How to Decide Between Anything
Simple subjective algebra for making a decision between any number of things.
[Edit #2: This function has been simplified and clarified! See the comments for the previous version if you’re curious about how it’s evolved]
[Edit #1: Many thanks to Dan Toose and Linette Voller for helping me refine this!]
What is “subjective algebra”?
A simple function for conscious response to any given conundrum with any number of unknown variables.
What is “making a decision”?
Um…conscious response. To not respond, and just let yourself be buffeted by the environment, is to be unconscious.
…what is the most interesting thing I could do next?
…what will give us a broader range of interesting experiences tomorrow+ ?
Deconstructing Key Variable Elements:
Range of interesting experiences
From what you can physically do to what you’re capable of understanding about how the world works, what you can create, where you can go, etc. Choosing to spend the morning slowly learning one new yoga position increases the range of potential positions I can do easily tomorrow (as well as increasing the range of potential physical activities I can do with a healthier body) – whereas choosing to do the MOST DIFFICULT position in the book may injure me and actually decrease the range of potential experiences to only those that involve limping around, feeling sorry for myself.
Tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow and so on. This is a cumulative projection! You must first project potential experiences into tomorrow before projecting those into the day after and the week after and month after, etc. Example: Choosing to save all your money and only live on minute noodles so you can afford a private space flight to Mars would actually DECREASE your range of potential experiences tomorrow (what you can eat and what you can afford to do) and probably decrease your range of potential lifetime experiences as you start to deteriorate from malnutrition (and if you die before you can ever afford to fly to Mars than this would be qualified as a stupid decision!)
Example Decisions and Range of Choice
Limited Choice: If the total range of potential lifetime experiences decreases, it is a limiting decision (ex: “do nothing” or “experiment”)
- Do Nothing: Your total range of potential lifetime experiences decreases tomorrow due to constant changes in your environment and your physiology. As you get older your range of potential physical experiences diminishes due to age and a variety of other factors specific to your life experiences, etc. And though you may choose to remain in a fixed state, your environment does not. From paint peeling on walls to Earthquakes, your environment will continue to change and alter or remove potential physical experiences available to you.
- Experiment: What you learn today can generate new experiments and new learning experiences tomorrow, each learning experience increasing the potential range of lifetime experiences. At the very least you will experience a different experiment tomorrow than you did today, if you learned from the experience.
Neutral Choice: If the total range of potential lifetime experiences generated from one decision or the other is about the same, then it is a neutral decision (ex: water or tea?)
- Water: proven to be essential to living (repeated experiments show that going without water results in death – either ending, limiting or delaying potential experiences depending on spiritual beliefs at the time)
- Tea: believed to be beneficial to living (probably because of all the water). Actual long term benefits of variable tea leaves still debated. Going without tea does not lead to death, but it does lead to boredom. Studies suggest that death and boredom are comparable (note: studies rely mostly on college freshman as volunteers, potential cognitive bias there).
Conscious Choice: Total range of potential lifetime experiences increases linearly, day by day (ex: exercise or sleep in?)
- Exercise: If I get up and work out then I get a bit stronger/healthier tomorrow, daily cumulative effects of this choice is being able to live longer and do more things than I am physically capable of doing today.
- Sleep in: If I hit the snooze button and stay in bed then I feel good today, but I won’t be any stronger/healthier tomorrow, I’ll just be a bit older than I am today.
Defining Choice: Total range of potential lifetime experiences increases exponentially (ex: live clean vs party hard)
- Live clean: the range of potential places I can go, things I can do and people I can meet increases the longer I live a healthy life (and people are more likely to want to meet me, because unhealthiness is a serious turn off!)
- Party hard: I can have more experiences today and tonight than I did yesterday, but my experiences tomorrow DECREASE when I suffer the debilitating ill-effects of partying hard today.
Creative Choice: Total range of potential lifetime experiences increases by orders of magnitude proportional to the number of people reached (ex: design a new gameplay experience vs make an existing gameplay experience)
- Design a new gameplay experience: designing a new game, something that hasn’t been made before, will create opportunities to solve problems and overcome challenges…learning experiences which increases the range of experience of what I can do/see/learn/etc in the future. Releasing this game to the public increases the range of experiences other people have, from learning something new about how their world works to being inspired to create their own games.
- Make an existing gameplay experience: making an existing game, something that has already been made, generates opportunities to look up tutorials and how-to guides of other people’s experiences. If it’s a game I’ve already made, then no new experiences are generated by the activity. Releasing a game that’s already been made puts the onus of new experiences for the public on the art and marketing budgets. Range of potential BAD experiences increases however, for both creator and player, in proportion to time and money spent.