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Value Collapse

Calendar Monday, 17 October 2022
Calendar 20:30-22:00

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Photo of child at forking paths in a maze of hedges. Llun o blentyn yn wynebu llwybrau fforchio mewn drysfa o wrychoedd.

Something seems to go wrong when we take on, as our goals in life, some extremely explicit metric. As individuals, the metric might be making a lot of money, or getting the best grades, or getting into the top-ranked law school. Organisations do something similar with profits, pageviews, or, in education, learning outcomes.

How can such metrics cause problems?

Here’s one possibility: overly clear values enshrine an attitude of closed-mindedness towards value. Values drive attention: what we look at, and how carefully and intensely we look. Values control what we investigate. Hyper-clear values set firm boundaries on what matters. Those values narrow our attention, and make us less willing to pay attention to things outside those bounds. Hyper-clarity represents a value as finalized -- and the world as if there were nothing else to learn from it about what really matters.

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