A Short History Of Problems

Somewhere along the 21st century, the world reached a tipping point. Stupendous progress had been made in almost every area, known and unknown, by humans. From the days of the early Neanderthal, humans progressed from a state of being inundated with problems and no means, to a state where they were inundated with means and no problems.

This caused a big problem.

The happiness of the past was a distant memory. Humankind’s ignorance over much of history had created a situation that had facilitated peaceful coexistence; between Earth and Earthlings, consequential and otherwise. There wasn’t much to do, once the early day errands were completed, and humans felt a pressing need to keep boredom at bay. Inventing problems that did not exist provided a wonderful solution.

Since then, much ingenuity was devoted to conjuring up problems so that everyone was kept busy.

The apple-chomping, treetop-romping biped gradually began to feel the need to indulge in clothes. Winter came along and brought with it the reminder of Man’s inability to cope with extreme cold. Shopping was an unheard of fad at the time and alternatives were needed. The needle and thread were invented as a result, initially as a means to insulate against cold and then as a means to augment social impression. The latter worked better.

A little later, humans learnt to make the bow and arrow, originally as a tool to help in animal hunting. Soon, the tool was found to be extremely useful in hunting humans too; and large-scale fighting (battles, wars) was invented. Humans learnt to create fire and it has generally been downhill ever since. They also discovered that often fire could be created but not extinguished, while water could be extinguished but not created. This was likely to emerge as fertile ground for future fighting.

The War Culture then underwent major refinements as the Industrial Revolution facilitated the building of metal-based arsenal. Much life was lost in the ensuing experimentation phase. It kept the balance, though. Humankind morphed from having numerous mercenaries and few weapons, to having numerous weapons and few mercenaries. Paradoxically, as the value accompanying the style of life diminished, the value attached to lifestyle increased, generally disproportionately.

A lucrative exercise was discovered in the fine art of Strategy, which involved thinking up a plausible number of implausible problems. Humans found, much to their glee, that Strategy was a potent warehouse for inventing problems. What began in the sphere of foreign affairs and war, with due gratitude to Imperialism, gradually found a cosy dwelling in corporate affairs.

Dwellings, incidentally, assumed centre stage. Bricks, mortar, essential commodities were all found to satiate humans’ desire to have a roof over their heads. What began as an outcome of necessity soon morphed into an instrument of indulgence. Unnecessary massive structures were deemed to be necessary for conveying structured massiveness.

Since the gallingly humbling discovery of their uselessness in the larger scheme of things, humankind increasingly succumbed to restlessness, in the Post-Copernican era. They tried seeking refuge in the comforting arms of education, which they thought could help drill some meaningfulness into their dreary lives. Humans’ desire to invent problems accelerated.

Increasing civility stoked the desire to eschew the power of the Feet for the power of the Wheel. The Wheel was invented and humankind breathed easy, for a brief period. This led to the problem of discovering a fuel to power these creations. Crude Oil provided the answer and Man spent centuries drilling holes into the hitherto unperforated surface of the Earth. Then a need was felt for electricity to power newly-built homes. Coal provided the answer. Much of that was under the surface of the Earth. More drilling happened. When coal became too costly, natural gas was discovered as an alternative. Coincidentally, even this was found to be hidden under the surface of the Earth. More drilling happened. Gradually, many commodities that humans desired were found to be hidden underground. A Drilling Culture was born. The incessant drilling led to disturbances in the sea-bed and a bunch of species perished. Permanently.

Then humans took cognisance of the intense competition from the Brotherhood of the Birds and proceeded to beat them at their own game, by inventing the aircraft. Many birds perished as a result of unscheduled mid-air meetings with Man’s latest creation. Some humans, it must be added in the spirit of fairness, attempted building wings, and perished during the testing phase. Permanently.

The periodic mass killing and clustered dwelling led to the emergence of an eclectic menu of diseases that threatened to exterminate humans. Humans had chanced upon their biggest problem. Medicines and vaccines and elixirs were concocted to keep these raging monsters at bay. Some (diseases) were successfully exterminated but others morphed into alternatives, to manifest at a later date. Humans welcomed it. The goose that lay the golden egg was to be revered, never to be killed.

The invention of Paper Currency proved to be a tipping point in irreversibly stoking humans’ desires. Suddenly, everything seemed easy. All that was needed was accumulation of sufficient wads of Paper. It was found that Paper had the power of the Cure-All. If only sufficient amounts were created and floated around, all appeared well. The few that paused to point out that this was akin to an addict taking periodic drug shots, with a high possibility of ending in disaster, they were dismissed.

In a surprising turn of events, humans had gone from having few problems and no Paper Currency, to having many problems and much Paper Currency, to having few problems and incredible amounts of Paper Currency.

Gradually, all problems ended.

Or so it seemed.

This created a big problem.


Suggestions for inventing new problems will be welcomed in the Comments. Thank you.





A Negative (Interest Rate) World: When The World Plunged Into Its Mirror Image…

(Un)customary Warning: This is a parody of a rather boring real-life event. Negative interest rates; a topic high on Repulsive Quotient. Mumbo-jumbo is kept down to a minimum, however, and one hopes the brief waddle through an arcane world turns out to be an enjoyable ride.


Johnny Simple was flummoxed and a trifle grumpy. The reason behind his grumpiness was his government. Simple didn’t really harbour views on the quality, or the sanity, of his government (‘I couldn’t care less’), but in the sleepy surroundings of his home, his mind was astir. An investment that he had made – out of his own free will – was giving him ample cause for bemoaning.

He had chosen the safety of his trustworthy government’s Bonds, had made an investment for a return, waited…but on maturity, something seemed amiss. Simple had naively thought his government would return his principal and then something extra, on his investment. But his government seemed to have charged him for the privilege of investing with it. He learnt the true meaning of ‘return’. To air his misgivings, he sought out a friend, Complexius, and learnt a bit about himself and human behaviour. Complexius quickly got down to dealing with complexities.

For centuries, people thought a country’s government was the safest of safe places to park one’s capital. It was simple. You invested in a country’s government bond, the government provided interim happiness (interest on the bond), and one got one’s investment back at the end of it all. This was when countries around the world were paragons of strength.

Like a body that wilts under the tentacles of cancer, countries were now consumed by Debt. A pale shadow of their strong former selves, countries were scampering to resuscitate one another. The world had changed.

Bank deposit rates had gone Negative.

Ailing countries proclaimed that considering their financial ill-health, their citizens would now have to pay them for the privilege of safe-guarding their savings. A few paused and thought, deteriorating financial health ought to lead to ever higher interest rates as compensation. What in the heavens was happening here? This minority, however, was superseded by a vast majority that deemed it rational to turn over their savings to near-default governments, that were now mavens of shakiness and scrambling in the race for life-support.

Risk-free return was now replaced by returns-free risk.

But humans, bless their rational souls, continued ‘investing’ blissfully in their rationality.

Some thought of taking this a step further.

Earlier, everyone desired more money and growing paper wealth. The rules had changed. Holding Paper Currency was now anathema. There would now be a mad desire to lose money. People would be paid to whisk money off their hands, instead of whisking it off others’ hands, as used to happen earlier.

Soon perpetrators realised that heading to an Ivy League was a great way of launching their lose-money careers. The degrees cost a bomb, and it was seen that Ivy League experience in blowing money served as a tremendous adornment in one’s CV.

This led to a happy situation, where smart fellows (with Ivy League backings) now spent their waking hours conjuring up ways to lose money. Investors brandished their capacity for generating the highest rates of return earlier, in order to garner investors. Now, everyone proudly brandished their capacity to lose other people’s money. It was observed that the ones with a long and established track record of losing money, often in scintillatingly novel ways, seemed to enjoy great demand.

Banks, which earlier were vilified by the larger public, suddenly assumed a God-like persona. Many thought no one would know how to lose money better than those with a centuries-old history of practising the fine art. Banks did not disappoint. Complex derivative transactions, which earlier were onstensibly aimed at reducing risk of loss, were now in vogue; with the sole purpose of finding complex ways of increasing risk of loss.

Governments across the world, well, were already in the game before most others.

This culture spilled over to the social sphere, threatening the very fabric of society by questioning age-old customs. The historical roles of the pilferer and the ‘pilfered’ swapped. Thieves, existing and aspirants, took umbrage to this unwanted development. They remonstrated that their identities were being snatched away forcibly and blamed lose-money Capitalism for this conspiracy.

The culture of education underwent a change too. Oodles of moolah was now spent in providing young humans with an that had little value. The institutions soon had a problem, they were generating massive amounts of money without enough outlets for losing it. So they turned to paying parents to send their kids to school. This circle of bliss, paradoxically, left everyone unhappy. Employment went through the roof, as everyone scrambled to lose money. Governments found that they had little to do, leaving them grumpy. There was no money in being a politician.

Eating also witnessed some queer developments. Farmers now fell over one another to pay consumers to buy food. Gradually, most resorted to not producing any food at all. Food was a source of headache for these producers, so they weeded out the cause. Humankind did not take to this kindly.

Riots began, queerly due to the negative prices for essential food commodities, and then thanks to food scarcity. Food scarcity, however, led to a death spiral of ever lower prices now. Things were not turning out well.

Riots soon morphed into skirmishes, which then morphed into regional squibbles, which then morphed into nationwide agitation, which then morphed into international conflict. Ending in obliteration.

Complexius’ exposition left Simple with a heavy head.

He had never thought losing money would lead to such unhappiness and collective disaster.