Saturday, March 24, 2007

Sex and Short-Termism

I just read Miund's post which prompted me to write up an idea I've had for a while.

People are often (mostly?) attracted to someone by a first impression, a skin deep attraction, it could take many forms, but basically it's the person's "sexiness" (either just pure looks, some quick one liners or how he walks) that counts.

Being attracted to someone because they are sexy is the ultimate in short-termism. They may have a great complexion, but it might be a lot more trouble than it's worth getting involved with someone who will turn out to be a complete psycho.

And yet we all have this short-termist outlook built into us.

Superficiality is in business in spades. Sexy, short term, quick fixes are very often favoured over better thought out projects with larger longer term gains. Hence, people complain that businesses are too short-termist in outlook, and are blamed for ruining the environment (and everything else besides).

I ran across a nice model a while back that explained short-termism in business (can't remember exact reference). Quick fixes can be a lot less risky than longer term ones. Over a long time horizon all possible variables can change, therefore investing over the long term is very risky indeed.

(Obviously, if a CEO's average tenure is 5-10 years, they will also look to focus on getting results while they are still in office.)

Maybe relationships are similar? I see a girl, she looks attractive and I don't notice her saying anything too objectionable, in fact she seems a kind of nice sociable person. My mind (or heart) is working in the same way as a CEO would appraise a project. I'm not a psychiatrist, I won't be able to pick up signs of long terms problems. I'm not a geneticist, I won't be able to take a DNA test and see any future genetic diseases etc. It would be very costly (and booooring) to ensure a good long term decision - plus while I'm meticulously figuring stuff out another guy could win my potential long-term sweetheart ;). Moreover, most relationships last a few years tops and don't end up in marriage and kids etc.

So I make my decision on the skin deep stuff I can see instantly. Its' sexiness and superficiality that seals the deal.

Superficiality works also with interviews, because interviewers are only willing to expend an an hour or so each on probing the interviewee.

[Interestingly the same process seems to work when meeting people who've gone to ivy league schools, in my experience they'll let you know about their college within the first meeting. Nevertheless I have no real idea how smart they are -- they could've had a rich parent or a sports scholarship, or have taken home economics courses in order to get their degree.]


Anonymous said...

Well said, John.


I added you to my MSN contacts, by the way.

The Dodo said...

nice line you drew there :)

Unknown said...

thx denica :)

Anonymous said...

Well said, 'short-termism' is alive and well in everyone's mind, including the 'big-picture' of life itself

Unknown said...

yeh just think it's the natural way of things...