I have this idea, thanks to what I remember from my college economics classes (and Wikipedia to fill in the gaps), that we live in a world of perfect information, that everything we need to know is right in front of us. Chess, for example, is a game of perfect information. Each player can see every piece on the board at all times. A professor once told me the stock market was nearly a market of perfect information: everyone can instantly see all prices and quantities, and everyone has access to information about the companies. Best Buy’s stock price doesn’t spike on Thanksgiving Thursday in anticipation of high sales on Black Friday because consumers know about Black Friday sales in advance—days, weeks, months, years in advance—and Best Buy’s stock price already accounts for the sales it will make during the holiday season. Stocks, too, respond nearly instantly to change in the world.
The holidays are also a big time for law students. My first exam was on December 12, and my next exam started 120 hours later (not that I was counting). Everyone was feeling really stressed and studying like mad and getting caffeine transfusions. But didn’t we already know this? Since the day I started law school, and even before I started, my exams started on December 12 and I knew it. In a lot of ways law school is a market with perfect information. We had the syllabuses, the books, the course schedules, everything for the last four months. Shouldn’t we have equally distributed our reading, stressing, and studying throughout the whole semester?
In some ways life itself is like this. In some ways life itself is a world of perfect information. I am quite certain that in the future I will get a job. One day I will feel very excited. At some point in my life I’ll have kids, I’ll trip and fall, I’ll go to a wedding, wait in line at a grocery store, oversleep, get angry, break something expensive, be thirsty, cry.
It might not be chess, but to a certain degree I know what the world holds. Or at the very least I know as much as anyone else does.
Like the stock market, it’d be nice if we could respond instantly to all relevant information. It’d be nice if it were possible to take all the bad things and feelings we experience and evenly distribute them throughout our entire lives. That way we wouldn’t have to deal with too much unhappiness at once. Even if we can’t do this (by the way, we can’t-—I checked), I think knowing about the world in this way is a definite step in the right direction.
So what does this mean? I don’t really know. It might mean we should study hard, or that we don’t have to feel so stressed about exams, or maybe just that we shouldn’t cry when we break expensive things because everyone does at some point. Or maybe that I just don’t actually remember that much about economics from college. All of this is generally good advice.
But actually here is my real advice. For exams, my strategy was to phase out coffee over the last month and then bring it back solely for exam-studying; the caffeine worked wonders. You should all go back in time and try this. And also don’t get too stressed, because I think we know everything.