Sabbath for minimally-self-modifying economists

By dkl9, written 2023-246, revised 2023-246 (0 revisions)

I've written before about choosing what you do based on (time-variable) efficiency and not just value, as a version of a common economic principle. If that doesn't make sense to you, read it. If that does make sense to you — and if it does, it probably does so to the point of being the obvious thing everyone should always apply — this, here, will reveal why I brought it up as an explicit principle.

That principle, when applied well, is essential for figuring out the best arrangement of tasks. People who use the principle intuitively seem to not apply it well. Some people, when not deliberately correcting for it, will assign higher priority to tasks done efficiently now (and perhaps not in the future), disproportionately to its value. They do only the most efficient reasonably-important task at any given time, perhaps past diminishing returns relative to lower-priority alternatives.

The example I gave concerned a study/exercise dichotomy, the latter's efficiency varying based on the gym's opening or closing. The failure mode I'm talking about would be like favouring exercise over study at any time the gym is open.

(Maybe this all sounds stupid/unrelatable, but I've come close to this issue myself, and I doubt I'm totally unique, so this might help someone.)

If you make bad decisions based on how you respond to your environment, there are two main fixes:

One major minimally-self-modifying solution here is to assign some time intervals during which your typically-favoured high-priority tasks are impossible, leading you to favour lower-priority, neglected tasks.

§ Ergo, Sabbath

The Jews (and some other religions) already figured this out. By communally prohibiting many tasks one day per week, they already implement that minimally-self-modifying solution.

This is not to say that we should all follow the Jewish Sabbath (or necessarily that of any other religion). It prohibits several things that aren't dangerously regarded as high-priority, complicating the lifestyle — prohibiting the use of complex electronics is enough for most of the effect, for some. It was designed to honor a deity's principles — I may be oversimplifying, but whatever the goal was, it's not justified outside religion. Religion is harmful, tho the exact extent of it and reasons are beyond the scope here.

But there is a pragmatic basis for following and mutually enforcing a Sabbath-like rule extrapolated to the secular world.