as if / Civilization / Philosophy / Thoughts

As if – The value of gold

We do “as if”. A lot of our culture consists of “as-if-constructions”. Institutions, states, nations, cultures, groups, soccer and other games…

For example, we pretend as if gold is valuable. Actually, it is rather useless; most of what we dig out of the ground is soon buried again in some save, because nobody actually needs the stuff. There are some technical applications, but there is by far more of it than anybody needs. It is a mineral, a shiny form of dirt. Now, everybody thinks it is valuable because everybody thinks it is valuable. It is a shared as-if-construction.

Now, try to develop your As-if-o-scope: you formulate statements that you normally think are true (like “Gold is valuable”). Now you add “We pretend as if ” in front of those statements. Look at the result. Think of the possibility that the statement is an as-if-construction. Now try to step out of it. Try to view gold as a form of dirt, for example. It is valuable because we declare it to be so.

You can think of these as-if-constructions as some kind of bubble. You enter it, and inside there are things that don’t exists outside. Now leave it – plop – the world looks different.

There is nothing wrong about living inside such bubbles – it is inevitable – but you should know what they are.

What would happen if we step out of all our as-if-constructions? Is that even possible?

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14 thoughts on “As if – The value of gold

  1. I like your point and often think of it myself. Even money is an “as-if” construction. We all perceive these useless pieces of paper to have value – sometimes even more value than people – due to the mental constructions we’ve created.

    What would happen if we stepped out? I think a whole different world. I mean, what is the world? Perhaps the nature of our perception is an “as-if” construction. Do you think the world would crumble into chaos? Would we all be enlightened to the truth of the world? Would we have more peace? War? What do you think?

  2. I also think that money is an as-if-construction. However, as is the case with such shared as-if-constructions, they become a reality in a way. Their reality lies in the fact that even if you step out of it, most people remain inside. So the value of money or gold is in the fact that most people take it to be valuable. The views and beliefs of many people are a reality as well.
    I also think that, as you say, the nature of our perception is an as-if construction (or a dynamic set of such constructions). I plan to post more on this in the future (bit by bit, as I have the time), so if you are interested in this, stay tuned. However, my own thoughts on this are not finished, so please feel free to enter into a discussion any time.
    What would happen if we would step out of all such as-if-constructions? An interesting question, I am also thinking about it.

    • Money and the as-if construction of its value is just a convenient medium of exchange. If we eliminated it it seems to me we would go back to barter economies, which emerge spontaneously in areas where either inflation or taxation–sometimes both, make it too difficult to conduct regular commercial exchanges.
      Gold, if I remember correctly, was a stable medium of exchange that kept its value across borders and over time. Human beings seem to treasure stability in unpredictable times.

      • A good point. I am not proposing to stop using money. That something is an as-if-construction does not mean it is bad or must be stopped. Most of our culture and institutions may be viewed as as-if-constructions. I am just trying to raise awareness that this is so. If people understand that these things are constructed, they can think about which of them they want to keep, change or get rid of.

  3. Pingback: Synopsis 1 | The Asifoscope

    • I guess it was first used for jewelry. To be used as money, something has to have four properties: it must be scarce, easily transportable in small bits, durable and it must be hard or impossible to fake. Gold has these properties.
      Other cultures used other things, for example kauri shells (they where available only in a few places, small and transportable, durable and impossible to fake). E.g. in the kingdom of Kongo, they where produced on one small island only. At one time, Venecian glass beads where used in west Africa. Only the Venicians new how to make them. I have still seen some on offer by an antiques dealer in Cameroon in 1999. Most of them are now probably in the hands of collectors.
      Most of these things lost their value at some time, but gold somehow survived. I think it is quite damaging. gold mining leads to the poisoning of the environment (with mercury and so on) and of the people who do it, it destroys nature (e.g. in the Amazon area), leads to displacement or killing of people and drives wars. And for what. The stuff is taken out of the ground and then buried again in some safe. Why not leave it where it was?

  4. I never thought about it that way but then the same can be said for almost anything, as long as someone wants ‘it’ then ‘it’ is valuable…

    • Exactly. On the other hand, you can stop wanting it and it looses its value. The desire creates the value. In the Hindu traditions of following a Sadu lifestyle, as well as in Buddhism that developed out of this, the approach is to reduce the desires and hence the suffering. I think one can take it too far, but there is something to that idea.

      • I suppose if you have no need for it then you shouldn’t want it. But take my gold chain for example, it’s valuable to me sentimentally, I wouldn’t even care if it wasn’t real gold…

        • Here, obviously its value does not come from the material value. It is connected to your history, your family etc. I don’t say anything against that (I reckon you don’t intend to become a Buddhist nun because then you would have to part with it 🙂 ). I have my sentimental memory items myself.

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