd rather know 1 grouchy effective person than 10 useless nice people.

I mean... I'd rather have a nice effective person on my fantasy friend list. But if we're starting with a world filled with grouchy useless people, nice isn't the vector I hope for. I don't think it's the quality we should recruit.
Aug 29, 2012
I read back my earlier comment and I'm a bit ashamed. The post was about making the world better and I made it worse by being snippy. Sorry.
Aug 29, 2012
[Speaking of what's rewarding and what's good for humanity. I think Fox-News-watching, right-wing libertarians are the biggest force for evil on the planet right now. Singlehandedly they're preventing the world from moving beyond capitalism.]

[@Therion, The thing preventing the world from moving past capitalism is the notion of self-interest. And the thing preventing anything OTHER than capitalism is that the majority of people don't do work without self-interest factored into it. It's cool that a teensy, tiny fraction of the world's population is willing to do altruistic work (primarily when their needs are addressed via some other channel), but you wouldn't have anything resembling an economy (capitalist or need based or whatever) without providing work incentives.]

I agree with Drowlord but wanted to expand a bit and urge Therion to keep these discussions serious and not allow our anger to take over and blow things out of proportion. Capitalism was gaining ground on Communism years before Fox news came around. And the term 'single handed' implies that no other factor comes close to protecting capitalism. In other words, you're ignoring the billions the rich contribute to the protection of their fortunes (bribing politicians, funding think tanks, etc.), the millions of people who own stocks and businesses and don't want to see their value go away, the millions of other people who stick up for capitalism out of simple dislike for the folks who say it stinks, the bad rep communism has received and what Drowlord said. All of those factors existed before Fox news, and Fox news has done little more than provide an outlet for some of those factors.

So don't get carried away.
Aug 29, 2012
I have worked in the IT arena since 1979, the Federal Govt, a bank, and a small mfg company before that, and I don't believe there is one thing I have done in any of them that might have had some impact on 'changing the world.' (maybe allowing some people to do other things, and maybe they changed the world, but I doubt it). Which is why I belong to a non-profit civic organization and go out and do volunteer fund raising and project work for them (we just constructed a shed for a senior center community garden). And why I teach at a local college one night a week.

Regarding the graph, I have no problem with it, especially if it encourages me to look deeper into some of the items that seem to be in favor right now. What I do have a problem with, is the number of people on here who criticize the graph but offer no viable (supportable) alternatives. You want to help the world? Put some significant time in, do diligent research, come up with a better graph, and then sit back and let the other critics have at it and trash it, and try to feel... good about yourself. Then get up and really go out and help the world.
Aug 29, 2012
Hey Scott...trying to raise awareness and a little $ for small community non-profits at http://projectboost.org.
Aug 29, 2012
not in my job, but I have just taken part in trials of a brain to computer interface creating writing. it was so weird to move things on the screen just by thinking left or right or push. The potential this has to improve the lives of people with locked in syndrome is staggering.

Unrelated, but the blog made me think of it, a collegue was telling me about an episode of 'undercover boss' hre in the UK. This boss owned a chain of nightclubs and after seeing the work of paramedics in his club and the potential they had to save lives by interveening BEFORE someone got too drunk he now employs them in every one. again positive for the world
Aug 29, 2012
Phantom II - You missed the point. Actually read one of the blobs and it gives accurate information about the potential benefits and side effects of each item.

BTW, it's "du jour"
Aug 29, 2012
You don't have to do anything special to change the world. Just bit a bit nicer, a bit more honest, a bit more kind, a bit more forgiving. It's all the little things as much as the big things. It's attitude and honesty in every little thing. Just yesterday, I waited on a bench outside for a table at a popular restaurant. Near me, already seated were two men talking about their church and how important it was to be spiritual and how they spent much of their time helping people and what good church goers they were. They had long since finished eating but stayed there for at least another 30 minutes talking. Even though many other hungry people waited for their table. I had to find that ironic. One obvious way to be 'spiritual' would have been to cough up that table and let someone else finally get to eat! Plus the restaurant also loses money when less people can be seated. The little things are just as important as the big ones and they are something we all can try to do more of. Every little thing we do for one person changes them just a little bit and that change can spread to their treatment of the next person. Imagine the power if we all did just a tad better and all that betterness was spread from person to person. There have been times in my life when one tiny thing from just one person ended up meaning so much to me.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 29, 2012
I'm working with a firm developing a plasma engine that could turn the world of energy on its head. Most of my day is spent keeping us in one piece from journalists who would have us shut down - the remainder is spent melting things by accident in the lab much to the dismay of our engineers. I'm not sure you would call it science, or, marketing. The potential for change is incredible, but fringe science is a difficult place at best when the tin foil hat UFO guy actually lends us credibility. The irony is we'd almost have a better chance if we didnt actually have something. Investors feel safer. Lowering the costs of energy production fundamentally changes everything. Scott, I've been a blog reader of yours for years. I'm not sure I would have taken this risk and worked here if it wasn't for my influencers out there. My thanks to you, if you are ever in the area, I will give you a tour of the lab and even let you melt something.
Aug 28, 2012
I've had many unrewarding jobs in which it seemed like my only goal was to advance the careers of upper management, but since I've veered off that path and published my first novel, Trial of Tears, I'm hoping that readers will be taken on a little journey of their own, forgetting about whatever stresses them out and engaging their imaginations.
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