The Efficient-World Hypothesis

I have many vices, but a belief in the Just-World Hypothesis is not one of them. I do not personally believe that there is any moral order to either nature of history*, and indeed, I am of the impression that such a belief tends to cause its adherents to behave in morally indefensible ways. After all, why bother with empathy or compassion when you believe that everyone who suffers must deserve their suffering? And why stand up to the rich and powerful when you believe that they must deserve their wealth and power?

I do, however, have an unfortunate tendency to fall victim to an equally-insidious cognitive bias, one which I call “The Efficient-World Hypothesis.” This is the bias towards thinking that everyone and everything in the world is performing its designated function efficiently. Obviously, this is a terrible assumption: incompetence, accident, and unavoidable inconvenience abound throughout the world, and supposing that, say, your car is going to start after a cold winter’s night**, or that your paycheques will be delivered to you on time, is just a recipĂ© for tears and frustration.

I have known for a long time that I suffer from this problem, but I will still frequently stumble into it when I’m not consciously trying not to do so. I suspect that this is motivated by my anxiety: when I start to think of things that could possibly go wrong, I can usually come up with an awfully large number of them, and I will begin to worry. As I find worrying to be intensely unpleasant, I have learned to sidestep it by just assuming that everything will go well. It’s good for my mental health in the short run, but bad for both it and my prospects in the long.


*And indeed, I personally conceptualize my existence as a trans woman as being entirely a result of random fluctuations in nature.

**I don’t actually drive, but it’s a legitimate example.


About thevenerablecorvex

I have the heart of a poet, the brain of a theoretical physicist, and the wingspan of an albatross. I am also notable for my humility.
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1 Response to The Efficient-World Hypothesis

  1. n8chz says:

    I have no problem whatsoever with someone who believes in an efficient world but not a just world. Certainly everything follows the path of least resistance. Is that not efficient? What grinds my gears is people who believe that an efficient world implies a just world…

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