Don’t decide to never decide

Bestselling book, The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, has been translated into an app. Released last week, it claims to help you make impartial, uninfluenced decisions in your everyday life. Apart from the fact you’ll be influenced by the app.

Like the book, the app makes us aware of what it calls ‘cognitive biases’ – everyday prejudices that cloud our judgement – so we can “make better choices”.

For example, we’re programmed to copy others’ behaviour because that’s how our ancestors survived. In the modern world, however, this way of thinking is only helpful in certain circumstances.

The app works by asking users a series of questions on the area of life their decision relates to, whether it’s work, money, time or people. It then suggests the common cognitive biases, biases that usually go unnoticed, that could be preventing a clear decision.

It claims to give us the secrets to ‘perfect’ decision-making – but I highly doubt there is such a thing. If ‘perfect’ means without bias, then an app just isn’t going to cut it. We’re influenced by thousands of things we’re not even aware of, and the cleverest app in the world couldn’t detect them all.

But I must admit, the app does sound
appealing, especially because deciding something usually means missing out on hundreds of other options. As difficult as it can be, however, decision-making isn’t something we should leave to an app.

We’re on our phones all day, every day, apart from when we’re showering (see – we can make good decisions independently). Apps are so instant: this one would be ready to help us every time we’re in a dilemma. But if it was able to eliminate every bias influencing all of our decisions – how boring would life be?

Putting decisions into the hands of our hands has the potential to veer us onto a very different course. Decisions shape our lives. Our work, surroundings, everything is a product of our biases as much as anything else. And when they go wrong, most of us are good at telling ourselves – and believing – that everything happens for a reason.

Had I always made rational decisions, I might not have a lower second-class degree from a university that has since stopped the course I did because it was that bad. But my 2:2 has turned out to be one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. Having something to prove has brought out the best in me.

Giving into biases doesn’t necessarily equal a bad decision. Misinformed, perhaps – but misinformed can lead us down the better path. That’s the thing with decisions: you just don’t know until you do it.

If you think about what makes you happiest in life – your friends, your family, your career – how many of those came about by strategic decisions? For instance, your partner may have first appealed to you due to an ancestral influence – but your deciding to spend your lives together came from instinct. And despite ever-encroaching technology, we must continue to trust our instincts. What else do we have when our phone battery dies?

1 comment:

  1. As cool as this sounds, I'd never want to get sucked into a pattern of letting something else decide for me. If I can't even make my own decisions, then what's the point of being human? God forbid I had this kind of app when I was in the dating pool, and ended up turning down my own wife because I asked it, like a magic 8 ball, "should I date her?" and it said, "Nah, better luck next time."