Too often we’re driven by the notion of value that has nothing to do with us.

In the most basic case we might think that something is valuable just because it can be measured in something else: the money or the amount of attention that it can be exchanged for.

// “How many likes did this post get?”

Money and popularity. These are valid criteria, but they should not be the only ones. There are many more dimensions that make something valuable that have nothing to do with quantification.

What if something can be valuable just because it makes you feel good, here and now? What if it’s something that cannot and should not be stored for further exchange? What if we think that it’s valuable only because the platform makes us think it is valuable, but, in reality, it is valuable to them and not to us? What if the value of that particular thing is not something that can be agreed upon by more than one person? And even if they did agree — people agree on many things that do not make any sense…

// Quantified value versus qualitative value

“This is not valuable because nobody cares about it.”

“A value-driven approach.”

“A valuable contribution.”

“To fight for one’s values.”

The origin of the word “value” comes from the Proto-Indo-European *h₂wl̥h₁éh₁yeti, from *h₂welh₁ — to rule, be strong”.

The connection of value to power is evident. Those who control the notion of value also control the world: people tend to choose to put their energy into things that are deemed valuable, otherwise you are a procrastinator, a loser, an outcast.

They say “knowledge is power”, which may be true, but only when this knowledge is of any value.

How to determine this value, so that it’s not somebody else’s?

The value of knowledge is measured in the decrease of uncertainty that this knowledge provides. Or the amount of entropy, or disorder, that it removes.

It’s no surprising then that “value” is also used as a noun. My values. Their values. Beliefs.

The more you value something, the less uncertainty there is.

Value as an expression of certainty, that has nothing to do with money. 

What do you really value?

Note: It may seem that everyone can give whatever value they want to things and the market will then adjust that value based on the law of demand and supply. In theory, this might be true. In practice, we are already engaged into a complex web of relations and legitimizations, so it is not only the law of supply and demand but also the context that determines the value. And the context may have to do less with the value of exchange and more with power. That’s why, for instance, some people are underpaid for their labor. It’s not about being fair or the value added. It’s about control. Beliefs. Ethics. Religion. Playing by the rules. Making your own rules.

Example: Tom McCarthy wrote “Remainder” in 2001 — a novel that won several prizes and became very popular around the end of 2000s. For 4 years he’d been trying to get it published, but nobody wanted it. Then, in 2005 a small French publisher Metronome Press ran a 750-copy print of the book and, after a few years it became a success. Why? Because it hit the nerve, it talked about something that was important and valuable. But the big publishing houses could not see it. When they approached McCarthy a few years after the success to make a re-print of “Remainder”, he refused saying that it was still the same book as the one he submitted to them 10 years ago, which they ignored.