The Bat Segundo Show: Megan Hustad

Megan Hustad recently appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #241. Hustad is most recently the author of How to Be Useful

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contemplating the usefulness of political candidates.

Author: Megan Hustad

Subjects Discussed: [List forthcoming]


Hustad: The book is, in part, a survey of the genre of success literature. And I spent a year of my life holed up in the New York Public Library reading all these books. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Think and Grow Rich!, the list goes on. And what they all say, at heart, is that you’re not going to be successful — in life, in your relationships, in your career, what have you — if you’re not fulfilling someone else’s needs. If you’re not being of use to someone else. And that usefulness is at the heart of success. And whatever needs you have will be fulfilled through being of service.

Correspondent: But isn’t that a bit of a Machiavellian scenario? I mean, I’m not looking at this conversation as, “Oh, Megan’s being very useful to me!” I’m actually just curious about your book.

Hustad: Well, they would say that that’s an artificial distinction. You can be sincere and yet know that you will benefit from this sort of interaction. You can be sincerely interested with the knowledge that some good will come out of it.

Correspondent: So you can be subconsciously useful perhaps? I mean, how do you factor something like the prisoner’s dilemma into this situation?

Hustad: (laughs)

Correspondent: Certainly that’s the ultimate in useful diabolic results here.

Hustad: You’re going to have to tell me exactly, and perhaps remind your audience, what is the prisoner’s dilemma.

Correspondent: Well, the prisoner’s dilemma. You have two prisoners in a cell. If you rat on your partner, you will be let go for seven years or whatever the terms of the argument are. And so what ends up happening is that — if you have a little box here, a little four square box — if one rats on the other, it depends on how the circumstances play out. It’s like a big thing in game theory. It just comes to mind when thinking about usefulness.

Hustad: How? How so? (laughs)

Correspondent: Well, how so? Because the results are so terrible no matter how they end up!

Hustad: But we’re talking about good things here. We’re talking about people doing good for one another. Not evil!

Correspondent: Okay, but in the framing of this very influential theorem, which game theory is modeled upon, this is the ultimate way to perceive usefulness. Okay, I’ll get off of that.

BSS #241: Megan Hustad (Download MP3)

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