How far would you go to shirk the burdens of daily decision-making? Some of us have been known to utter a primal howl simply at the thought of choosing between coffee and tea every morning.
So when it comes to bigger decisions – where to live, whether to save for a mortgage or splurge on a holiday, when to start a family – it’s no wonder we stick our fingers in our ears and hum ‘la la la’ until someone else tells us what to do.
We may stake a noisy claim to adulthood by defending our right to autonomy – but in reality the advice and guidance of others is something we desperately clutch at.
It’s a paradox that affects us all. For one man, though, abdicating responsibility of making decisions has become a way of life in itself.
Mike Merrill, otherwise known as KmikeyM, isn’t just asking his friends to order for him at the bar.
Over the past six years, he’s allowed others to select who he should vote for, which romantic relationships he should move from/stick with and even whether to have a vasectomy.
What’s even weirder about KmikeyM is the way he’s formalised this process – by turning himself into the first ‘publicly traded person’.
In 2008, the American college graduate decided to sell shares in himself to stockholders who would then ‘own’ him as a commodity.
In June 2012 his stock hit a high of $20/share. By then he’d recruited 320 shareholders, all of whom were involved in making his decisions.
No on the vasectomy. Yes on sticking with his girlfriend, Marijka Dixon, with whom he drew up a relationship contract so exhaustive it even included a ‘pet matrix’ (they agreed on a limit of three, not to include spiders or snakes and for their menagerie to number no more than two of each variety.
The contract was, of course, developed for the approval of his shareholders, who are also involved in revising the terms every six months.
Mike Merrill claims KmikeyM is the best version of himself he can possibly be, as he is held to account by the hundreds of people who have a stake in his life.
At first it was mainly Mike’s family and friends who invested in KmikeyM. Then his girlfriend bought a chunk of stock so she could win the right to sway his decision about whether to keep dating her. But increasingly, KmikeyM’s shareholders are complete strangers.
With so much nastiness out there in the webosphere, I shudder to think about the implications of turning over life decisions to a Trolled-up mob.
Would that be better, or worse, than simply throwing a dice?
Worse, surely. At least with a dice, the thrower can select up to six options for themselves – and therefore skew the outcome. Or is it cheating to choose the same thing multiple times...?
In the cult Seventies novel, The Dice Man, narrator Luke Rhinehart ‘lived by the dice’; always giving himself six different choices - including very nasty options, like theft, rape and murder.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. A friend I met travelling in Australia sometimes let the dice decide the shape of her day – and consequently ended up gatecrashing weddings, stripping off to her undies to dive into a fountain in the centre of Adelaide, and charming a restaurant owner into waiving the cost of her meal. Then again, knowing her as I do, she would no doubt have decided to do these things whatever the dice advised. In the end, whatever means of selection we use, it’s not the decisions we make but the options we’ve given ourselves in the first place that really matter.
Auction in Spain
Anyone who happened to be in Spain last week will have been in the right place to snap up a bargain. More than 1 million potential buyers signed up to the Spanish inland revenue’s annual auction – a giant sale of all the goods that have been handed over in lieu of owed taxes within the past year. Takings from the auction were expected to exceed last year’s total of £248 million. With 25% of the working population out of a job, tax collectors are desperate to generate revenue in whatever way they can. Usually the auction includes homes, cars and other assets such as yachts or land. But this year, desperation has led to the offering up of some rather more...ahem...unusual items. Such as 50 brassieres, boosting more than just the economy at a bargainous 330 Euros. Or how about a job-lot of 100 bricklayer’s trowels....? For those already worried about the privations of winter, the opportunity to buy 450kg of coal must have seemed like a tempting offer. But as for the 715 swimsuits – or the car with no rear seat or starter motor (a BMW, listed with a guide price of 9,400 Euros), it’s hard to see how buyers would have been tempted. It reminds me of Transport for London’s lost property auctions, which occasionally promise tantalising bounty (lost diamond earrings, a bright red fold-up Brampton bike) but often invoke more wonder than desire. It especially bothers me when the auction includes prosthetic limbs. I can never understand how a person can lose their false arm or leg – even less how they can come to leave it languishing in lost property for months. And as for the person who bids for a stranger’s prosthesis...now that I really don’t get.
Spider Crufts I happened to be at a Health at Work conference at the NEC in Birmingham earlier this year, held just a couple of days before Crufts. As the adverts for workplace wellbeing programmes were stripped off the billboards and replaced by pictures of glossy-haired pooches gobbling up gourmet dog food, I reflected on the rich tapestry of life that can be found at an international conferencing centre. Checking out of the hotel to return to Leeds, I spotted dog-owners arriving in droves. Their pets pranced with heads held high, already perfecting a noble wagging of tail calculated to melt any judge’s heart. At the time, it seemed a funny turnaround to go from one event to the other. But now, having read about an entirely different contest for pet-owners that took place in Coventry last week, I think both I and the NEC got off pretty lightly. More than 50,000 hairy arachnids were on display at the British Tarantula Society’s annual ‘best in show’ event, which has come to be known as the Crufts of the spider world. Now in its 29th year, the event attracts an audience of more than 2,000 people eager to view the 800 different types of creepy crawly up close. With categories based on good health, speed, and hairiness, owners were jostling for the top spot on the podium as their spiders, stick insects and beetles basked in their moment of fame. Just glad I wasn’t there to see it!