World Futures: Profit, Non-Profit, Not-for-Profit – Part 1

Los Alamos World Futures Institute
Inferring from the title, one might anticipate this series is about businesses. It is and it is not.
It is in that as humanity developed, trade became essential. It is not because humanity has a need to survive and that requires working together in an “organized” manner. Perhaps this is better visualized with the bubble model I am fond of.
Checking today, there are 7.7 billion living people on the world. These are individual bubbles bouncing around with dependence on other bubbles and the “fluid” they are in. When people get together and form a relationship, they create another, bigger bubble. The combining can continue into bigger and bigger bubbles called businesses or governments or organizations or for solving social issues.  Let us start with the individual.
Every individual above a certain age wants or needs to make a profit. Making a living is usually defined as making money – not printing it, rather “earning” it. If the individual is in a “partnership” with another individual (marriage?), the partnership needs to make a profit. The term here, however, is not being used in the business sense. To make a profit, the individual sells his or her labor as a service to another bubble – they seek work assuming there is demand for them. They are compensated by a payment, usually in money, that allows them discretion in its use.
Of course not all individual bubbles can gain “employment.” Perhaps there are not enough other bubbles that need their labor capabilities, both physical and mental. Or perhaps they are not very good at marketing, finding bigger or other bubbles with the right needs, presenting their product (themselves) in an advertisement (a resume?), or physically being able to deliver themselves to the bigger bubble. But they still must survive, make a profit. If they cannot, they will need other assistance or disappear from the fluid of humanity. Step in the government or a social organization to help. Or we might find the bubbles floating amongst the groups we call the very poor or even homeless.
Return to the individual bubbles that can earn a profit. If you look at a general definition of business, these individuals should be keeping detailed accounting records to determine how much tax they have to pay. After all, the government wants its share also. So every bubble needs a certified public accountant, another financial burden. Clearly this is a foolish concept for a bubble selling him or herself. Instead, the hiring bubble does the work and issues paychecks, stubs and the appropriate tax forms. Of course, neither the individual nor the bigger bubble has to pay or collect gross receipts or sales taxes for the services, at least not directly.
There is another way these individual bubbles are sold. Business bubbles want to find the right individuals and present to them their resumes – entering descriptions of their products or services – focused advertising. If a business can focus on the right advertising audience, it can reduce its costs and profits go up. With the advent of the internet and computer technology, the opportunities have grown exponentially.
When you join a social media platform such as Facebook, Twitter, and on and on, you accept a user’s agreement that, in most cases, allows them to gather data about you and sort you. You are categorized, defined, identified, documented and on and on. This is not necessarily bad since you are receiving the services for “free.” But they have a right to “sell” your information to other bubbles and place targeted advertisements on their web pages. After all, someone has to pay for the services they are providing. Of course, the government might take over, but that would deny freedom and would constitute spying.
So the individual bubble, in a free society, sells him or herself hopefully for a profit and is sold by companies as sorted entities for advertising for their profit. Bubbles cannot survive without profit some for someone, even not-for-profit entities. Every bubble needs profit over a time period because it is the basis of trade – getting what you need for survival and growth, climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The fluid of humanity is also a bubble, driven by its need for survival, growth, and prosperity. While there can be many worthwhile arguments and debates about the purpose, goals and destination of the humanity bubble both collectively and individually, the need for survival is an inherent property of the fluid. This means that the emerging bubbles (children) must acquire knowledge and skills from the fluid. They need to be “processed,” developed into products that can contribute to humanity – provide value. Concurrently, the fluid of humanity itself is evolving, suggesting that older products (bubbles) are losing value. The question of what and how do we teach people rises in importance, especially with the acceleration of knowledge growth. Individual bubbles need to make a profit for the survival of humanity. What do they need?
Till next time…
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