Dec 08, 2018

Worth keeping

Katja ponders (a) when it's worth investing more in things, vs. when to look for a replacement:

When something has a problem, you always choose whether to double down with it or to back away.

(Or in the middle, to do a bit of both: to fix the car this time, but start to look around for other cars.)

I’m interested in this as it pertains to people. When a friend fails, do you move toward them – to hold them, talk to them, pick them up at your own expense – or do you edge away? It probably depends on the friend (and the problem). If someone embarrasses themselves in public, do you sully your own reputation to stand up for their worth? Or do you silently hope not to be associated with them? If they are dying, do you hold their hand, even if it destroys you? Or do you hope that someone else is doing that, and become someone they know less well?

Reaches this unintuitive conclusion:

If there are better replacements in general, then you will be inclined to replace things more readily. If you can press a button to have a great new car appear, then you won’t have the same car for long.

The social analog is that in a community where friends are more replaceable – for instance, because everyone is extremely well selected to be similar on important axes – it should be harder to be close to anyone, or to feel safe and accepted. Even while everyone is unusually much on the same team, and unusually well suited to one another.

Seems theoretically sound, but maybe doesn't hold up empirically?