Thursday, February 17, 2011

Well, I'm upset

Here's a question for you.

Why should anything be fair?

Here's what I'm thinking.  We have a very basic sense of fairness that approaches the biological.  It is a final reason to a lot of rationales, a "God" like reason.  The reason of all reasons.  But why should we expect anything to actually be fair?

It seems to me that the assumption of fair outcomes relies on a mis-attribution of inputs.  Namely, that all outcomes, from all activity, relate to inputs in a strict formulaic way, such that it also resembles the intent of the original actor, minimally, or, maximally, maintains a proportion to the original input.

In other words, that individual intent is the only thing that impacts our lives, or SHOULD be the only measurable metric.

For example, I might choose to drive to work today.  You might choose the same.  And another 100,000 might also choose to do so.  The resulting traffic on a road system that can handle only 70,000 cars comfortably (let's say traveling at 55mph) is not related to my need to get to work individually.  In short, we play very large coordination games.  When disequilibrium occurs, some participants will be affected in a way that thwarts their original desire, despite acting rationally to obtain a goal.  Collectively, then, we can talk about equilibria, though individually we may not think it fair to have our preference for a speedy commute de-prioritized.


Anonymous said...

I'm confused as to what meanings you attach to a lot of the terms you're using, such as "fairness", "equilibrium", or "coordination game". You start off saying that things aren't fair, without explaining which idea of fairness you mean (there's like five trillion of them, counting just the ones that are precisely defined). Then you talk about an inefficient equilibrium of an n-person prisoner's dilemma (your driving example). Then you say "In sum, we play very large coordination games," even though what you've talked about one sentence before is not a coordination game, and you also say "When disequilibrium occurs..." even though the example you've just set up is an equilibrium, not a disequilibrium.

To sum up, I have four questions (which of course you are welcome to ignore!):

1. What do you mean by "fair"?
2. What do you mean by "equilibrium"?
3. What is the driving example an example of? (An unfair outcome? A fair outcome? A disequilibrium? An equilibrium? Something else altogether?)
4. What is the main thought you're trying to communicate in this post?

hmm said...

I'll respond to all of these in my next post, rather than in the comments.