Understanding the general apathy towards systemic improvement

See original post and follow up discussion on /r/slatestarcodex here

I recently spent the night at a sleep clinic. Amongst other issues, the clinic did a very poor job of blocking the hallway (hospital style) lighting from getting into the room, making the room incredibly bright while trying to fall asleep. I also could loudly hear the other sleep clinic patients watching tv, and was woken up in the middle of the night twice as each time a sleep clinic patient needs to go to the bathroom, they needed to be accompanied by the clinician, which involved friendly loud chat between the clinician and the patient on their walk to the bathroom.

The clinician shared with me thats its a big issue for them of their patients not getting enough sleep/experiencing interruptions that they often cannot rely on the results of their study.

While I appreciate there are bad incentives for a sleep study clinic (government funded, one-off patients) and they may be optimizing for things beyond the patient’s sleep quality/ease of falling asleep (like making as much money as possible), it seems like this is an obvious thing that could be improved.

Something I experience both in my work and daily life is coming across systems or processes that are so obviously inefficient or sub-optimal in glaringly obvious ways, while also being things that could relatively easily/cheaply be improved with minor modifications. I’ve always been confused why it seems like so few others actually care about these things.

I made a post on here last year about living in a complacent society that provided more examples on this.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of people who complain about lots of things — often without realizing the incentives at play, the complicated dynamics involved, the structural barriers preventing action, the second and third order impact of any change (see pretty much any Reddit thread in a popular sub-reddit) that lead to the status-quo. However, I can attest from my real life experience of actually improving various things, there is still often lots of low hanging fruit that can be improved upon.

After reflecting on this for a while, what I’ve come to believe is that its not so much that everyone is so apathetic.

Scott wrote his post about what universal human experience are you missing — I think this is part of it.

I think I have a defect, a defect that is quite common in this community, where whenever I’m exposed to a new system, I immediately want to evaluate it for its flaws, understand its dynamics, process the inefficiencies and bottleneck, think of its impact on other connected systems etc.

This leads me to feel, on an almost visceral level, all the inefficiencies in a given system. I think it’s not that most other people are apathetic, but they don’t instinctually think about these problems and feel uncomfortable about them like I do.