Thursday, August 16, 2012

Helping to help

A lot of people espouse a desire to "help others" or "help the world", myself included.  However, what does it mean to "help"?  What does it mean for a person as an individual to "help the best that he/she can"?

Sure, there are obvious ways for the individual to 'help', such as volunteering for a soup kitchen, donating money, clothes, books, etc, taking on some form of counseling role (i.e. priest).

But I believe that to best help the world, one must be the best they can be.  In terms of 'social calculus', this means finding the path that maximizes the difference between (the state of the world when I follow this path) and (the state of the world when I do not follow this path).  This is not only dependent on what actions the individual takes and how much they affect the world, but more so on what unique potential the individual has.

For example, say Bob decides to be a priest.  Sure he'll help some people with their problems, but the questions that he should ask himself are:  1)  Will me counseling these people help others more than the average priest counseling these people, and by how much?  and 2)  Will me counseling these people help the world more than me taking on some other role?

If Bob's best fit is as a counselor, and he is one of the best, then by taking this path he is helping the world.  However, if he is also, say, a brilliant scientist and he could have helped to find the cure for cancer a few years before it was actually found, thereby saving thousands of lives, and instead he 'cops out' due to stress and decides to be a priest, then I would say he is NOT helping the world by being a priest rather than fulfilling his unique potential.

Generally I think unique potential is a very important factor in deciding a life path, and more on this will definitely be discussed later.  ;P

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