Colloquia 2020: C. Thi Nguyen on “Value Capture and Value Collapse”

Friday October 2, 2020
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

On Friday 2 October, C. Thi Nguyen (University of Utah) will be joining us for a talk and Q&A session on “Value Capture and Value Collapse” in the first event of our 2020 Colloquia series.

Abstract: Value capture occurs when an agent’s values are rich and subtle; they enter a social environment that presents simplified — typically quantified — versions of those values; and those simplified articulations come to dominate their practical reasoning. Examples include FitBit step counts, Twitter Likes and Retweets, citation rates, and academic journal rankings. We are vulnerable to value capture because of the competitive advantage that such crisp and clear expressions of value have in our private reasoning and our public justification. But value capture poses several threats. First, value capture threatens to change the goals of our activities, potentially undermining their value. Twitter’s scoring system threatens to replace some of the richer goals of communication — understanding, connection, and the mutual pursuit of truth — with the thinner goals of getting likes and going viral. Second, in value capture, we outsource the process of value deliberation. We will no longer be adjusting our values and their articulations in light of own rich experience of the world. Instead, we are substituting rigid and pre-fabricated values, usually engineered for the interests of some external force. Our values should be carefully tailored to our particular selves, but in value capture, we buy our values off the rack. Third, value capture’s outsourcing typically leads narrowly explicated articulations of value — like typical institutional metrics. An agent who internalizes such narrowed values, will thereby narrow the scope of their attentions and considerations. The agent can cut themselves off from the experiences that might help their values continue to evolve. This is value collapse.

About the Speaker: C. Thi Nguyen is a former food writer, and current philosophy professor at the University of Utah.  His work is focused on “trust, art, games, and communities,” and he is “interested in the ways that our social structures and technologies shape how we think and what we value.” Professor Nguyen’s first book is Games: Agency as Art. For more information, please visit his website.

Interested in attending this event? Please e-mail for the Zoom link.