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How to avoid status games

Patriarchy, religion and politics is eating away your peace

Keeping distance from status games will help you reclaim your peace of mind. I’ll show you how.

What is a status game?

A status game is a battle to have superiority over the other person. Status games are played to feed ego. It feels good to be right. It provides for a dopamine rush.

A person who portrays and defends opinions that are unprovable and unfalsifiable is one who’s playing status games. This is because once you are trying to defend the mentioned opinion, you are trying to prove that your opinion — and hence, your world view — is superior to your opponent.

When do people play status games?

Humans are capable of only making small connections to events in a system. That’s all we had to do for thousands of years. We needed to know how will crop grow, how will the fire start, where can we find food. Evolution needed us to make small connections.

As the complexity of the system increases the interpretation of how the system works gradually moves from objectivity to subjectivity.

Science and engineering usually demands one to be objective. Either it works or it doesn’t.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong. —Dr. Feynman

But when the system is complex, and people start studying multiple effects of multiple things — they get opinionated. In a sufficiently large system it will become impossible to categorize the truth from the opinion.

This is a mighty weapon. You just cannot be proven wrong. It is easy to convince yourself that you’ve figured it out — others are just catching up.

How to identify status game players?

There are a few hacks to identify status game players.

Do they have a name for the gang?

If someone has a name for a population that believes in something, it is an indicator that they’ll defend their beliefs at all costs. They’ve attached their ego to the opinion. That is a dangerous thing to do.

One must have strong opinions, but weakly held.

Flat-earthers, bitcoin maximalist, chowkidar for example.

They have too much to lose if they were to change their opinion. Ego is powerful. It motivates most of our actions.

Many people will not accept to change their opinion because it is often associated with their own ego. This opinion is my identity. If not this opinion, who am I?

Do they go after people?

If people seem to be attacking people and not opinions, it’s something to be alert of. For you to win a status game, someone has to lose. The only defense you’ve got is to race to the top.

Once you are at the top, your voice becomes louder and more impactful. You can win in further battles by simply using the credibility you’ve built. It’s a significant moat. Nobody can come and just prove you wrong. A new player has to go through the slog.

People in these settings keep attacking their opponent, come what may. Very rarely do they compliment each other on doing something good.

Politics and macro-economics thrives on this form of the status game. You have to keep proving yourself to be better than the opponent — in a non provable way. There may be some objective good things, but second order effects* in these fields are neglected. For good reason. It is hard to compute the second order effects. It is even harder to communicate these effects.

*First order effect is the direct result of an activity. A second order effect are effects that got triggered because of the activity. For example, building a road improved commute time is a first order effect. Villages getting displaced and villagers taking up arms and causing national terrorism is a second order effect.

Is the field controlled by veterans?

Most categories in which you have to have spent long years as a requisite to be at the top usually qualifies as a status game. It is not possible for a newbie who is correct to make it to the top.

This reflects the fact that the winners in this system have no defense other than the system itself. If it is a level playing ground, you can get beaten by someone else’s unprovable, unfalsifiable opinion.

Your authority is your moat. It took you years to get to the top of the pyramid. You want to stay there long enough — make sure new opponents, whom you’ve not beaten already, don’t enter the field.

Religion often reflects this property. The average age of a Pope at election is 65.

Do they tolerate questions?

Many status games don’t tolerate questions. It is how it is. It is an open secret that these games will terminate after a finite set of questions. Though not falsifiable, after adequate number of whys you end up with an answer that says that is how it is.

The people in power ultimately play their trump card, their authority, to suppress further questions.

Galileo was imprisoned for life for asking too many questions to the church. They simply didn’t have answers.

Patriarchal societies often say do what dad says. They tolerate no more questions.

Why should I keep away from status games?

Status games, for most people, do not end well. Most people get stuck in the middle of the pyramid. It sucks to be there. You can’t give up, because you’ve invested too much ego. You can’t reach the top, well, because you aren’t good enough.

We’re currently in the age of science and technology. The improvements in the current system will happen by playing by the rules of science. That is to ask enough questions. Be objective. If we play status games, we’ll not progress humanity. We’ll only make our lives harder.

We’re creating wealth by spreading money and knowledge. Both of these are not status games. You can be as knowledgeable as the top folks in the field. If you spend money you don’t lose money. You get something in return. Always. By spending money you are making the economics work better. More the liquidity more the prosperity.

What can I do today?

Do you have strongly held opinions?

Start by asking this question. Are there beliefs that you’d feel ashamed to confess you were wrong about? It’s usually easy to answer this question.

Once identified, we’ve got to fix it. It cannot be fixed overnight — because, ego. Start being open about it. Start talking to opponents. Be open to what they say. Genuinely. Not just smiling and nodding. Reason from first principles.

Do you attack people?

Do you like to pick on a set of people? A bunch of people you regularly tweet, you regularly pick a debate with?

Start thinking about what opinions you are refuting. On what basis are you refuting them? Are you refuting them on your subjective belief? Can you prove your point?

Raise a point, not your voice

Do you feel angry a lot?

Do casual conversations often turn agitated or stressful regularly? Do any conversations tangentially related to your opinion strike off a full fledged debate?

Start being accommodating of conversations that touch on your opinions. Try to make sure you involve only with facts. Dissolve your opinions.

Should I be un-opinionated?

No. Far from it.

Have strong opinions weakly held

Having an opinion is how you understand the world to be functioning. It is the most crucial part of your personality. However, be open to letting them go. Don’t let the opinions define you. You’ll reclaim a lot of peace of mind in doing so. You’ll be relieved of so much stress.




Madhavan Malolan's personal blog

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Madhavan Malolan

Madhavan Malolan

CEO ; hacker

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