It’s not that I don’t think social interaction can’t be improved or that there goal is not a good one. My only issue is that it’s too difficult to decide what’s good or bad when it comes to the grey areas. There are 3 to 4 main issues that make this problem extremely difficult and I’ll be using poker as a comparison.
Problem 1: Outcomes In poker the outcome you want is known, quantitative and relatively easy to measure. It’s all about making money or $EV. The social interaction problem isn’t so simple. What outcomes do you want? More happiness, equality, jobs, income levels, more women in powerful positions, less discomfort? Perhaps the outcomes change on a case by case basis, if so that’s more complexity. Agreeing on which outcomes to are relevant is a question of ethics/values which adds more complexity and another required skill set.
You might go with the utilitarian argument and just say more happiness, even then you still run into a difficult problem, because it’s not just about maximizing one persons happiness, it’s multiple people. Which people and how to weight that also comes down to ethics/values. The next problem is that measuring happiness is qualitative and harder to measure especially when you consider the next 2 problems below.
Problem 2: Interconnectivity/complex systems The next part is the much harder part of the problem. Poker operates in a vacuum or in its own world so to speak. When doing a poker calculation you can safely neglect all other aspects of life in your analysis and you’ll get pretty good answers.
Social interaction however is interconnected to everything, it is a vital part of every important aspect of life. So when you make changes in social interaction you’re affecting everything because it’s all interconnected.
Some of the areas it’s interconnected to are business, marriage, friendships, love, sex, content creation (books, podcasts etc.) education/academia, economies, art, parenting, politics and more.
To put this in practical terms there is a new social change where 25% of men think asking a women out is sexual harassment (according to a poll I read from Wapo which I’m too lazy to link to). Without making any claims on whether Iagree with this or not, we can think about how this affects other areas of life.
For example, I can say with almost absolute certainty that in the past year some guy didn’t ask out a girl because of this and they would’ve fell in love. How often has that happened? How would you weight the cost of this? We can look at it compared to what is gained, which is less women who feel uncomfortable and or harassed. If for every 10 that don’t have a negative experience there is 1 instance of a missed love connection is it worth it? It doesn’t even have to be love it could just be a few month connection that leaves both people feeling less lonely and more happy.
How do feelings of love, happiness or lack of loneliness affect other aspects of their lives? I have no idea, but it has to have some effect and it has to be part of the calculus. To throw in one less obvious example is that this could affect business because knowing more people gives you more networking opportunities.
To further this interconnectivity problem is that the areas it’s interconnected to are also part of complex systems and also interconnected as well. So the effects keep rippling on and on.
Problem 3: Time The next problem is the time problem, in poker you can analyze a hand while completely disregarding time. The $ value of a decision is captured for all intents and purposes at the end of the decision. When do you stop accounting for the affects for decisions in real life though? A day, month, year, decade, century, perhaps longer?
The affects of our decisions play out over time, all of us have experienced this. Something that was terrible at first that turned out to be good or vice versa. Perhaps you even seen it reverse again after that.
Problem 4: The knowledge problem - Given how interconnected everything is it necessarily takes a broad understanding of many subjects. You need a strong understanding of topics like genetics, epigenetics, social interaction, sex, biology, psychology, economics, logic, and evolutionary psychology just to name a few.
Taking on a problem like this has to be done with many people from various different fields of expertise collaborating together. Otherwise the way you'll be viewing the problem will be myopic.
To summarize given the difficulty in choosing the outcome(s), the interconnectedness of social interaction into every important aspect of our society, the broad amount of knowledge, and the time problem nobody on either side has a clue when they get into the more grey areas of social interaction.
The counter argument is that well we can only get better by trying but that’s not necessarily the case. How we learn from experience is generally feedback loops but we don't know what works and what doesn't unless we are being myopic (sorry to keep using this word).
All social problems aren't this hard though, look how much simpler the rape/violence problem is. The outcome you want is obvious, quantitative and easier to measure. All you want less incidents of them. It’s still interconnected which makes it hard to measure true impact but all we want to know is if it's a net positive or not. Given the high personal and societal cost of being abused we can say with almost absolute certainty that this is a net gain for society.
Which is also why I think the time problem is less of a factor here as well. The knowledge problem is still an issue there but because of the better feedback loop, it's easier to learn from experience. If your actions or policies significantly lowered instances of rape/violence then it's almost certainly a good and vice versa.
P,S - I rarely get political on my blog because of my ignorance on the subject, I only wrote about it because I'm interested in decision making and how difficult some life problems are. A lot of life decisions are like this, we try to do analysis but there is always more to be done and it leads to paralysis. I think understanding you can't get to a high degree of certainty is very frustrating, even depressing. The only counter I found to this is to make decisions based on value systems, values or principles without worrying what the outcome might be. I'll eventually write something about it, for now I'd recommend principles by Ray Dalio.