Cursing as a coordination problem

By dkl9, written 2023-212, revised 2023-212 (0 revisions)


I am not personally opposed to cursing (i.e. swearing, obscenities). In practice, I just about never do it. This is mostly sith I don't see a purpose in it, but the other omissions come from my expectation that others are opposed to it.

But at least some of those others opposed to it are only opposed to it out of concern that further "others" would be opposed to it. It is eminently possible for a society in which everyone's fine with cursing to nonetheless always avoid it, so long as people think others object to it. The individual couldn't so easily stop caring, for then their affiliates would get stopped by others, to that individual's (perhaps mild) detriment. I doubt we are in such a society; there probably are some people who do really, directly care about it, but they may be much rarer than it appears.

The reliable way to get out of that situation is to get many people — more than 1%, perhaps needing more like 50% — to publicly agree to stop opposing and obstructing cursing. Hence we have here a coordination problem: a society stuck in a suboptimal state only solvable by difficult coordination.

That being said, society isn't much worse off for people not cursing, so it's not particularly urgent that we fix this one. There are many more important coordination problems, collectively the cause of many of our current world's stupidities. This one is better viewed as a helpfully introductory example.