Posts Tagged thought experiment

Difficult People and Hugging Day

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Who’s the most difficult person you’ve known in your life, and what would you like to tell him or her?

It’s interesting – as I was pondering my answer for this question, it really started to come down to a series of friends and acquaintances in my life who I felt got on my nerves, or with whom I constantly felt like I was arguing or struggling.  Honestly, though, that probably reveals that *I* am difficult, not particularly them, and so I don’t feel comfortable singling out any individual and calling them the most difficult.

On the other hand, I did want to relay a little thing that’s stuck with me over the years.  I read somewhere (or maybe heard on the radio?) that there’s a fine line between genius and evil genius.  So, if you are worried about your above-average intelligence child growing up on the maladjusted side of things, the story claimed that ten positive physical interactions (shoulder pat, hug, etc.) a day would be an excellent preventative and way to keep the young “genius” grounded.

Ever since then, I have imagined what it would be like to have a Hugging Day, where I just literally hug every person I interact with that day.  Other than the inevitable harassment problems, I think it would be an interesting social experiment to gauge difference in reaction *after* the hug.  (I imagine there would also be variety of reaction *to* the hug, but I’m less concerned about that.)  I think it’s very hard to be negative towards a person who is making physical contact (in a nonthreatening way).

Tags: , , , , ,

Road Rage

This morning, on the way into work, people were leaving the slower left lane, zooming around in the right lane, and cutting in front of me.  I got angry.  I hate it when people do that – almost certainly part of the reason it’s slow is because PEOPLE ARE CUTTING IN FRONT OF THE SLOW LANE.  However, that was not the realization I made this morning (I knew that one already) – it was remembering Todd’s contention that one of the reasons people are so selfish in traffic is because of the communication/control asymmetry.  After sitting in traffic for a loooong hour this evening on my way to a Happy Hour get-together (thanks Keridwyn!), I had some time to flesh out the theory and consider its implications.

Think about it – in traffic, you can only directly affect the drive of the people behind you.  You can’t do anything to the people who have zoomed ahead of you and cut you off without zooming ahead and invoking retribution, which is certainly not possible in a heavy traffic situation that they just took advantage of.  So the person in front is not held accountable for their actions, and thus acts irresponsibly.

Is there a way around this?  From behind, you have the ability to leverage your horn and your lights (headlights and turning lights), but those are really means of communication, not control (unless you are a police officer!).  It seems a natural consequence of systems where there is asymmetrical control that the controller will take advantage of the controlled… but in the case of traffic, unless you are 100% of the time aggressing (zooming ahead, which seems risky due to law enforcement/possibility of accident), eventually you will be in the situation where another person is taking advantage, so it’s not continously asymmetrical in your favor.

Clearly educating/convincing people that it’s for the greater good to dissuade this behavior is an option (but nigh impossible to implement), but maybe sanctions could work.  Imagine shooting a sticker from the front of your car that clearly identifies the guy who cut in front of you/rushed past you as a {aggressive driver}.  If their actions are more public, would that temper their disregard for anonymous others?

Tags: , ,

One Wish

Patrick wrote an article – about a week ago? – that was an interesting treatment of the “what would you wish for?” thought experiment.  He defied other gamers in the room and claimed he would not wish for anything.  Why?  You can read it here, but basically, I boil it down to two fundamental reasons:

  1. The universe is in the correct state right now, even though it might not seem like it.
  2. The result of a wish has little value compared to the result of one’s own experience and actions.

I couldn’t agree with Patrick’s conclusions (not to use the wish) but I had a hard time framing why until today, having mulled it over quite a bit.  I just disagree with the first reason, but I think it is by far the weaker of the two – my ideal universe bears only a small resemblance to the current universe, and others may not assign the same moral weight to those ideals.  I do agree with the second reason – human experience is very valuable.  I believe things are essentially worth what you pay for them (the value you assign to them), not what others are willing to pay.  However, though I am a fan of promoting this particular virtue, I think there is a spectrum of reasonableness in promoting virtue and this falls outside the line I would set for myself.

Yes, I do want to live my own life and make my own experience – the good and the bad.  But I also think there are things more valuable than one’s personal, human experience and those are the kinds of things I would wish for.  It is the value that we assign to things that makes them matter, and I am quite capable of receiving a boon or gift from an altruistic person I’ve never met – it becomes a tool I can use to do good.  (I may write more about tools in a later post.)

I do think it is admirable in a way to push the virtue of self-sufficiency (doing things on one’s own, enjoying the labors of one’s own hand(s)) so far, but I would not do the same.

Tags: , , ,