Franklin’s Virtues and 4DX

The debate between consequentialism and virtue ethics is often presented, but in my mind, they just amount to thinking on different levels of abstraction.

Companies can be described by a production function, but in everyday practice, it’s not very useful to think about “maximizing profit”. Instead, you good companies employ heuristic approaches like the 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX).

The 4 Disciplines of Execution are:

  1. Focus on the wildly important
  2. Act on the lead measure
  3. Create a compelling scoreboard
  4. Create a cadence of accountability

(Here’s a short summary I made for the purposes of Harvard Effective Altruism)

Similarly, if you subscribe to something like a utilitarian moral framework, it’s useful to have daily heuristic that translate abstract goals to your boundedly rational brain.

In the realm of morality,  people tend to refer to such heuristics as “virtues” or “rules”.

Ben Franklin’s list is a good example, so is Eliezer Yudkowsky’s.

Some of the best thinking I’ve seen on practical implementation of virtue-promoting systems comes from Sebastian Marshall. His lights spreadsheet allows you to focus on the widely important, act on lead measures and create a compelling scoreboard.

lights example.jpg

It comes with implementation tips. My favorite non-obvious ones are:

  • Make everything binary, so that evaluation is as simple as possible
  • Aim for a 70% success rate in your habits.

For the fourth discipline of accountability, communities tend to help.

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