I started a post about the economics of time, that I will finish, but it seems to me that this is a more natural follow-on to my first post about the limits of our circle of care.
I seems to me that I am or will be struggling with four dimensions:
- Firstly, the extent of the circle of care
- Secondly, the depth or breadth of the emphasis on the circle of care
- Thirdly, what should be done for those in the circle of care
- Fourthly the time dimensions and attendant irrationality
None are perfectly distinct, that is, each is related the to choices before it, but let me try to make it perfectly clear what I mean by each.
Firstly, the circle of care, here I mean the extent to which we care about anyone or anything around us. Viewed in concentric egocentric circles emanating from myself this is the hierarchy that I talked about in my first post:
- Immediate family
- Extended family
It becomes immediately apparent, to those who are not solipsistic that these circles could be drawn for anyone, and that there are adjacent circles of care which could be incorporated into your personal circle of care. For instance, I have a deep sense of care for my nieces and nephews on my wife’s side. This is not because of any blood relation, though it may be, if I am cynical, an expression of care born out of a recognition of a similar pattern to my blood-nieces and nephews, a sort of evolutionary defect.
Secondly, the breadth or depth of the circle of care. As soon as you determine that you determine who you care for you must make a classic utilitarian tradeoff: large changes for a few or little changes for many. Some circles are, by their very nature, more broad than others. I have been working my way through A Long Walk to Freedom, and Mandela talks about how he was married to the struggle and lost his first wife to the cause. He sacrificed depth with his family for a broad care for South Africa. To use the example from before. If I took it as an a priori given that I would care for my nieces and nephews of whatever blood relation, and also took it as a given that I would care for my children, then what is the appropriate balance to strike? I personally have many more nieces and nephews than I will ever have children, and I must choose who I plan to invest in. Put that way it does not sound so bad, but framed in an equally logical, but negative light it sounds terrible: ‘I must choose who I don’t spend time with.’ If you choose to invest yourself deeply in one circle, then that comes at the cost of another. This opportunity cost has not been adequately addressed, and I will need to return to it at some point.
Thirdly, what should be done for those in the circle of care. This is the task that consumes my mind, and I suspect most people’s minds, most of the time. It comes out in questions like ‘what should I get my spouse for our anniversary?’ It seems like a simple question on its face, but it very quickly regresses to very finely tuned original states and chaos theory. I will again need to return to this.
Fourthly, and this is what I touched on in my post about time, I must consider the time dimensions and their attendant irrationality. I must consider that no matter what I invest in, there will be a certain amount of faith in the action. As Karl Popper so ably pointed out, nothing can ever be proven, only falsified. As Nassim Taleb popularized it, the Turkey is never more sure of how much the farmer loves it as on the morning of Thanksgiving. Hume was the first one to recognize this, to my understanding. He pointed out that unlike the other dimensions where we can prove things like congruence in geometry with pure logic, and thus don’t need our senses, there is no reason that action-reaction must hold. We merely experience it in this way, and therefore we believe that it will always be so. Even if we believe the world is perfectly mechanistic, and that true quantum randomness will all net out (I don’t know how you could think this with Hawking radiation, but let’s propose it as a thought experiment), and that at some level of remove we will not see anything like Brownian motion, then we must still accept our personal, species, and planetary extinction, or adopt a almost equally irrational believe that we will be ‘different.’ How does this intersect with the circle of care? Well perhaps I should merely make the point that if any one of your two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, sixteen great great grandparents, etc etc, were not here, then neither would you be. At some point they all made some series of choices that led them to believe that they wanted to make the next generation, and then inculcate some values into that next generation about making the subsequent one. Every one of these people chose to invest in some time horizon in the future that was no more certain than the present, in fact, even less so. If any had bothered to ask in the last century where the atoms they were made up of came from, then they would have to admit that the intra-stellar atom factories are not very hospitable to life as we know it. I need to come back to this idea of a more poetic/loose interpretation of Brownian motion and waves in a cosmic ocean.
This post seems to be a bit more removed an intellectual than my others. I must give some credit to my friend Leo for crystallizing this in my head. I wonder if that exposure colors the mood of the post. If the structure required to communicate to other people somehow distances it from the raw feeling that I can summon alone. I wonder if this points to some answers. I already acknowledge that there must be some irrationality in what time horizon we invest in, and if communication pushes me towards more rational, structured thought, then perhaps that’s not where I should be looking for answers. Another friend of mine Warwick, mentioned today that he believes that we only need to be satisfied within ourselves that we are pointing towards the right thing. While I am not sure I agree, I certainly think it’s a place to start, indeed the only place to start.