Thi Nguyen

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  • Thi Nguyen
  • Philosophy, University of Utah
  • “Value Capture”

Thi Nguyen headshotC. Thi Nguyen is a philosophy professor at University of Utah, where he writes about trust, art, games, and communities. He is interested in the ways that our social structures and technologies shape how we think and what we value.

His first book, Games: Agency as Art, is about how games are the art form that work in the medium of agency. A game designer doesn’t just create a world—they create who we are in that world. Games shape temporary agencies for artistic purposes. And games turn out to be our way of writing down and communicating modes of agency; by playing them, we can try out different forms of agency.  (Here’s a summary of the book.)

Value Capture


Value capture occurs when an agent enters a social environment which presents external expressions of value — which are often simplified, standardized, and quantified — and those external versions come to dominate our reasoning and motivations. Examples include becoming motivated by Twitter Likes and Retweets, citation rates, ranked lists of best schools, and Grade Point Averages. We are vulnerable to value capture because of the competitive advantage that such pre-packaged value expressions have in our reasoning and our communications. But when we internalize such metrics, we damage our own autonomy. In value capture, we outsource the process of deliberating on our values. And that outsourcing cuts off one of the key benefits of personal deliberation. When we tailor our values to ourselves, we can fine-tune them to fit our own particular psychology and place in the world. But in value capture, we buy our values off the rack.

Click here to read the full paper.