A friend recommended this episode the Ezra Klein show. It was really good, or at least I found it to be really good as it covered a lot of topics/ideas that I have thought about. In particular about how games we play effect us and why we like to play games so much. C. Thi Nguyen’s perspective is that games offer us some distilled/crystallized form of an activity that we like. There is no ambiguity about objectives in games unlike our tasks “in reality”. A game I like, as an example, is Factorio in which you have to make a manufacturing pipeline to build successively advanced goods. It’s very clear how to improve and what improvement means, but nothing in reality is so simple. I also don’t have the means as an individual to build automated resource extractors and conveyor belts/robots in a matter of minutes as I can in game!
The problem that arises with the gamification of things is that the metrics we optimize for are not necessarily aligned things that we want to optimize. Additionally people may fake data to make the metrics look better than they actually are since that’s what was desired to have optimzed. This happened, unfortunately with significant human cost, in the Vietnam War (one of many examples of this), and more recently with the Wells Fargo Scandal. But perhaps by thinking more along these lines we can better learn how to align our metrics and our desires. Perhaps even the simple awareness that your metrics are not necessarily aligned with your values can lead you to proactively evaluate if your values are being satisfied. Although this raises a different question of how do you evaluate your metrics without the use of some other metric. It’s metrics all the way down!
Still chugging away at The Mysterious Island and still more hints of what is to come.