What 'Value' Should Mean

I would begin this post by stating that ‘value’ is one of the most mis-interpreted words in this era, except for the abysmally poor interpretation of all words, ever.

The fact is that ‘values’ are really important if you define them correctly.  I think that most versions of the term are bit wrong, so I’ll try to give my shot at what a “value” is.

Value: A general concept that is associated with ‘goodness’.

This is a minor variation on that of Dictionary.com’s, which is:

Noun. ”The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance or preciousness of something: “your support is of great value”.”

With either of these definitions it seems difficult to say that “values” have declined at all, contrary what our stereotype of old grumpy people would argue.  Only that they have changed.

Interestingly, people have studied the science behind memes (or ideas), but to my knowledge, values haven’t been looked at too much.  (Even meme science is still a relatively esoteric field for some reason).  The way I look at them, values are constructed from ideas.  Ideas are something of the brick to value’s buildings.  The ideas are important, but often they are hard to understand without seeing the bigger picture.  I believe that in comparison, values represent the bigger picture.  This means that instead of looking at the profile of ideas (or, the ‘meme-space’) regarding a group of people, a more useful map would be to pay attention to the values.

Values guide people.  Values choose the different ideologies of Republicans and Democrats.  I imagine that changes in values map more directly in the actions of organizations than changes those of ideas or personal qualities.  A fundamental structure in the background of social organizations is their variance of specific values.

For example, look at Bill Gates compared to Larry Ellison.  They may have similar ideas in their heads, but what’s really important right now are their differences of values.  I’m not saying that Bill Gates is more altruistic, but that his greater value of specific types of semi-charitable actions has led him to pursue those things to a great extent.  Larry Ellison has a different set of values, and lives accordingly.  Obviously he does not value open source software too much, if he did, that could make a dramatic change in the direction of Oracle.

Values can have positive feedback.  If you lightly value baseball, you may join a baseball team, where you will be surrounded by positive memes and associations to go with baseball.  You value it more, and gradually fall down the rabbit hole, considering more importance to what may otherwise be a somewhat trivial game, than to anything else in life.  You might have similar skill sets (besides some new muscle memory in Baseball), similar intelligence, etc, as other people, but your value system will put you in an incredibly different situation.

Hitler and Winston Churchill were probably quite similar in most regards.  They probably knew much of the same history.  They both got enjoyment from sweetness and fat, both had to sleep every night.  However, their value systems were different in a few key areas, and combined with their incentive systems, they were opposite heads of a way.

Perhaps there is much more variation in human values than human genes, and if so it may be more worthwhile to emphasize spreading your values more than your genes.

This is a really messy subject.  I’ll come back to it later.  Most of the interesting work may come in future posts, but I wanted to define this a bit.