The Explanation Effect: Teaching, Bullshit Jobs, and the Gamification of Labor



Sep 19, 2023 β€’ 4 min read


The Explanation Effect: Teaching, Bullshit Jobs, and the Gamification of Labor


In our quest for knowledge, we often overlook the power of sharing what we learn with others. The concept of the "explanation effect" highlights the irony that teaching what we've just learned can actually enhance our own understanding and retention. Additionally, the rise of "play-to-earn" games, such as Axie Infinity, brings to light the phenomenon of "bullshit jobs" and the blurring line between leisure and labor. In this article, we will explore the connection between teaching, bullshit jobs, and the gamification of labor, shedding light on the underlying dynamics and implications.

The Power of Teaching:

It may seem counterintuitive, but teaching others what we've recently learned can be an incredibly effective way to solidify our own understanding. When we explain a concept or idea to someone else, we are forced to organize our thoughts and articulate them clearly. This process deepens our comprehension and helps us identify any gaps or areas of confusion in our own knowledge. Research conducted at Harvard reveals that employees who spent time reflecting on their learning experiences performed significantly better in training tests. This simple practice of journaling about what we've learned can have a profound impact on our overall learning journey.

The Rise of Bullshit Jobs:

In his book, "Bullshit Jobs: A Theory," David Graeber argues that a significant portion of the labor economy is comprised of jobs that lack any meaningful contribution to society. These "bullshit jobs" exist to maintain the status quo and prevent individuals from having extra free time on their hands. Many people perceive their jobs as disconnected from any real value creation, leading to feelings of frustration and disillusionment. This phenomenon is especially relevant in the context of "play-to-earn" games like Axie Infinity.

The Gamification of Labor:

Axie Infinity, a popular blockchain-based game, has gained attention for its unique approach to blending gaming and labor. Players engage in repetitive tasks within the game to earn in-game rewards, which can then be converted into real-world income. However, the line between leisure and work becomes blurred as players describe these tasks as chores rather than enjoyable gameplay. The game's success relies heavily on capital inflows, making it necessary to attract players who genuinely find the game fun or see opportunities for financial gain.

Wealth Redistribution or Ponzi Scheme?

While Axie Infinity claims to provide economic opportunities for its players, critics argue that it is merely a redistribution of wealth among its user base. The majority of players come from the Philippines, and the game's creator, Sky Mavis, collects a 4.25% cut of all transactions. This raises questions about the game's sustainability and whether it truly benefits its players in the long run. Additionally, the centralized nature of the game means that players are subject to the whims of the creators, leading to issues such as ban waves and appeals to customer service.

The Complex Dynamics of In-Game Labor:

The gamification of labor in games like Axie Infinity highlights the challenges of balancing property rights and abuse prevention. Immutable property rights, while desirable in theory, can attract cheaters and bots, ultimately devaluing in-game assets. Striking a balance between player autonomy and maintaining fairness within the game proves to be a delicate task. The evolution of Axie Infinity's approach to decentralization demonstrates the challenges faced by developers in creating a sustainable and enjoyable gaming experience.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace the Explanation Effect: Whenever you learn something new, take the time to teach it to someone else. Whether it's through journaling, mentoring, or creating educational content, sharing your knowledge will enhance your understanding and retention.
  • 2. Reflect on the Value of Your Work: If you find yourself questioning the purpose or impact of your job, consider exploring alternative paths that align with your passions and values. It's essential to find fulfillment in your work and contribute meaningfully to society.
  • 3. Evaluate the True Enjoyment of "Play-to-Earn" Games: Before diving into a play-to-earn game like Axie Infinity, critically assess whether the game itself brings you joy or if you're solely motivated by potential financial gain. Remember that sustainable success in these games requires genuine enjoyment and engagement.


The explanation effect reminds us of the power of teaching and sharing knowledge, not only for the benefit of others but also for our own personal growth. On the other hand, the rise of play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity raises important questions about the nature of work, wealth redistribution, and the complexities of gamified labor. By exploring these topics, we can gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics at play and make more informed decisions about our own learning, work, and leisure pursuits.


  1. "Explanation Effect: Why You Should Always Teach What You Learn", (Glasp)
  2. "β€œPlay-to-earn” and Bullshit Jobs", (Glasp)

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