Xenogyst (xiin) wrote,

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The Illusion of Choice

If I were to give you the choice, between having a slice of delicious cake, and being punched in the stomach, what would you chose? For most of us, the choice of the cake is pretty obvious. After all, not only do you avoid the pain, you get to do something pleasant (assuming you like to eat cake). It's a pretty straightforward question, yet, I think it yields a subtle and terrifying implication.

If we really have choice, free will, whatever you might want to call it; wouldn't such a choice really be more ambivalent? After all, I could choose to be punched in the stomach if I really wanted to, or could I? When I think about it, I would never choose the pain over the pleasure, not if I had the option. Though, that's peculiar given a choice system, saying that I can never do something given the choice. But how can that make sense? If I have a situation where I will never choose one of two options, what actually makes it a choice anymore? I will never do it. Why? Because I hate pain. Why? It's an unpleasant sensation. Why? I'm not sure, I was born/raised that way?

And here in lies the quandary:
The basis of my choice resides in external or inherent influences on my psychology. Meaning, the reason I chose such an option was because of events outside of my control that affect me in a way that I had no control over. Meaning, I had no choice to choose the cake.
It seems to me that we are not actually dealing with a system of choosing so much as we are residing within an illusion of choosing

What's significant about this is if we can view the incentives of any particular person within a situation of decision, we can predict the outcome always. Since the incentives of people are often complex, and sometimes unknown by the person herself, in practicality we can only make educated guesses. But, the closer we come to understanding such incentives the more we can predict the future of others and ourselves. Sometimes this can be very difficult to see because the incentive acting upon the person is highly conceptual, abstract, or we simply cannot empathize with it.

In a more useful sense, we can use incentive schemes to attempt to understand 'truths' that would otherwise be outside of our reach. As a caveat, this is also the basis of conspiracy theories, but I will contend that it is still the most reasonable way to view something that you have no choice but to participate in; say, elections.

In example, Hillary Clinton, while historically being a staunch advocate of universal health care, is the largest recipient of campaign donations from health insurance companies on the Democratic ticket. While the truly wise thing to think about this would be that since we cannot really know what she is thinking or what is going on, we should not make assumptions about her philosophical and political views from this. Yet, if we are voting in the primaries for the Democrats, we must have something to base our vote on, and we will never know what politicians actually believe. In a basic understanding of the incentives working on her, we can suppose that those large donations will cause her to ultimately go against any system that hurt her donors. After all, they are her supporters, and they are giving her plenty of incentive to help them back. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that based on the way companies and company owners behave, that any money spent is done so out of the hopes of gaining more money.

Though, if to my chagrin Hillary wins the primary, I may have no choice but to vote for her.

And now, your moment of Zen:

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