Thursday, April 19, 2007

Random Interesting Fact #3: Utility

The concept of utility is useful to know in studying economics, biology, sociology, philosophy and even sweet, sweet mathematics.

Utility describes the happiness or value that you give to objects or actions. It may vary from person to person.

For example, while many people want money, one hundred dollars doesn't mean the same to me as it does to Bill Gates. The $100 bill has more more utility to me than to Gates; in other words, I get more pleasure from $100 than Gates does (so I would presume).

When people describe utilitarianism they often mistakenly say that it is a policy that ensures the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Like we should distribute money to everyone equally.

This is incorrect because it assumes that everyone gives the same amount of money the same utility: they say everyone gives money the same utility.

Utilitarianism actually tries to maximize the utility of the whole populace. So if giving all the money to one person would give the utility, then this is the utilitarian thing to do. My friend called this sort of person a "utility monster" because they have all the utility.

This stuff can get pretty heavy, but it is interesting to think of how this concept can be used. If you are interested, there are a lot of resources out there. A LOT.

Additional resources (opens in new window):
Wikipedia: Utility

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At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Posy said...

Interesting to know.


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