Bad Incentives - 49

I feel like there are so many systems with fundamentally bad basic incentives for the actors within the system, yet people blame surface-level problems for the results of these deep-rooted problems.

  • U.S. Politics: Politicians' incentives push them to make them decisions get (re)elected and stay in office, not to run the country well, make compromises, or represent the will of the people. This is the problem with almost any democratic system, but it's still the root cause of a lot of the U.S.'s (and many other countries, I just live in the US) problems.
  • Social media: no, Facebook and Twitter do not run their sites the way they do because they enjoy watching the world burn. It is what will keep people's attention the longest in order to serve them the most targeted ads, so their algorithm tunes it to the individual user. If that individual user is entertained by conspiracy theories, hate groups, and misinformation, so be it. The platform is making money.

These are just two examples that I have on hand. The wold begins to be much more transparent in many areas once we start thinking about the actors in a system and what action that system incentivises. Recognizing those incentives is the first step to changing them.

(Note: I am extremely tired right now (a common theme throughout my writing) so I apologize if this is extremely obvious to you. Feel free to go read another blog; listed has plenty.)

I have a ton of reading material on this sort of idea (books on game theory, "The Dictator's Handbook", etc.) but I haven't gotten around to reading them. As a matter of fact, I haven't gotten around to reading anything really in a while. I'll have to add a lot more time to read to my schedule.

I recall asking a favorite teacher of mine if he had any advice and he said "read more books"... I read an embarrassing total of something like 5 books, plus or minus a few, in 2020. That's not to say I didn't read - I read plenty of long- and short-form journalism, along with plenty of discussion threads, Wikipedia pages, blog posts, and tutorials - but uh that's still embarassing. I need to get started. Going to go read a book now.


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