[ExI] Life @ Playstation

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Wed Nov 7 09:09:06 UTC 2012

On 06/11/2012 23:26, Stefano Vaj wrote:
> Being a college professor may involve more fun, a higher intellectual 
> satisfaction, less risks, more perks, a nicer environment and above 
> all a higher social status than being a divorce lawyer, let alone a 
> drug pusher, even though the pay is significantly lower.


Although drug pushers, as described in Freakonomics, actually do not 
make much money in median. In fact, the interesting thing is that the 
job attracts people because of a very long tail - a few make enormous 
amounts (while most of the rest live at home with their mothers). This 
is similar to trying a career as an elite athlete, celebrity or in any 
other ultra-competitive field: the rewards are extremely focused on the 
very best/luckiest. Which makes it the opposite of a minimax strategy: 
good if you have a big appetite for risk, but also tending to attract 
seriously overconfident people.

(In a globalized world it is especially these fields that are really 
affected: now you have to compete against the best *anywhere*)

> I am also inclined to think that healthy and vibrant societies 
> accomodate by definition a large diversity of social roles, models and 
> ideals, and a pluralistic view of "success".
> My concern is in fact that in *our* societies, in spite of the limited 
> surviving of the qualifications above, monetary wealth is becoming 
> increasingly universal as the sole cause, measure and effect of social 
> success; and that in turn such wealth is distributed on the basis on 
> increasingly reduced and dysfunctional criteria.

Maybe you hang around with the wrong society?

I think the overall global trend is towards postmaterialist values, as 
described by the World Values Survey. But locally trends can of course 
point in all directions, including within certain social networks and 
periods. Britain has been having fairly strong pendulum swings between 
status as money and status as social capital. The current economic 
troubles make a lot of people value money more (yet, at the same time, 
might reduce its direct status - it is more about security). And the 
opportunities for getting other kinds of social status - hacker cred, 
academic cred, transhumanist cred, etc. - have increased tremendously.

(In fact, as Tyler Cowen suggested, we might have a long term economic 
problem if there are easier ways of gaining status and happiness than 
activities that produce economic growth - the Internet might make us 
happier, but it does not produce employment. )

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford University

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