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A thought inspired by Tuesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 49

A thought inspired by Tuesday’s Daf (page) in the Talmud, Gittin 49

Why create demand?

This post presents a philosophical idea inspired by the text of today’s Daf. The Daf is one page in the Talmud that tens of thousands of people study each day. I explain the connection to the text in a comment below. My purpose is to show that there are underlying philosophical assumptions in the Talmud that can have great significance for anybody today trying to understand our complex reality.

One important task assigned to the marketing or sales departments in any corporation, large or small, is to get the word out about the company’s products. There is no point in creating a product, however stellar it might be, if potential customers never find out that the product exists or where to purchase it.

However, another goal that a company may have is to create demand for its products where otherwise that demand might not exist.

Looking at this from a broader perspective, it is difficult to see the value to society as a whole, of corporations creating demand.

Societies need corporations in order to create the products and services that their members need and corporations can be far more efficient at these tasks than requiring each individual to create the product for themselves. In the large societies of today, information flow is a challenge, and so it makes sense that each corporation is tasked with enabling the information about its products to flow out towards the consumer.

Adam Smith explained this process using the example of a pin factory. It might take me all day to make a single pin, but a factory that focuses on the task and employs just one person to concentrate on each of the component sub-processes involved in making the pin, can produce thousands of pins a day.

Moreover, the factory owner need not be motivated to help me or even to help society as a whole. It is sufficient that the owner wants to become rich and serve their own pleasures, for society as a whole to prosper. In this, economists were first coming to terms with the concepts of large complex systems composed of inanimate or “selfish” components that behave as if they have intentions, can predict the future, and are directed towards goals that none of these components are individually interested in.

Consider a different complex system: the multicellular biological organism. It is composed of cells that are individually “motivated” to ingest energy and reproduce. The organism as a whole develops stunningly complex systems of groups of such cells that include monitoring and cooperation behaviors. The organism as a whole acts as if motivated by goals that are very different from those of the individual cells but nevertheless further many of the “goals” of these member cells.

However, this careful balance can go wrong – from the perspective of the organism and then, indirectly, of the cells themselves. For example, an individual cell might overcome the monitoring processes designed to control its growth and become cancerous. In doing so, it is only furthering its programming, which is designed to ingest energy and reproduce. Ultimately, the organism as a whole may die as a result of this cancerous growth. Of course, the cancer cells do not benefit from this death either.

Economic systems can also go wrong when the benefits created by the selfish interests of individual players start to produce unwanted effects, which might ultimately end up undermining the system as a whole.

It is therefore perfectly understandable that a corporation should move beyond just informing a potential customer about its products; it is only following its programming in doing so. It makes sense that a company should invest in creating demand that does not exist and that does not serve the interests of society as a whole. It may help the company’s profits to manipulate potential customers, to pervert the truthful flow of information, or to play on instinctive levels of the customer’s decision-making processes.

Ultimately, neither society nor an organism can be healed with a sledgehammer. We need to understand the motivations driving the component parts of complex systems and gently nudge them to achieve our larger goals.

submitted by /u/eliyah23rd
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Source: Reditt

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