Philanthropy Ltd.

Another business idea:

Since the publishing of the Whitehall papers, and especially more recently since biologists have found chemical proof for why exactly this happens, we have known that as your social status worsens you take on more stress, your immunity worsens, and your lifespan lessens. But what we have not done is sufficiently clarify what defines your social status, or help people change it by redistributing wealth based not on financial but rather social status.

Philanthropy would do exactly this. It would be a website, onto which participants paid a set fee of about £10 a month. Minus a 5% fee to cover costs, this site would redistribute the money based on social status, rather than financial status. And what’s more social status would be defined by participants.

Thus when you signed up you would answer a series of questions like:
. On a scale of one to ten how much do you enjoy your work?
. Do you own a pet?
. Do you have a long term partner?
. How many times a month do you meet up with friends outside of a work environment?
etc.

From the answers to each question the participant would be given points, which rank them in a social status league table. Those at the bottom of that table would receive more money back than they put in, whereas those at the top of the table would not get anything back.

Obviously there is a problem of honesty. If you want money back you could purposefully answer in a way that makes you rank lowly. Now existing research leads me to say that this is not usually the case when people are asked about their social status. But of course there would have to be research done to see whether people really would be honest enough when financial incentives are involved.

However if every participant was allowed to help decide how certain factors affect social status there could emerge a much more complicated picture. You could for instance be asked how often you listen to music and not know what the optimal answer should be for how it affects your social wellbeing.

And this would also provide people with clear incentives as to how they can improve their social status in non-financial ways. It’s very frustrating for some people that big wig businessmen are seen to have the highest social status, when in actual fact they may be single, have no pets, no friends, no hobbies etc. Such a business could potentially, not only redistribute wealth, but also challenge our existing perceptions about what social status should really relate to.

And there may even be potential for governance implications and for business profits, though the latter would only be a side-effect as the main aim would be charitable. A lot of future business potential lies with data mining, and this initiative would create a data mine like no other. If enough people signed on it would allow governments to rank themselves internationally by Gross Social Wellbeing. And some of the data (there would be an opt-in clause for people willing to have their data shared, rather than the rather more dubious opt-out clause) could be sold to businesses looking to capitalise on desires to move up the social status ladder.

Thoughts?

2 comments

  • Strange, it even sounds a little like a pyramid scheme, but let me see if I got this right first.

    People kitty up $10 each. They submit answers. Based on results, some money transfers to more popular people.

    The point of the scheme lies in the implicit assumption that those of high social status have a higher social contribution right? And we are trying to provide financial compensation for those who contribute to society, as well as incentivize this kind of behaviour to those who do not?

    The first issue is that the link between social status and social contribution is tenuous.

    The second problem is that quite a few social networking revenue models are already doing this by providing income streams to users based on the amount of friends they have. In point, Mafia Wars rewards you based on the number of members in your mafia, not with money but with points.

    I haven’t read the Whitehall papers but I have seen similar research that concludes that animals (chimps and humans) at the bottom of hierachies experience much more stress than those at the top.

    However, these studies focused on rigid hierarchies, and I feel that we are much more able to reduce stress by dissipating the power structures rather than creating a network that can be ‘gamed’.

  • Actually no, though I suppose the correlation between social status and contribution is an important point to be taken into account. Popularity in this scheme would only be one factor. Thus it is also an effort to redefine what social status is. It’s less of an effort to encourage people to contribute more to society than it is an effort to incentivise people to seek their own happiness through measures that aren’t ordinarily deemed by the media to reflect on your societal status.

    So for example a pop star would actually be less likely to score well under this scheme, since they would be marked down based on answers to questions like “Do you always have to be conscious of your image, or do you feel able to ever let your hair down in public?” & “how stable is your day to day life?” & “how relaxing is your job?” & “how often do you find time to have a quiet drink and meal with your friends?” etc

    It basically rewards people for doing things to change their lives and increase their own social wellbeing, and thus I would see it as the counter-force to all those forces in society that push in the opposite direction, like the employers who want you to be an averitious workaholic, the media that wants you to spend every waking moment seeking fame and fortune etc etc. Instead of that this would be a decentralised force for people to increase leisure time where possible, spend more time with the family, walk the dog more often, spend more time with friends, worry less about financial status etc etc.

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