Software and Computer Engineering

Not All Effort Is Equally Valuable

I think one of the wrong conceptions we are taught is that “if you work hard, put a lot of effort into it, everything will turn out great”. That's not quite accurate. Let's unpack this a bit.

Let's first dismiss the idea that I'm advocating for “put no effort into anything, it's not worth it”. This is also false.

Everything that's of any value requires effort to achieve it. The reason is simple: Anything that takes no effort is available in large supply and thus is cheap to acquire. After all, not having effort put into it is the default state of anything.

The nuance of this argument comes with the fact that not all effort is equally valuable.

One hour of labor of a physician is orders of magnitude more expensive than one hour of labor of an agricultural worker. One can even argue that the agricultural worker even exerts more physical stress and effort throughout their workday. Still, the monetary compensation does not align with how effortful activities are. Why is that so?

One can make an argument that society is unfair and everyone ought to be compensated equally and have enough to earn a living no matter their choice of occupation, but let me sidestep this line of reasoning completely.

I'm not arguing about how things ought to be, what's fair and what is not. This pursuit, while worth of praise, is ultimately not useful at an individual level.

My search here is to understand how things are, what are the underlying mechanisms, and how to make the best use of those for oneself.

Highly-specialized and highly-competent labor are in relative short supply and are relatively hard to reproduce. It can take years of full-time concentrated study to acquire specialized knowledge and skills, during period time one must be privileged enough of being supplied enough money for their basic necessities, most likely without performing an income-generating activity themselves.

These individuals are in short supply with regards to the amount of problems they could tackle to apply their skills. There is a virtually unlimited amount of problems that highly-skilled workers could tackle at any time, and some of their effort goes into defining what's the most efficient way to allocate their effort, given limited time.