Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pyramids are forever

Balancing the effort put into catching fish vs. teaching to fish is not as clear cut for us parents as the proverb portends:

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”...

No wonder there is no known author to stand behind it, and that improved proverb versions have surfaced on the internet.

Fish makes good dishes but bad metaphors. The short shelf life makes fish hard to accumulate, and harder to pass across generations. If we consider “Give a man gold" vs. "Teach a man to mine gold" is less clear which option is better or has higher NPV. But the transfer problem is the main concern, teaching your son to fish or to mine gold are not automatically transitive to his son, and his son's son.

What lasts and has lasting value to benefit subsequent generations. Transferable yet not liquidated by bad actors along the way. An abstract answer forms in my head, and a concrete example comes from Egypt.

Egyptians built back then a few pyramids. Solid pyramids that last, too large to be carted away by corrupt heirs. Posterity they wanted, posterity they got. People flock to visit such unique things that Egypt's tourism industry is the second economic sector with more than $10B/year.

My own answer puts me barely at square one, with at least two other moves to come up:
2) Identify a rare and striking creation that lasts the next 3000 years.
Build it.

Forgive my tossing around some blogs and some fish while I work on such a tall order. I try to serve them fresh.