You’ve just finished your first introductory course in arc welding. Through a series of classes that have put you through rigorous practice and training, you can now identify different welds, identify welding machinery, and set proper welding current. You learn about all the different factors to consider, ensuring you always produce a proper weld. After completing the course, you are much more effective at the task of welding metal together. This course has given you something truly valuable, and taught you something objectively useful. By learning this new skill, you have created true value.
True value is defined as “Ability to Increase Effectiveness”. The education and training you receive in the welding course has true value, because it increases your effectiveness at the task of welding. Because you now know this information and have these skills, your own true value has increased. This means that you can now use your body, your mind, your time, and your energy in a more objectively useful way, to weld metal.
What does it mean to create true value? At the deepest level, creating true value means to add order, structure, or information to something in a way that allows additional order, structure, and information to be more easily created. This is the underlying rule of true value. When you learn to weld, your brain and body gain structure and information that we call knowledge and skill. This skill enables you to weld. The process of welding then adds useful structure to metal by joining less useful parts like metal plates, pipes, and sheets together to make different finished products like tools and tanks.
This rule is deeply tied to the nature of reality. Increasing order is what allows life to exist, allows humanity and civilization to flourish against the dominant tendency of the universe to be perpetually more disordered. The second law of thermodynamics states that in a closed system, entropy will always irreversibly increase. This means that unless energy is added or work is done to reverse it, everything will always become more disordered. By learning to weld, and then by welding, you are doing work, expending energy to increase order in the world by a small amount. Every useful thing in the world, every piece of technology from a hammer to a car, to a house, can be thought of as a thing that has been made through a process of adding order in many different steps.
Creating true value can be thought of as a process of making resources more useful, or converting resources from a less useful form to a more useful form. “Resources” in this case refers to time and energy of individual people as well as physical resources from the earth. Iron ore sitting under the ground cannot be directly used for any tasks. It therefore has low true value. It must first be mined from the ground, crushed and separated from surrounding rock, and heated in a blast furnace with coal before it is in a more useful form, steel. The steel must then be further rolled, stamped, bent, welded, and painted before it exists as a useful technology, a wheel barrow, car, grill, or lawnmower.
Each step in this process adds true value to the iron ore. Iron ore that has been pulled out of the ground is more useful than iron ore still in the ground. Iron ore that is ground up and separated is more useful than chunks of mixed rock. Iron ore that is melted and mixed with coal to form steel is much more useful than the original ore. Each step in the process adds some useful order to the iron ore. Each step in the process also takes time, and takes energy. By the time the iron ore has been converted to a steel grill, dozens of steps have been taken, each step adding true value to the ore until it has been converted into a useful technology. The true value of all technology is derived entirely from the resources of the earth, and the existing technology, energy, and knowledge of human civilization. All our technology is created in this way, through modification of resources present in the earth. Technology can be defined as physical resources that have been modified to increase their true value.
There are many ways to create true value, but all of them involve making resources, physical materials, time, and energy, more useful. Many of these methods do not require modifying resources at all, only re-purposing existing resources.
True value can be created by ordering and using existing resources in more efficient ways. The following practical examples should help illustrate this concept:
Consider a person’s time and energy as the most fundamental human resource. When a person learns and practices a skill like driving, welding, or laying bricks, it adds ordered information to their body and mind. This information allows them to spend their own time and energy in a more useful way than before. After learning to lay bricks, a person can spend their time and energy building houses. Learning the skill of bricklaying allows a person to turn the resources of brick and mortar into more useful resources like houses and buildings. Learning a skill adds true value to a person by making their own time and energy more truly valuable.
True value can also be increased by using existing resources more efficiently. Think of an unused piece of technology, like a dusty table saw sitting in a garage. The saw took time, resources and energy to manufacture. The saw sitting unused in a garage is a real resource that is not being useful to anyone. The saw has the potential ability to add true value to wood, modifying the wood to be more useful. If the table saw were shared, sold to a business, or even given away so that it is being used instead of sitting idle, its true value would increase. When the saw goes moves from a state of disuse to a state of use, its true value increases. The resource comprising the saw becomes more useful. Putting an existing idle technology to use often takes far less energy than creating new technology from scratch. A car that is transporting one person but is capable of transporting four is another form of inefficient resource use. Putting idle technologies to work, as well as sharing existing technologies is a very efficient way to increase true value, because it doesn’t require modifying additional resources. Using resources more efficiently is a way to increase the total amount of useful work that our limited resources can do.
True value can also be created simply by organizing existing resources in a more useful way. Imagine a messy closet. Clothes, shoes, belts, and boxes in a pile, tangled on the floor. Finding clothes to get dressed will involve wading through this pile, and will be difficult, and take a long time. Organizing the closet involves hanging the shirts so they are easy to see and find, hanging the belts, folding the pants. After the closet is organized, finding the right clothes takes much less time and effort than before. The same clothes become more useful, because they are now ordered. Organizing is a process of adding order, or adding information to the clothes. Although you haven’t created or modified any resources, you have made existing resources more useful by adding structure to them. This is a process of creating true value. Like all processes of creating value, it takes real time and energy.
Inventing newer and better technologies increases true value, because invention is a process of coming up with fundamentally better ways to modify resources to complete tasks. A combine harvester is an immensely useful way to modify and order metal, rubber, plastic, glass, and fuel to complete the important task of harvesting food much more effectively. A combine harvester, in the same way as a grill, is a collection of resources from the earth that have been modified to increase their true value. If the combine harvester had not been invented, people would have no way to harvest food nearly as effectively, even though they would still have access to rubber, metal, glass, and gasoline. The invention of the combine harvester allows more true value to be added to the same resources than ever before. The process of invention adds new useful information to the world, which can be used to modify resources in better ways.
Using identical resources for more fundamentally valuable tasks is another way to increase true value. Think about two identical trucks. Both trucks are the same in every way, and constructed from identical materials. The only difference is how the trucks are used. One truck is used to transport only food, the other truck is used to transport only toys. The task of feeding people is more fundamentally valuable than playing with toys, as people can live without toys, but not without food, so the truck transporting food has a higher true value. The resources used to make the food truck are being used in a more useful way than the resources that made the toy truck. During an natural disaster, using all kinds of vehicles, school buses, ice cream trucks, etc for evacuating people or transporting critically needed food and water is an example of increasing the true value of these resources. During a catastrophe, dealing with the immediate survival needs of victims becomes drastically more important than selling ice cream.
Arguably the most fundamental way to increase true value is by increasing the effectiveness of human beings. Because we are human beings, anything that increases our own effectiveness has true value to us. This starts with our own bodies. Without a living body, it would be impossible to complete any task. Increasing the effectiveness of our bodies, by becoming stronger and healthier, therefore increases our ability to accomplish almost all general tasks more easily. Our bodies, and by extension our health is therefore profoundly truly valuable. Food, water, shelter, basic human needs that keep us alive are the most truly valuable resources. As human beings, we are dynamic and social creatures. Having practiced skills like Socialization, generosity, sexuality, and self-control are critically important for people to function together in a society. Practicing these social skills therefore are a way to increase the fundamental true value of a society. Increasing human health, quality of food and shelter, basic social skills and self-discipline are fundamental ways to increase human true value.
We live in a world where resources are limited. The time and energy people have is limited. Technology and energy is limited. Therefore, the total amount of true value is always limited. Considering how these limited natural resources are being used, and what they are being used for should be a primary concern of any individual, society, or civilization. More true value means using our limited resources in objectively more beneficial ways. It means getting the same things done with less waste, while using less individual time and energy. It means having additional time for leisure, while using less overall resources. Considering the efficient and effective use of resources is the true way to consider value in the world.