Principal-agent problem of life

Published on Oct 8, 2020

@jackbutcher had a great tweet yesterday about the principal-agent problem of life:

The principal-agent problem applies to every facet of life. Health and happiness can't be outsourced (they're principal problems). But plenty of people need you to believe they can be (agents). 

I loooove that tweet. Because that almost kind of sums up why we're generally a lot less happy than we can be in this modern age of fast food, iPhones, and Pornhub. Because many things in our lives we need to take direct ownership, initiative and hard, hard effort into making it happen. But plenty of agents depend on your not doing so, in order that they have a job. Take the healthcare system. Our hospitals and clinics and the people running them aren't incentivized to ensure your well-being. Everything about the healthcare is about ensuring that ill-being continues to exist, so that people continue to have jobs. It might seem like the system wants you to get well, but imagine if everyone got well and stayed healthy, many millions would be unemployed. It'll be an economic disaster. The healthcare system is predicated on your constant coming back for check-ups, meds and procedures to sustain itself. I stated healthcare system, not doctors or nurses, because the people helping to run it are very much the victims, much like us patients.

Now try to extend that reasoning to other social-economic structures within our society. Self-help books. Most of organized religion. Entertainment. Employment. We outsource our mental wellbeing to the self-help industry; the sense of connectedness and purpose to something larger than ourselves to (most of) organized religion; our fun and joy to Hollywood; our identity to our employers and our jobs. 

But these are principal problems. 

That's one reason why I enjoy being an indie maker. It's like a first step in peeling away from these outsourced agent problems, to taking direct ownership of my life. Caveat: that's not to say we don't and shouldn't need others and other things in our lives. You can consume something made by someone else, but retain your own self-agency and autonomy. Hard to imagine? Then you have a problem, my friend...