Making Decisions

We have old brains, ill-equipped to make decisions about modern problems.

That link is a very good synopsis of some of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.

  • Our brains are associative/comparitive
  • Our brains love comparison and change
  • We remember unpleasant things more than pleasant
  • We make decisions based on memory more than observation
  • We tend to be overly optimistic when judging possible outcomes (because we think about succeeding more than failing)
  • We are constantly exploited by people who take advantage of our poor decision making.

Some of the material was covered in freakanomics, but there are some important observations near the end.

I’ve long felt that one of the hallmarks of being a responsible adult is the ability to start thinking about life long term, both in the time frame of your own lifetime (for yourself), and in the very long term (for society and humanity), and to start making decisions based on long term results. Long sentence. I know. Daniel makes a good point, that we’re not stupid, we’re ancient. The pace of change in our environment is much faster than our biological process of evolution, and our brains can’t keep up. So how did these monkey brains put people on the moon?

We learned science. We learned equations that do a better job of predicting outcomes than our brains do. We learned to keep track of data and do better comparisons.

I’ve been noticing the implications of bad decision making more and more in everyday life, from politics, to money, to health. And what it boils down to is that it literally effects everything we do, and we as humans need to get a lot better at it.

I’m heavily tempted to start talking about intelligent design here, but I won’t.

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