This conversation is closed.

People are valuable. But are certain people more valuable than others? If yes; can we measure this?

Questions I raised when I asked myself this question:
- Do people know what is best for themselves?
- Is there really such a thing as universal worth of a person?
- What, really, are credentials?
- Are people really good and/or bad?
- Are Myers Briggs personality type differences causing me (or you) to believe another person is worth less than me (or you)?
- Is it possible to measure the worth of a person retrospectively?
- Does answering the first question with a yes make me (or you) pretentious?
- Am I going to answer this question by generalizing and placing people into categories and become a statistician; labeling everyone possessing a certain characteristic as less valuable?
- Is it possible to spend "too much" time thinking about questions like these? Less think, more do?
- Breadth of a person or depth of a person?
- Best way to test a person's value is to test their ability to lead?
- A great follower is better than an average leader?
- Why does linguistic ability play such a large role in determining the value of a person? Is it overvalued?
- Does most of society not realize it's answering this question in the affirmative with most of its actions, and by extension raising a lot of unanswered, difficult questions? eg, job interviews, exams, tests, college applications, credit.
- Do xNTP's not realize that the rest of the world doesn't believe that intelligence is the main factor to contribute to a person's worth?
- Is the person reading this going to realize that this is my first TED question?

Please don't bother answering all of the additional questions unless you truly have nothing better to do with your time. :P

  • thumb
    Apr 11 2012: We are all valuable is different ways. no one is more valuable then other.
    problems starts when we think someone is less then us.
    • Apr 11 2012: That's all great and all.. But you are looking at it from the wrong angle.

      Is there anyone in the world, present or past, you consider better than yourself? Who is, overall, a better person? Than in my construed use of the word "valuable", that person is more "valuable" than you.

      So how do we make ourselves more valuable? This is my question. How do we get certain people to believe that what they're doing would make them appear, in the eyes of a "good" stranger, to be less valuable than they could, potentially, be?

      The reform I'm thinking of would involve drafting a number of things that make people great - and allow everyone to aspire to these things, rather than tell people they are already "great" and "special". Yes, everyone is great and special, people really are amazing and awesome, until you meet a racist, a pedophile, or a serial killer who killed his inmate in prison - is it hard for some people to admit that there are "bad" people in the world?
  • thumb
    Apr 10 2012: every value is subjective. the value of a chocolate bar, a piece of fabric or a cellphone makes only sense for a certain individual, we can't measure that. similarly, the value of a person in your life is personal.

    there is no such thing as value for the society. we often say "society chooses", but it is only a statistical statement, and means that most people or a majority vote or something like that. behind "social choice", there is a system of individual choices.

    so if you ask the right question "are certain people more valuable for me?", the answer becomes straightforward.
    • Apr 10 2012: Please read the other two answers - and view my question as progressive rather than undeveloped.
      Timeline of (some random) society, from (some time in the) past to present-
      Society does not think together
      People are racist
      People hate those of lower social standing, for no reason at all, although they will have excuses (eg, they are dirty, one of them once did such and such, etc)
      Reform
      Public view is now very against being judgemental, in any way at all
      Nobody judges anyone else, for any action they commit, unless the people "know" each other (whatever that means)
      Suddenly everyone's a good guy
      We turn prisons into "rehabilitation centers", and abolish any punishment considered "too brutal" - prisoners who leave prisons are very likely to return on new charges; very few prisoners are reformed, unfortunately
      Crime rates go up for no apparent reason; nobody wants to link crime rates to softer punishments
      Society as a whole starts to stagnate; self help becomes a market of its own because when people don't know what they want from others, they don't know what they want to be

      ^ something like that is my chain of thought.
      I don't strongly believe anything I have said in this comment, and it's just a viewpoint that I am experimenting with. AKA let's blame society's problems on the liberals.
  • thumb
    Apr 10 2012: It depends how you define value and in what context.

    If you are in a fight for your life, a good fighter is more valuable than an old lady.

    If you are in hospital and sick a doctor is more valuable than the janitor.

    Maybe in these cases value = useful

    We don't all have equal capabilities - potential, education, skills but it is dangerous to value human life on a scale.

    We should aspire to respect all humans equally as a starting point. Some people through there actions show they do not respect others and they should be managed appropriately. Its a two way street. Do unto others, but don't be a punching bag. Also I'd rather go to the dentist for a filling rather than a plumber but respect both as humans.

    Otherwise, you might value one race or sex or group over others.

    But as individuals, we should be realistic about their capabilities, integrity, behaviour etc.
    • Apr 10 2012: Mhmm; people are good at different things, some are better at certain things than others.

      I'm not asking about this though. I'm not asking questions like whether males are better suited to certain things than females, or the other way round. Respect is something else, I feel you completely misunderstood what I was trying to ask.

      I am asking about the essence of a person - we can all agree that, in retrospect, a person like Ghandi helped global society as a whole much more than the average commoner. Does this make a person worth more?

      Are we reducing ourselves to functional roles? i.e, a person is valuable if he/she fulfills their function well. Ghandi was a leader, and a good leader, he's worth more than a bad leader like Bashar al Assad. But we can't compare Ghandi to a shoemaker, because they fulfill different roles in society, and they could both be very good at what they're doing. Is this wrong? I believe it is, because it doesn't allow people to explore possibilities. Looking at people in retrospect this *might* work... Nah. It won't.

      Anyways, I'll let you reframe your answer if you so wish. I'm raising this question because judging people is so taboo in today's society for good reason; people like to pretend they don't do it. Perhaps it isn't that bad though, and would help us realize what it is we want from people in society, and what people want from their own lives.
      • thumb
        Apr 15 2012: I think you get my point about respect for human life versus capability.

        My trivial examples can be expanded to cover Gandhi.
        He was just one person just as entitled to life, liberty, pursuit if happiness, a vote etc as any other.
        But more capable of making a huge positive impact on society.
        So perhaps you can say he made a more valuable contribution than most.

        The taboo you raise is interesting. I note we all make initial assumptions based on appearance, age, race. clothes, speaking - later on by behaviour and results. Stereotypes and intuition have a place in evolution, and perhaps in modernlife, but we need to keep them in check in most situations until we get more objective facts.

        However, the reality is people who are disliked although performance is good in terms of business outcomes will struggle more. We are tribal, we may struggle with diversity etc. But that is no excuse for challenging these paradigms. Whether black, white, male female, young or old, we should try come back to the individuals fitness for the task/role.

        There is just a balance in there to be found in each situation.
  • Apr 13 2012: we look for leaders who can show us how he or she can either help us avoid or survive a difficult situation how we chose that person is either their past performance or as is the case most times they sell us on the idea that they have the answer and as is the case most times we are making this decision when things are critical human nature almost always seems to realize or starts to see what is happening too late then we start to look for a savior so instead of using logic we use fear and call it logical and sometimes we make the right choice and we pat ourselves on the back and call ourselves smart but if we make the wrong choice we bemoan our fate and blame the one we chose for not doing the right thing human nature so even though your question has merit it can not have merit when confronted by human nature
    • Apr 14 2012: Mr. Mitsias....thoroughly enjoyed reading your comment, thank you.
  • thumb

    R H

    • 0
    Apr 10 2012: We 'measure' the value of people every day. Is this person 'worth' talking to, Is that applicant 'worth' the position, Are 'these people worth' my time, Is this country or that country 'worth' saving or destroying. To hold something of value is to consider it's use, admiration, or cost. The question itself is dehumanizing, yet a daily reality. But we get caught up in the question, dont' we? We start to believe that we can ask such a question as: 'Are certain people more valuable than others?'. We do this, in my opinion, because we have to 'run' things. Society has to function. So we catagorize and make comparisons between each other so we can function at our highest capability. But then, that's how we see our reality, and forget the impossibility of asking such a question in the first place. We then wonder why things are the way they are.
    • Apr 11 2012: Exactly my line of thinking. I don't think it's OK to say that certain people have value and others don't, but it is how society perceives its members. Every single person I have had the pleasure of getting to know well in my life has turned out to be beautiful - but maybe that's because I generally won't try to get to know people who I don't consider "worth my time", even though many of them are valuable members of society.

      I look at it this way - I have a certain amount of time in my life where I will have the pleasure of talking to people, and I might as well talk to people who I "enjoy" talking with. Is this wrong?
      • thumb

        R H

        • 0
        Apr 12 2012: Thnx Shariq for responding. This subject is tough for me. On one hand, we have to live day to day, decide how and with whom we spend our time and effort. On the other hand, we have to see people for who they really are, beneath the publicly acceptable persona - and many are just not talented at it! So we 'write some off' because of what they've displayed, or we accept someone because of what they've displayed but come to find out later something different. Maybe this is a side-bar of Dr. ML King's 'content of character' theme. This then 'circles back' to your theme of how to 'value' people. But I have a very (too) extreme distaste of exclusivity. It seems easier to say that someone's not included than to deal with their different views as part of the group. Thnx again.
  • Apr 10 2012: Things I feel contribute to our worth; none alone make one valuable/of less worth, but together they do affect how others view us:
    - Aristotle's virtues? I am not an Aristotelian, but that's a pretty good list lol
  • Apr 10 2012: People in general know the price of things.....

    when it comes to humans, society wants us to believe that we can have a "net worth"....

    No one person is really more valuable than another in the long run.

    Already it has been stated that at certain moments in one's life we find
    some individuals more valuable than others....but that is strictly when we
    are facing a need....(a plumber, or a doctor)

    We are all precious, and valuable.......

    with or without money,
    with or without a college degree,
    with or without the latest model of any gizmo or gadget,
    with or without a limb,
    with or without a membership to any given club,
    with or without __________ (fill in the blank yourself)

    I think perhaps this is where your question is leading.

    We all have the same value and what's more, we all have valuable things to contribute to society as a whole.

    We are all worth the same thing.....and when we die, we go back to dust.

    The rest is vanity.

    This is my humble opinion
    • Apr 10 2012: Read some of my other answers - I feel this viewpoint is a very new one, and has not existed in flourishing societies in the past. Yes, when judging other people, we must definitely believe they are valuable, and I do, and most normal people do, I would think.
      The question is not whether they're valuable or not valuable - the question is how valuable we are.

      John The Ripper as a member of society - do we want more John The Rippers? Do we want more Einsteins?

      By shying away from the real answer to these questions, are liberals stunting development? (make everyone feel they're special, and so people don't work as hard anymore)

      Again, I'm just experimenting with this. Don't judge me!! :P
      • Apr 10 2012: Shariq, no judgment from me... :)

        There are things we know about people who develop the kinds of personality traits that lead them to be murderers.....

        We just don't know EVERYTHING about someone's past and/or their brain function....as when someone acts a certain way because they have brain damage and so forth.

        Special to me denotes uniqueness,....each of us is different/unique......

        You can talk in circles around your question with no end in sight.

        Let me just close by saying that each human decides how to be valuable to:

        1...him/her self
        2...family
        3...friends
        4...society
        5...employer

        Even here on TED, some members graciously contribute answers to people's questions, even when the host doesn't make a single reply............You have shown by replying to us, that our answers, and by extension, we ourselves are valuable to you. That, my dear Shariq, makes you a very valuable person to me.

        Have a great great evening wherever you are...
        • Apr 11 2012: Well it isn't evening yet, but more than one evening has passed since you replied.

          Like I said in another reply, this question isn't one that can be answered by a few people on a TED conversation. It's just something I'd like people to ponder about more - by saying we're all "the same", we're suggesting no one is better than us. I'll develop this point further in a reply above this.

          And in reply to your reply - yes, you are completely correct, and I completely agree with you. I am a very valuable person and all. Lol JK. As in, our value often is derived from how others perceive us. This is definitely how society is run in today's world - but perhaps there is more to being valuable than being valuable to others? Considering one's self valuable? Self esteem? What about that?

          I hope you too have a great day/evening Mary. :)
      • Apr 12 2012: OK.....I bowed out a few minutes ago....but here you ask questions I will answer.

        Self-esteem most definitely helps an individual transmit a sense of self-worth...as a quote I love says: "If you place little value on yourself, rest assure noone will raise the price".

        I think that we have no control of how others perceive us. Just the other day I overheard a mom tell her daughter: "why don't you color your hair, you have too much grey, you need to like nice". The daughter replied: "you will love me more without grey hair?.....I love my grey hair, it's a shame you will not accept me the way I am".

        People, envious, ignorant people will have us believe we have no value, because we don't live up to THEIR standards......it is a way of controlling others.

        But we all have valuable things to offer any government or corporation. From the men and women who clean toilets, to the paper pushers....well now I guess it's button pushers and mouse clickers.

        I guess, for me, knowing God values me, makes me value myself. I don't consider anyone more valuable than me....really, I don't. I think we all have different gifts, and use them different ways.


        I will close with a story (a true one)
        A lady once had a job at a hotel cleaning rooms. She did such a great job, that after a few weeks the supervisor wanted to promote her to an office clerk. She declined and said, "many other individuals have been working here longer than me and deserve that promotion. In my opinion, I do the most important job at this hotel. I make beds and keep rooms tidy and clean. When a guest arrives, he doesn't care how orderly the office is, he wants to relax in a comfy room." In that lady's opinion, the most valuable job was hers...humble, but nevertheless valuable.

        I'm not at all sure I have addressed your questions the way you have wanted, I hope I have shed some light, even if dim, into your topic.

        Be Well Shariq
  • thumb
    Apr 10 2012: Well, this is a very intricate question with a very broad variety of aspects to take into consideration. In my personal opinion, you can measure the value of an individual based in the impact of his actions in society. In fact, we do this all the time, people with great impact (at any level -politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, religious), are admired, protected and followed in our society. This meaning that rest of us consciously or unconsciously price them over rest of common people, and this is because of the amount of people their actions can reach. So, the value of a person (speaking not only in the material sense, but also spiritually) can be measured; if in any given circumstance, society should decide who to protect or who to keep alive between someone who's actions impact many people or someone who's actions impact a small amount, the first one would be the only viable choice due to collectivism. The good thing is that we all have the potential to become valuable and therefore a viable choice to society.
    • Apr 10 2012: Yes, it's not something that can be answered in one go. I raised this question thinking perhaps someone may have something very good to add to my chain of thought; something I'm missing. I think this is the only answer that actually understands what I was trying to ask.

      I'll try asking the question again:
      People in recent times have come to the conclusion that racism, sexism, or any form of judging people based on a characteristic not chosen by the people being judged is COMPLETELY WRONG.
      Everyone's happy.
      A few years later, we start to get confused. Society is scared to acknowledge that it is judging people (for very valid reasons) - but it is judging people (not by race/gender/class, but by, for example, testing their "scholastic aptitude" via the SAT and judging their scholastic aptitude by this) - and that's why society is confused.
      It is considered plain wrong to judge people - and even though society does it all the time, we don't like to discuss how we do it. There is nothing wrong with judging people - if I see a teen swear at his parents, and another teen treat their parents with respect, I *will* judge the former as being less valuable to society than the latter. I am not going to spend a month stalking both of the teenagers to make sure my judgement was justified, and I am not going to completely ignore what happened because I'm scared of judging the two teens. If I spend a month stalking both of the teenagers, I'll spend a whole lot of my time worrying about things that don't concern me. If I completely ignore what just happened; I lose part of my humanity - I lose empathy.
      Empathy is more than feeling pity - empathy is also to dislike a person who is doing something you consider hurtful to society - but not an ironclad hate, that never goes away, and not a hidden hate that nobody ever knows about. Rather, an empathetic person would walk up to a member of society doing something the empathetic person does not agree with, and advise said member.
    • Apr 10 2012: ^ I hope whoever reads that gains some insight from it, because I don't really have a conclusion or answer to the question, and most of that is just musing >_
      • Apr 10 2012: I really liked reading through your muses......I think that perhaps your using the word valuable might not be good vocabulary Shariq.

        Look, a long time ago, I read an interview from an author. She had hosted a dinner party for friends. During the dinner party, someone said a racist joke. Immediately, she told the person to leave her home.

        She then said in the interview...."when people show you who they are, believe them".

        In my opinion, it isn't that the person is not valuable......the author "chose" to not be around a racist person. To another racist person, the remark would have elicited a laugh.....but to a person who views everyone alike, the remark showed a lack of love and so she made the person leave.

        I think that we know what we stand for, and then choose to be around people with the same morale, goals, lifestyles as us. Not because they are more or less valuable, but because they make us more comfortable.

        And, of course, members of society who want to cause harm to others have to be dealt with.

        And, I don't lose empathy. I feel saddened when someone chooses to act in a way that has serious repercussions......my desire is for people to notice their bad ways.......but unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, we have free will. So, I can only be responsible for MY actions, and words. Isn't that a good thing?

        Here's to you......
        • Apr 11 2012: I used the word "valuable" because I feel that it's the next stage of my argument - certain people (should) have intrinsic value, from the point of view of a government or other seemingly objective entity.

          Remember, I did not ask why a certain person is less valuable than another - I asked why a certain person is more valuable than another. There is a huge difference - one question would appear in court, and the other would appear on TED.

          I'm trying to look at this from the point of view of (as above) a seemingly objective entity, be it a government or corporation.
      • Apr 12 2012: Aah, from the point of view of a government, or corporation.

        Well, since I do not represent a government or corporation...........I politely bow out.

        And, I did not know governments and corporations were objective entities. Hmm
        • Apr 12 2012: "seemingly objective"
          Because I like the idea of a meritocracy :)
  • thumb
    Apr 9 2012: No and no. Do you know of ACIM? Look up "special".
    • Apr 9 2012: I don't think you read as deep as I wanted you to into the questions I posted.
      The obvious answer is no, but doesn't society do just that all the time?

      And is it, perhaps, a way to cause people to better themselves?
      Is it just a personality type conflict that causes you to think this?
      • thumb
        Apr 10 2012: I'm serious...I actually went way deep.... Do you know ACIM? Look up what it says about "special" in relation to our feelings about people - and enter the metaphysical rabbit hole.

        It'll blow your mind - hopefully. Enjoy the ride :-)
        • Apr 10 2012: Alright, I will.
          Would a person who enters the metaphysical rabbit hole be worth more than a person who doesn't ? ;p