Posted by: rolfsky | August 14, 2008

5 eternal truths of humans

Carrying on my selection of “5 items” to put nicely in a list, here are 5 eternal truths of humans in the world. This is the first post in a series leading up to the final work I’m doing around presenting business trends for eBay’s future in the next 3 to 5 years.

These truths lay the foundation upon which my following posts will be built. I feel they have a deep influence on the way humans conceive, design, and utilize technology.

Knowing these truths helps you deconstruct projects, programs, and companies you see in the real world. Like a stack of balanced building blocks, it is easy to see how something would fail if these parts were removed or suddenly invalidated.

1) it’s all about conservation of energy
If you want to simplify this, you can say that people are lazy. However, it’s not so much that people are lazy, it’s just that most of them are optimizing their time to reduce their expenditure of energy. There are finite resources within the human body and maintaining them takes work. The physical replenishment of our energy sources takes time, so why waste it on something we perceive to be of little future value?

2) I don’t care how it works, if it works
Because we are lazy, when taken in aggregate, consumers (utilizers) of any product or technology generally don’t care how something works. There is a general acceptance gleaned from the social environment that if enough other people are using it, and it satisfies my needs, I have no desire or need to research it. If everybody else eats bananas, I can probably eat them too. The same applies to how/where your facebook data is shared/stored/archived, or where your AOL search history may be going.

3) the “known” is comforting
Again, because it takes resources to constantly re-verify the viability of everything around us, we seek the known and comfortable. If something looks like a banana we just ate, chances are it’s still something good to eat. New foods deem investigation, but that all takes time and energy. When resources are low, the “known” is an oasis.

4) we make the best of what we have
Humans can tolerate a wide range of experience, and will over time accept pretty much anything as “normal”. If you require the ultra-soft premium variety of toilet paper, is it barbaric that people clean themselves with various things such as: rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize husks, fruit skins, or seashells, and cob of the corn? Wikipedia tells all about toilet paper. Given that, is it barbaric that you aren’t connected to the Great Brain via telepathic signals? Not yet, but it will be some day.

5) control is power
As reliable and inevitable as the tides, control is power. That control may be over financial resources, physical labor resources, natural resources, the ideology of a people, knowledge, or simply time. As sure as there are resources to be had, controlling them is power. This may seem self-evident, but it becomes particularly important as the value of different resources change. 10 years ago, controlling which desktop web browser you used was important, now the modern war is perhaps around which mobile access device you use as your connection to the net.

This is part 1 of 5 which I will be publishing once a week in the coming month. Please contribute any eternal human truths you think I’ve missed, and I’ll be happy to incorporate them into my further work.

The next segment will be Major Trends that have been impacting our society and history for the past 100 to 1000 years.



  1. People don’t change. That said, sometimes what they are gets covered up for a time.

    Those who like to lead will always want to find a way to lead. Those who follow will always feel more comfortable following.

  2. […] “5 eternal human truths” from last week were trends and patterns that could be applied to any era of history; they […]

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