I've been reading a lot of Robin Hanson lately and I'm curious at how other people parse his statements about status. Hanson often says something along the lines of: "X isn't about what you thought. X is about status."

I've been parsing this as: "You were incorrect in your prior understanding of what components make up X. Somewhere between 20% and 99% of X is actually made up of status. This has important consequences."

Does this match up to how you parse his statements?


To clarify: I don't usually think anything is just about one thing. I think there are a list of motivations towards taking an action for the first person who does it and that one motivation is often stronger than the others. Additionally, new motivations are created or disappear as an action continues over time for the original person. For people who come later, I suspect factors of copying successful patterns (also for a variety of reasons including status matching) as well as the original possible reasons for the first person. This all makes a more complicated pattern and generational system than just pointing and yelling "Status!" (which I hope isn't the singular message people get from Hanson).

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Hanson often says something along the lines of: "X isn't about what you thought. X is about status." ,,,

He likes to use this as a catchphrase, but the actual content of his statements is more like: "Here's how status most likely affects X, and here's some puzzling facts about X that are easily explained once we involve status." Of course the importance of status dynamics may vary quite a bit depending on what X is and perhaps other things, so your question doesn't really have a single answer.

1Dagon4yI think it reads better if you say "about signalling" rather than "about status". The relationship to actual status evaulations is murky and complicated. The motivations to affiliate with high-status groups and ideas are much more straightforward.
2ChristianKl4yIt's about mental models. It says that the standard mental model isn't good at explaining reality. On the other hand the status model is better at explaining reality and therefore a better model to use. It's not the claim that the status model is perfect at predicting. Models don't need to be perfect at predicting to be useful. In general Hanson tries to focus on expressing concepts clearly and arguing for them instead of making them complex by introducing all sorts of caviats.

Open thread, Apr. 18 - Apr. 24, 2016

by MrMind 1 min read18th Apr 2016176 comments


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