Valuescience: A Scientific Approach to Value

Many times every day, each of us asks con­scious­ly and uncon­scious­ly, “What do I want?” and “How can I get it?” We inform response to these ques­tions with ideas about value.
Mag­ic Res­i­dent Fel­low David Schrom responds to ques­tions at Uni­ver­si­dad Nacional de Cos­ta Rica.
We per­ceive val­ue imper­fect­ly. For exam­ple, we some­times get what we thought we want­ed and won­der why we want­ed it, or we do what we deemed suf­fi­cient and fail to obtain intend­ed outcomes.

Because we can ful­fill cur­rent want—whether it be for a drink of water a few moments from now, a com­fort­able retire­ment in thir­ty years, or peace on Earth—only in the future, we real­ize val­ue only to the extent that we pre­dict with accu­ra­cy greater than that we can achieve by pure chance both that we will feel sat­is­fac­tion when we attain our ends and that we will prove our means sufficient.

Over many mil­len­nia, humans have iden­ti­fied a set of behav­iors, which we now term a “sci­en­tif­ic method” or “sci­ence,” by which we dis­cov­er repeat­ing pat­terns and use them to make suc­cess­ful pre­dic­tions. We have includ­ed in this method ques­tion­ing, observ­ing (both with phys­i­cal sens­es and by intro­spec­tion), rea­son­ing, pre­dict­ing, test­ing pre­dic­tion against expe­ri­ence, invit­ing oth­ers to do so, and—critically important—repeating these behav­iors with­out end.

When­ev­er we ask, “What do I want?” or “How can I get it?”—that is, when­ev­er we address ques­tions of value—we have oppor­tu­ni­ty to prac­tice sci­ence. By evolv­ing to prac­tice more com­pe­tent­ly, we may more accu­rate­ly dis­cern and more ful­ly real­ize val­ue. We may more often get what we want and be sat­is­fied with what we get.

At a pan­el dis­cus­sion at Ford Labs in cel­e­bra­tion of Inter­na­tion­al Wom­en’s Day, Fel­low Robin Bay­er describes what we at Mag­ic mean by “sci­enc­ing to dis­cern and fur­ther value.”
Once, many peo­ple held beyond the domain of sci­en­tif­ic inquiry ques­tions about ori­gins of the uni­verse, Earth, and life. Today a grow­ing num­ber more ful­ly apply sci­ence to these ques­tions, and per­ceive that when we address them by oth­er means, we pose imped­i­ments to our and oth­ers’ liv­ing and dying well.

Despite this trend to val­ue­science, peo­ple around the globe still hold many, and in some cas­es near­ly all ques­tions of val­ue as we describe them here beyond the purview of sci­ence. As more peo­ple more broad­ly and con­sis­tent­ly apply sci­ence to these, we evolve shared cul­ture that we make basis for coop­er­at­ing to live and die well. ❧

More com­plete intro­duc­tion to val­ue­science. In-depth val­ue­science course.