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The Feedback Cycle

“A child playing with a Jenga block tower” by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

What is ‘good’ work?

When I mean ‘work’, I am trying to suggest the result of any human effort be it a product, or an idea, a service or contribution to some existing work.

How do we define something that is ‘great’, and what distinguishes it from being ‘bad’ or ‘mediocre’? Is a ‘good’ work also a successful work and vice-versa?

Within a certain field the task of evaluating work to incentivize and disincentivize the quality of work is crucial as it influences the future of further work that would be generated in that field. It can be broadly defined to have the following constituents.

  • Participants that create work.
  • Participants that evaluate work.
  • A consensus on behaviors and actions that are encouraged and discouraged.

With any of these elements missing it is difficult to sustain a feedback loop which incentivizes creation of more work. The participants that evaluate work are at the most basic direct consumers of the work. With this cycle recurring the participants develop ‘reputation’ which goes a long way in establishing the success of their future work. These cycles have different levels of efficiencies which we will explore later in a future article, but the pattern is visible across all fields of human endeavors as different entities occupy different roles.

In a simple environment where farmers are trying to sell their produce, the produce cultivators are creators, the customers who buy the produce are the evaluators and the consensus arises naturally since bad produce tends to make humans sick.

For a kid going through school the work he delivers is evaluated by the teachers based on a consensus of what is good determined by the educational authority or university or something alike.

In any governmental election the candidates exhibit their contributions for the betterment of their jurisdictions the evaluators profess their decisions by casting votes and in an ideal case the consensus would be how well has their own lives improved.

As the scale of the field expands, it becomes unreasonable for the direct consumers to evaluate the work and introduces intermediary ‘influencers’ who assess and evaluate the work so the majority of consumers can decide without having to undertake the evaluations by themselves.

In music, the artists produce the content, the listeners evaluate and incentivize certain types of music. Intermediary DJs and/or music discovery services act as the influencer propagating certain music. With variety in music it also engenders smaller internal self-sustaining feedback loops leading to ‘genres’ and ‘cults’.

In the world of financial analysis it is each company/country/institution delivering the work which is reported as their financial performance and is analysed by financial evaluation authorities which deliver their reports acting as a benchmark for the actions of a big number of other participants.

A person in their profession may be able to identify elements who ‘deliver’ work, elements who ‘grade’ the work and elements who consume the work.

The consensus system adopted is a matter of great discussion and while some of the systems described in examples have great efficiency in delivering results are also at the same time subject to criticism.

For the participants to have faith in the consensus system, it is important to analyse where does the authority for the consensus come from. At the highest level this consensus is just as the word suggests the faith of the majority. However, the rationale behind the faith of the majority may stem from other sources which is manifested as collective belief.

I am keen to explore this rational in a following article.

Article by Amit Nambiar for O-lap

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