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On Generosity and Petty Tyrants

When I was working for the casino industry as a consultant, I became good friends with Bill Zender, a consultant whose work was very similar to my own. Early on, Bill shared a lesson that no one else in the industry seemed to know. He told me to “be generous,” to give away my knowledge and services as much as possible.

This was easy for me.  As a former professor I had been publishing in academic journals for years. That was my job — creating new knowledge and giving it away. I held the academic philosophy that knowledge serves the greatest good in the public domain. Following Bill’s advice, I was dedicated to bringing that philosophy to my consulting work for the casino industry.

And so, in 2011, I started a blog where I published my research and gave it away for free. My work was dedicated to finding ways to legally beat casino games and I ended up publishing over 300 articles on the topic. You can find these articles on my website (still free) here.  I also collected my articles into a 500 page book, “Advanced Advantage Play,” which I sell at the lowest price Amazon permits — it’s as “free” as the market allows.

What I discovered along the way was that by giving away knowledge I created big issues with many in the casino industry. There were consultants who relied on a particular scope of experience and knowledge that they then sold as their consulting services. There were advantage players (people who legally beat casinos for a living) who didn’t want this information to get out — magicians protecting their secrets. There were casino bosses who feared I would unleash mobs of educated players to devastate their operations. There were game inventors and game distributors who feared my analysis exposing vulnerabilities would ruin the profitability of their products.

During the years I was publishing my research on casino games I experienced consulting firms accusing me of fear mongering — there was even a session at one conference dedicated to this topic. On multiple message boards, advantage players wrote that I was a traitor, a plagiarizer, the biggest scum to walk the earth and many other not-so-nice things. Three different gaming companies threatened lawsuits against me for libel, and in one case I made a public retraction. It seemed that burning bridges was part of the job.

On the flip side, there were casinos, law firms, companies and individuals who hired me for specialized projects. There were groups who invited me to work with them, recognizing my willingness to speak my mind. Foremost among these was the casino surveillance community. And in just a few weeks (pandemic permitting) I will be headed to Las Vegas to receive a lifetime achievement award at the World Game Protection Conference.

What I learned was that by giving it away I will inevitably encounter petty tyrants. These are people who aggressively defend small territories of knowledge, skill, and/or belief for fear of otherwise having nothing of value in their lives. Petty tyrants attack those who challenge their dominion or authority. Over the years, dealing with these attacks has been a huge source of personal growth for me.

Being attacked has become familiar to me. I am as good as anyone at ignoring or blocking bullies. But once in a while it does get to me. When someone triggers me, it reminds me that I have an issue that needs self-examination. What is it about myself that I don’t trust? What am I protecting or holding on to? What part of who I am is a bully or a tyrant? Is this reaction my psychological projection or did I genuinely get something wrong that deserves an apology and retraction? I simply refuse to accept that I am a victim.

I say this now because what I have come to learn is that the climate change community is no more or less dominated by petty tyrants than the casino industry or academia. From the way politicians deal with climate protestors, to the way researchers defend the value of their grants and projects, to the way climate activists demand “what we have to do is …” to how corporations manipulate public opinion, the tyranny is everywhere.

For me personally, early on I experienced the tyranny of Michael Mann blocking me on Twitter (see this post).  More recently, this tweet by Peter Kalmus gave me pause. There are seemingly endless supplies of climate denialists who attack me daily. Quite unexpectedly, I have quickly come to learn there are factions in the doomer community, some of whom have made it very clear they don’t like me. And yet, on I go.

I have three tenets I often repeat in my posts and videos. These are to be kind, to be of service and to be generous as much as you are able.  I haven’t always been kind. Service and volunteerism has only come into my life in a big way after retirement. But I have lived by the third tenet of generosity my entire life, starting as an academic, then in the casino industry and now in the climate change community. What I have found is that generosity is the most difficult of the three — giving it away sometimes comes with costs that can extend far beyond the value of the gift. But it is worth it.

Whatever you are able to give, now is the time to give it away. Whether it’s your material affluence, some possession you have or some skill or specialized knowledge, it is going to be worth far less in the future than it is today. We are all going through the sixth great extinction together. We are all going through collapse together. Generosity is one of the few abilities that will be with us to the very end. Give it away. Don’t let the petty tyrants win.

Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D.

Retired professor of mathematics and computer science, retired casino consultant, now a full time volunteer, husband and grandfather. Know-it-all doomer. Born in the year 316 ppm CO2.

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