Tuesday 2012-11-13

More than a few people seem anti-choice along the lines of Barry Schwartz's Paradox of Choice, in that when confronted with too many options, humans tend to exhibit decision paralysis or fear of suboptimal selection, and that makes them worse off.

The Anti-Choice seem to jump directly towards limiting their options. Instead of building support for many-optioned decisions, they choose a masochistic reduction of possibilities in their lives. By abdicating this responsibility, these modern Lears risk being forced into sub-optimality.

"How can we optimize everything? We'd be unhappy if we did!" they say. We don't have to optimize, we can just satisfisce; just pick the first option that will make us happy enough.

On my last visit back to the States, we went to a 5 Guys Burgers n Fries. I ordered a cheezeburger and they asked me what I wanted on it, and pointed to the huge list of possible toppings. I scanned the list, ruled out subset selection, and said, "Everything. Run it right through the garden for me."

"We are time-inconsistent. We make poor decisions under duress, so best to remove those choices." they say. It certainly makes sense to plan ahead, e.g. to climb a mountain, we make a strict time schedule for each stage, any stage we arrive late to, forces an immediate abort and descent. We are not removing choices, so much as *moving* our decisions forward in time.

When we choose to optimize something, it puts us in direct contact with our greatest teacher, the real world. Real choices need some metric for us to make sense of and evaluate the outcomes. The more we do this, the more well-grounded we become as we learn our current limitations of abilities and technologies.

Life will only ever get more complex. Those who choose to avoid it won't ever know what they're missing.