Speaking of the efficiency of utopia

8

World Optimization
Frontpage

I noted that it is probably reasonable for people to be wary of things introducing themselves as ‘efficiency’, since maximization of specific metrics has some tendency to go badly.

On the other hand, ‘efficiency’ doesn’t mean anything about building explicit or quantitative machinery. It just means getting a lot of the desired output per input. So one might wonder why, if these explicit efforts would tend to make things worse for our actual goals, we would pursue efficiency in such ways, and continue to call that ‘efficiency’. For those who think quantitative pursuit of well-defined goals has been a bad strategy overall, shouldn’t ‘efficient daycare’ suggest a daycare where we have used our best intuitions for holistically improving the experience?

I think one reason why not is that you don’t tend to have much evidence that a thing is efficient unless you are in the business of making quantitative measurements. You are more likely to say ‘this daycare is unusually efficient’ if you have been measuring ‘costs of providing legally adequate childcare’ across different centers, than if you have been observing children and workshopping policies for their thriving. If you have been doing the latter, you will probably just call it something else.

It seems to me that we would be better with more specific concepts though, rather than conflating striving with an eye to a defined metric and the doing the best we can do with our materials. I suggest narrow efficiency and inclusive efficiency. An assembly line is narrowly efficient. Utopia is inclusively efficient.

5 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 3:33 AM
New Comment

I mean, I think that's a valid view of utopia but my point being here that it's a very specific one.

It doesn't seem like you're making an effort to actually engage or understand what I'm saying here?  

This assumes that the only valid morals are ones that don't include other people, but only yourself. As stated in the last comment, this only works for moral systems that prize freedom/autonomy the highest over other values.  

No, I did mean specific.  For instance if people have specific morals they may see as dystopia anything which allows behavior outside of those morals.  Only a value system that puts freedom ahead of most or all other values would have this as a constraint.

I'm not saying it is right or wrong but it is specific.

Utopia is where anything mathematically possible is physically possible within finite time without destroying said utopia.

This seems like quite a specific vision of utopia.

I think one reason why not is that you don’t tend to have much evidence that a thing is efficient unless you are in the business of making quantitative measurements.

I think this is incorrect.  In competitive environments, mere existence is an indicator of significant efficiency (on the dimensions of competition).  The necessity of sensitive tools for measurements pretty much means that the differences being measured are relatively small.

And, as you point out, "efficient" isn't a property of a thing, it's a ratio or specific inputs to specific outputs.  Unit analysis is needed to be sure of which efficiencies you're talking about - it's quite possible that a daycare can be very efficient in terms of dollars/hour, and wildly inefficient in terms of child's wellness/visit.