Hours of Work

As Drucker loves pointing out, the sheer volume of times both researchers and businesses have rediscovered the output maximization power of a forty hour work week is farcical. Most business operators wouldn’t be mistaken for being thoughtful, but we got here eventually. Nominally, at least, we white collar workers work forty hours a week.

But there’s a problem, this problem being sufficiently obvious that it’s hardly worth pointing out. People appear to work harder if they work longer, even if hours do not meaningfully translate to output in the medium-to-long term. So, while everyone benefits from having shorter hours in general (as a human who does not want to waste time at work), their career benefits more from working slightly longer than their coworkers. Classic prisoner’s dilemma.

But there’s a much larger problem, in my estimation. It’s that set hours (instead of benchmark-driven work) encourage deliberate inefficiency or low intensity work instead of high intensity work, such as building systems, processes, computer programs, and standards by which the output can be generated with substantially less time and effort.

That’s a bigger problem because it’s not a prisoner’s dilemma, you can’t fix it by generating a cultural externality, a punishment for ignorance, a sneer as someone stays in the office past 5pm. Those fixes are tractable compared to the fundamental issue that current business culture, in that moment, values low intensity work identically to high intensity work. There’s simply no effort expended to tell the difference. Since the high intensity work costs more energy (and likely couldn’t be sustained for 8 hours on the first go), it doesn’t get done.

The only solution is to have more people become executives. That’s the name we have for people responsible for such work. But modern organizations are simply not built to support that, so more businesses must be created. We all betrayed each other and ruined classical employment. Just as well — I think we were all concerned about how creatively claustrophobic almost all jobs are. And now we get something better, not because we wanted it, not because we asked for it, but because there was simply no other option. Building systems is now so much more efficient that employee-based cultures simply cannot compete.

Romantic Offense and Defense

If you only begin romantic relationships with people who inquire about and organize a romantic relationship with you, then you’ll be in relationships only with people who haven’t found anyone better to put up with them. And they’re looking. Clearly.

So, to get optimal results, you have to have tremendous luck in finding someone who has been judged to be insufficient by people fielding similar requests before (but is actually optimal for you), and be able to recognize this when it occurs.

Or, you could just start asking people out. The initiator can walk down the list of people they find interesting until they find someone they actually like a lot. This has an essentially 100% success rate for achieving optimal results, bounded only by how well you can estimate attraction at a distance.

If modern dating culture says men ask women out, but women do not ask men, then of course dating is structurally damaging to heterosexual women. And because of how optimal strategies play out, of course straight men will be lauded for having many sexual partners, as it signals their systematic approach yields a higher percentage of positive judgments from others, and straight women will be preferred to have fewer, as it signals they are requiring of higher quality and therefore of higher quality.

Obviously, this system is of the most peculiar brand of nonsense. I don’t think anyone would object to us throwing it out the window and starting fresh. But this same analysis posits many people (namely, women) in a disadvantageous position as a result of their own seemingly-non-Nash-equilibrium actions. Women could just start playing offense and their problems would basically be solved, so why don’t they?

I suspect the answer is that being the only woman asking men out signals that you can’t get men to ask you out. My real life experiences with this tend to support that guess. That being said, as a man, we’ll go out with just about anyone who’s generally interesting, which I anticipate will remain true, on the whole, (for the game theoretic reasons above) until there’s no more mild negative signalling from women asking men out.

In the meantime, due to the potential Nash equilibrium working to harm women, I think it’s every straight woman’s social responsibility to talk to men they find interesting, and every (interesting) man’s responsibility to listen with an open heart.

It’s also worth stating, for the internet records: If you are a straight, single female, I’m a young, straight single male who writes things you’re willing to read. In case you need practice, it’s fair to postulate I’ll follow the above social guidelines.

Inevitable Indignation

Perhaps you’ve heard someone talk about how we live in a throwaway culture, all so the rich can get richer.

Let’s take a moment to think this through.

If the used goods market were more vibrant (or things were built to last, which is logically interchangeable), what would we be discussing? More used goods for sale? No, their objection isn’t that there is a shortage of used goods (otherwise there would be nothing to throwaway in this throwaway culture) — the change they wish to see is more used goods buyers, to supply enough demand to make it worth the time to sell. This means the prices will go up. A perfectly efficient used goods market would mean that every participant would only pay depreciation costs on goods.

It’s worth noting that poorer people spend a much higher percentage of their money on consumables like food that have no resale value, but that’s not the detail I want to focus in on.

Deprecation costs on higher quality goods are lower than those of low quality goods, at least as a percent — this is the definition of higher quality. In reality we see it’s often true on an absolute scale as well.

So if there is a perfectly efficient used goods market, you don’t need to spend money to have high quality things. You just need to have money to get high quality things. You’ll get the money back when you want something newer and sell your older good used. And the rich get higher quality things for cheaper, and poor people can’t gather the capital to get high quality things at all.

So it’s in rich people’s best interest to have high quality goods in an active used goods market. Profit margins for high-price goods are also typically much better than those for lower quality goods, so they aren’t getting love from the supply or demand side. We can imagine that extremely low quality products benefit the poorest the most, as they simply wouldn’t be able to afford the expensive options at all. Decry low quality computers all you want, but that’s what bringing America’s poor to the internet. Decry low quality cars, but without decent public transport, there’s no way for many in poverty to get to their jobs (often in much nicer neighborhoods or cities). Going without doesn’t mean they have extra money, it means they have a structurally lower quality of living.

Analogously, dramatically raising the cost of throwing things out (in an attempt to encourage a used goods market without a price increase) only disproportionately hurts those who can only afford low quality items. Whether that’s worth it or not is another discussion (and one I wish people would have), but it’s worth pointing out that the strategy that hurts poor people for the benefit of rich people hasn’t been taken.

But on a larger note, I’m a little confused by people who managed to be outraged by every possible outcome. Let’s not invite them to our parties, okay?