Calculate Your Worth

One of the biggest epiphanies in my life that forever lifted me from the curses of everyday life was that I will not base my worth on what any one person thinks about me, because there’re more objective ways to measure one’s worth. That being said, I think it’s important this message is delivered because in the modern age of the Internet and scarcity, depression over one’s self-worth is becoming common.

Scarcity drives us to compete for resources, one of the most prevalent of which is one’s self-image. To compete, an individual can either spend time improving his or her own worth function or degrading others via gossip, backstabbing, etc. Because the opportunity cost of the latter is so low and its reward so immediate, that’s what… teenagers do. Thus, a lot of what one thinks about him/herself is based on the conceptions of others which are formed via their own prejudices and cost-benefit analysis. Thus, using something subjectively formulated for the benefit of someone else to judge yourself is INACCURATE AND WRONG!

So how does one understand, appreciate, and value his/her own worth?

In light of one of the great epiphanies of history, Archimedes’ Principle gives us a thought experiment to do this. How feasible it is to apply it is a separate question, but at least being aware, I believe, can greatly help.

Clone an identical world WORLD_COPY the instance before you were born. Set all the parameters the same. Now, let the computer program that is WORLD_COPY run with only one alteration: you never existed.

Fast-forward to the moment you die: WORLD_COPY is essentially the same as the world today but without you. Now, your worth can be determined by measuring the “difference” between WORLD and WORLD_COPY.

A gross simplified way to measure can simply be to measure the sum of the world’s happiness.


If you were a total jerk your whole life, YOUR_WORTH is likely negative. However, this method is not all that accurate, depending on your values. For example, Einstein’s worth would be much less than say, a famous comedian. At the end of the day, ∆HAPPINESS is just one utility (others may be: ∆INTELLECTUAL_CAPACITY_OF_MANKIND, ∆HUMAN_KINDNESS, ∆EFFICIENCY_OF_THE_WORLD) among all the utilities generally agreeable upon by society. In AI decision theory, these utility functions can be aggregated in a sense in that they’re weighted into a single utility function, so that a small off-sets in some parameters (like happiness) would be considered OK in favor of other improvements in the world (this is essentially what Hitler used. Another observation is that these parameters’ values are take into consideration how it will continue to change in the future (so perhaps HAPPINESS would be defined as the mean-value of happiness till the end of time). Taking into account the future is important because a lot of scientists’ worth are extremely high, yet their contributions weren’t realized until long after their deaths.

The resounding implication of this is that (1) your worth is objective so you shouldn’t base it on what people think and (2) one should define a reasonable self-worth function, one that is reasonable but with a personal bent for added motivation. In most cases, it would be completely independent and shockingly different from our day-to-day notion of worth. One should then spend the rest of his/her life thinking of how to maximize positive impact.

Anecdote 1:

This contrast-of-world notion of calculating worth is mainly motivated by how an AGI would make decisions.

Anecdote 2:

I personally thought of this from 8 years following the NBA and being inspired by some of the game’s greatest superstars. I don’t think it’s fair to measure their greatness by analyst-defined metrics (useful for game plan and analysis, but that’s about it) such as real shooting, efficiency, win share, etc. The value of these metrics lies mostly in analysts needing them to have content in their reports. I wanted a robust way to define “greatness,” and the only approach that granted me satisfaction is defining it as the “difference” the player has made: entertainment and inspiration delivered to the lives of other players, coaches, fans, and people of the world cause after all, sports entertain and inspire.

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