Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, May 30, 2016

Neutrino Living

Sometimes when I see rich people doing rich people things (not an uncommon sight in New York), I wonder whether it really makes them happy.  But of course this is the wrong question to ask.  We should order our lives so that we take our pleasures where they are minimally costly to society.  This is why it is better to squander your time playing Dwarf Fortress than it is to squander your time sailing on a $50,000,000 yacht.  Both activities are directed at your own pleasure, but Dwarf Fortress is vastly cheaper.  I don't mean the price of the game itself—it's a free download—I mean that society does not have to devote very many resources to produce it.  For its creators, it is a labor of love.  They subsist on donations of between $5,000 and $10,000 a month, which is generous but is hardly extravagant given the amount of fun that has been derived from their labors.

In general, we should look for sources of pleasure that impose minimal costs on other people.  A walk through an urban park is a good example.  I suppose there's a (very) slight amount of wear and tear involved with all that foot traffic, but actually I suspect that parks are safer when they are well-attended, so it's not clear to me that adding an additional park-goer is a social negative.  (Obviously you must clean up after yourself if you bring any food or beverages into the park.)

Library books, listening to music, playing games:  these are sources of pleasure that can be enjoyed at minimal social cost.  Putting to one side the fact that rich-people pursuits are expensive, we can see that even for people who can afford them, they are too socially wasteful to be supportable.  Pleasure can be found many places; not all pleasures require vast resources to support; we must seek out the pleasures that intrude the least on our fellow inhabitants of the planet.

I am reminded that this is my summer of amorality, and so the foregoing should be ignored.

[Edited to add:  I had just published this post when the following appeared in my Twitter feed:


I guess maybe this makes sense if the dog is disabled?  I don't know.]

2 Comments:

Blogger Zed said...

Isn't it better for rich assholes to head out to sea in a yacht so you needn't run into them?

3:13 PM  
Blogger James said...

I mean this does raise the troubling possibility that for some people socializing itself imposes undue costs on society. And actually I'm already revising my beliefs on this stuff. It's way more complicated than I had at first appreciated.

It would be interesting if there were socially productive ways for rich people to be assholes. I mean, there kind of already are, with various condescending charities. And arguably we need "early adopters" so that technology can trickle down to the rest of us. Thinking about this.

3:23 PM  

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