I have a natural predisposition that leads me in funky counter cyclical directions so I appreciate hearing from like-minded individuals. Chatting with people with similar interests helps me feel less weird. But I’m also ever vigilant to avoid confirmation bias where self selecting populations all agree on a set of decisions that are entirely false and go down a collective rabbit hole. It’s tricky… One way I attempt to manage the situation is to cast a wide net and interact with people who I half agree with. For example, I’ve learned more practical skills from Mormons at the opposite end of my particular spectrum than any other group. Nice people. But I’ll never be a Mormon.
I recently attended a Peak Prosperity gathering. It’s one of many organizations I’ve followed for years. The casual observer would place Peak Prosperity somewhere along the “prepper” continuum. Both the organizers and the participants are heavily skewed toward techies, scientists, and high net worth individuals involved in finance. There’s an emphasis on structural imbalances in the global economy, undue governmental market manipulation, and the risk of domino effects as fragile systems cascade. (The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 was a prime example.) Other concerns include resource depletion, environmental degradation, as well as possible political and social disorder.
On the bright side, Peak Prosperity asserts that there are things individuals can do to improve the quality of their lives right now that will save them money, increase their health, and make them happier while also making them better able to ride out future difficulties. And if you do it right you can also make the tiny piece of the world you inhabit a bit better. You might say they’re intensely focused on the silver lining of the black storm cloud they see on the horizon. Chaos brings new opportunities for people who are paying attention and take action ahead of the curve. They aren’t Doomers. They’re pragmatic rationalists. That appeals to me.
Peak Prosperity has always included household resilience as a key part of their Eight Forms of Capital, which is one of the main reasons I like the group. But the self directed conversations at this event were lopsidedly oriented toward larger abstract concerns. Could thorium reactors power a national fleet of electric vehicles? Are cryptocurrencies the future or a trap? Are the Chinese working with other nations to create an alternative reserve currency to displace the dollar? Bankruptcy rules that were introduced after the 2008 crisis make it harder for people to get out of onerous debt, but ensure big investors are made whole ahead of ordinary bank depositors. The Saudi royal family is in big trouble. Remember, these were Ph.Ds casually talking to each other around a table. I was fascinated. But still, I really wanted to pull the discussion toward things ordinary people have some control over. Personally, I’m not what you’d call an “accredited investor.” What action can I take in my own life one way or another?
Whenever I attend such events I try to contribute whatever I can based on my modest skill set. In this case I brought enough food to feed everyone lunch during the break. I then gave a quick presentation demonstrating my own techniques for household food resilience while everyone enjoyed the results on their plates. My cooking isn’t anything to get excited about, but it gets the job done. (And my new thermal pot worked great.) I began my spiel by paraphrasing Sharon Astyk who occasionally addresses similar organizations. “Okay. Now that we’ve spend hours talking about the really important stuff like the palace intrigue of international moguls we’re going to waste a few minutes on pointless fluff – like food.” I was successful in redirecting some portion of the conversation back to concrete personal action.
I enjoyed my time with the Peak Prosperity folks and I’ll be participating in future events with them. The organizers are charming and great at communicating their message. The main benefit for me involved the smart capable people I met who have useful complimentary skills. I’ve already made arrangements to spend time with a couple of them who can help me with specific projects I’m working on. That gets back to one of the Eight Forms of Capital, “Cultivate a community of neighbors who support each other.” I’m in.