torsdag 22 juli 2010


If you ask people why they do the things they do in life, they will give you sensible
sounding reasons which seem to explain their decisions. We like to believe that we
exercise sound judgement, especially in the important decisions of our lives.

I think that this is rarely true. I think that standard operating procedure for human
decision making is to do what feels right to you at the time, and then to give logical
sounding justifications for what you were already going to do anyway, whether you had
justifications or not.

So, if you are pregnant, and want to get an abortion, you will be able to give any number
of reasonable sounding explanations why this is the right decision. You're not ready to
be a parent, or you need to finish your education or get to a better point in your career,
or you don't have enough money, etc. If instead you want to keep the baby, you will
explain how even though you will have some extra difficulties due to the lack of money
or whatever, you will certainly be up to the challenge to make your life work with the
baby, how being a parent will be good for you, what a great parent you'll make, how it
will bring you and the father closer together, and so on. In either case, none of these
will be the real reason for your decision. The real reason for your decision will always
be, "I did it because I wanted to do it".

This method of decision making may have worked fine earlier in human history.
However, in a highly complex technological society, the inevitable result of this is that
people behave in extremely stupid ways.

For example, the average American household now has $8000 in credit card debt, on
which they pay an average of 19% interest. Is there any good reason to be running an
$8000 debt? No. Did these people all run into major life crises which forced them to
run up huge debts or else become homeless? No, they spent it on furniture, clothing,
televisions, etc. Is it logical to spend $1500 a year in credit card interest? Clearly not.
People do this because there isn't extra money in the bank, but there is something they
want to buy, and the positive feeling they get from the idea of having this item is
stronger than the negative feeling they get at the idea of their monthly payment going
up by another $20.

For example, marijuana is illegal in most of the world, while alcohol is legal, despite the
fact that alcohol is a far more dangerous drug than marijuana in every way. People
consider marijuana to be a dangerous drug, while they think of alcohol as being a fun
beverage. They consider those who sell marijuana to be drug dealers, the scourge of
society who should be hunted down and imprisoned, while those who sell alcohol (wine
makers, grocery stores) are of course not placed in the same category.

Logically speaking, it should be the other way around. Alcohol tends to make many
people aggressive, leading to a variety of violent crimes, while marijuana does not.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and leads to a serious loss of
coordination and motor skills. At larger doses, alcohol renders one completely
unconscious. Drunk drivers cause enormous numbers of automobile accidents and
deaths. Marijuana is not a central nervous system depressant, and while one probably
shouldn't drive while intoxicated on anything, it simply does not cause anywhere near
the loss of motor control that alcohol does, and is only a fraction as dangerous as
alcohol in terms of driving. And, a large enough dose of alcohol can and will kill you,
while the same is not true of marijuana.

But people are looking at this based on their feelings. Marijuana feels like a drug to
them. It's illegal, isn't it? Alcohol feels like a fun beverage. It's legal, and socially
acceptable, so it feels ok, so it must be ok.

All of this is illogical and stupid, and typically human. And I could give countless other
examples of this, but I'm sure you can think these up yourself. Just look at how people
behave in terms of politics and religion.

And, I think that when you see ridiculous and idiotic behavior and decision making in
other people(or in yourself), you have to consider it to be the inevitable result of the
nature of the human psyche.

"The only way to comprehend what mathematicians mean by Infinity is to contemplate
the extent of human stupidity."

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