Whenever I hear about "creating value" it's inevitably about taking something valuable, destroying it, and converting it into something less valuable but more easily controlled by the person who destroyed it. Industrializing/urbanizing land, melting gold statues, making block-buster movies out of stories passed through generations, etc.

It's not about creation, it's all about control.

@deshipu "creating value" is about the market. In the physical world, it usually (always?) involves converting something with less or zero market value into a form that has more market value (hence "value" was "created"). E.g. wheat is itself mostly useless, but if you make flour from it, you've created market value. If you take that flour and bake bread from it, you've created even more market value.

The problem you highlight is the usual twin: market value != social value, and ideas != physical world.

@temporal Even if you only limit yourself to what you call "market value" — which really is the "easily controllable value" — you can still "create value" simply by changing who controls it. Everything you can't control yourself is "without value" to you, and up for grabs. That's why to create value by making a geographic discovery, for example, you have to wear the right kind of pants.

@deshipu right, 100% agreed. Though I think this should be called "capturing value".

Now to be clear, I'm 100% cynical about those terms. My pet peeve though is "value-add", which almost uniformly means "value added to the seller at the expense of the final buyer", or in plain language "garbage that nobody needs, but which we can use as a justification to charge you extra".

@temporal It nicely explains why all those Silicon Valley startups want to "disrupt" things. It's all about destroying what is there already, and "capturing" some of the pieces of it. Of course the pieces that are too hard to capture or too small to bother will go to waste, and everyone is worse off on average afterwards, but who cares, you are rich!

@deshipu yeah. There's disruption, and there's disruption. I'm all for replacing inferior processes with more efficient ones, if the society as a whole benefits. I'm against the modern tide of startups that aim to disrupt the market by reducing price through maximizing the amount of externalities they can dump on society at large without going to jail. See e.g. Uber, AirBnB.

BTW. in my head the word "disrupt" is primarily associated with "disruptor", as in something Klingons and Romulans shoot at you with.

@deshipu This is a perfect capture of what 'value' is, in economic terms, as opposed to the canonical usage of the word.

@feonixrift Can we stop it somehow? Or at least stop thinking it's a good thing?

@deshipu I don't know... I wish. To me it's the failure inherent in mistaking civilization for a zero-sum game, but that's too simple a view. 'value' in their terms comes from scarcity; that's basic economics. Value in human terms comes from utility, which is never diminished by abundance. So long as this mistake is made, we have to stab our own feet to value walking, and that's just ridiculous.

@feonixrift I think even the "utility" approach to value is incredibly selfish and unhelpful, because it still erases any value that you can't directly control (you get no utility from it). The way I see it, it's the incredibly self-centered attitude of "if I can't use it, it doesn't have value". In fact, the scarcity approach at least assigns some value to things that are "one of a kind", even when they don't have any immediate use.

@deshipu _I_ may not get utility .. but was it my utility I was considering? Or even a narrow utility that doesn't consider, ex., artistic appreciation?

@deshipu My problem with economic 'value' is in essence this: I have plum trees... They're beside the road. Anyone can have my plums. By economic theory, I'm decreasing the value of plums! For shame! By abundance and utility, I am providing a plum, how nice. Plums all around. I prefer a world with more free plums.

@feonixrift That is one problem, but I think it stems together with a number of other problems from a certain assumption of economy as science — that we know everything, or eventually will know everything that there is to know. Those plum trees have benefits and costs beyond the simple production of plums. They provide food and shelter to a number of animals, they contribute to preserving their own species, they look nice. They also take up space and soil, and they may be invasive species.

@deshipu I doubt we'll hit anything like ecological sustainability until we find a way to socially accept that humanity can only safely tithe the environment, not expect 100% 'utilization' and then wonder why nothing else survives.

@feonixrift The problem is, we will never have a chance of fully understanding the impact of planting those plum trees in that particular place — we can't be making sweeping statements about the value of them, and whether it has been increased or decreased — because we don't know all the mechanisms by which they provide value now or might do it in the future. As a result, every action we do is encumbered with a certain amount of risk that needs to be considered and included in any "value" evaluations.

@deshipu So we will be wrong. We're already wrong. Lets be wrong better.

@deshipu @feonixrift the mistake too easy to make is currying the definition of value / utility. Utility and value are functions of two arguments, not one - a $something has value/utility to $someone. You're only selfish when talking about utility when you always talk with $someone=you.

So if you can't use something, it has direct utility(it, you) = 0, but it may have utility(it, me) > 0 (and you like me, so transitively it has > 0 utility for you).


@deshipu @feonixrift Just because the economy is fucked up in many places, and economists use terms with somewhat precise or mathy meanings, doesn't mean precision or math are suddenly bad, or should be tainted by association.

Let's not throw out some of the best tools ever invented - means of refined, precise thinking.


@deshipu This essay addresses some of the historical ideas at the root of the mindset, I am finding it useful to think with:

@mathpunk Agreed, and in fact that is what made me talk about it in the first place. Though I think it still has the problem of only considering human effort as valuable, and completely ignoring the value of existing systems, even if they are natural and not man-made.

@deshipu I think that "extracting value" is a more accurate phrasing in many cases.

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