Saturday, September 18, 2010

Trade Off #8: Random vs Determined

This trade off concerns the decision to either leave things completely up to chance or to wholly micro-manage them, and every option in-between.

Now, it's true that attempting to alter the path of current events is the only way we can shift future outcomes towards our preferences. So because of that we should favor determining events. But there are large costs to determining that typically push us towards the random side of the trade-off, such as:
  • The opportunity cost of even weighing all the choices and outcomes, when you could be spending that energy on other ends. (see here)
  • The likelihood that, because we have attempted to change an outcome, we will come to regret our decision and see missed opportunities, which is psychologically taxing. (see here)
  • The likelihood that, even in taking action, we'll fail to improve outcomes over the status quo. And, despite our best intentions, the non-zero probability that our actions could even have negative expected value with respect to our goals. (see here)
The magistrates of the canon have spoken and decided that this one is huge. In large part, that's because it doubles as one of the fundamental questions about our universe.

(above photo by flickrer Jef Safi)