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Help a Fellow Out
January 17, 2009 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Making decisions, as we all know, is hard. One way to get out of them is to let other people make them for you.

This is a bit old, but I only came across it myself today.
posted by wittgenstein (45 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a wise man said, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. and he threw in drums.
posted by jonmc at 1:00 PM on January 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


As Devo said, "remember to do nothing when you don't know what to do."

okay, i will get out of my own post now.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:03 PM on January 17, 2009


Should I read the article or not?
posted by jim in austin at 1:04 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't that what AskMe if for?
posted by NoraCharles at 1:05 PM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


I love it! No longer will I have to call up my mom to see if I should go on that ski weekend, or ask friends for movie suggestions... strangers are my new decision-makers.
posted by bellbellbell at 1:05 PM on January 17, 2009


if=is :sigh:
posted by NoraCharles at 1:05 PM on January 17, 2009


The scar's just from punching a lamppost. It's not even going the right direction for a suicide attempt.

This rules. His blog seems to have good stories as well.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:09 PM on January 17, 2009


I don't know what to think about this.
posted by danb at 1:12 PM on January 17, 2009


I'd accepted all advice without question, with one exception: While at the local cineplex, I asked the third woman in line what I should see, and she said, "Nights in Rodanthe." I just couldn't do it.

Come on man, if you're going to do it, go all the way. I'd sooner watch wack girls rap about math than see just about anything with Richard Gere fluffing his hair, but if you're gonna do it, do it.
posted by cashman at 1:14 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dr. D's principles of sinistrality, antecedence, and alphabetical priority: if the items can be arranged in space, choose the one on the left; if they can be arranged in time, choose the earlier; if they can be named, choose the one that begins with the earlier letter of the alphabet.

A cure for psychological paralysis.
posted by painquale at 1:14 PM on January 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


This is awesome.
posted by desjardins at 1:16 PM on January 17, 2009


Someone told me yesterday about a food (I forget what exactly) that was being marketed as something that, when ingested, would help you with decision-making.

I thought, that's nothing special. Cigarettes and cocaine do that. They help you decide what you'll spend your future money on.
posted by painquale at 1:19 PM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Many kinds of very fine.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:19 PM on January 17, 2009


That was delightful. Thanks for a great single link post.
posted by ZakDaddy at 1:24 PM on January 17, 2009


My wife's father was an enlisted man in the Navy in WWII, and even though he said it was the closest he ever wanted to come to being in jail, he also said it was the only time in his life he never got headaches.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:31 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the better option is to tell the person behind the counter to pick your donuts, since you are paying them for the advice.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:34 PM on January 17, 2009


Dr. D's principles of sinistrality, antecedence, and alphabetical priority: if the items can be arranged in space, choose the one on the left; if they can be arranged in time, choose the earlier; if they can be named, choose the one that begins with the earlier letter of the alphabet.

But how do I decide which of those principles to use? In the order you gave them to use, Sinistrality is the farthest left and the earliest in time, but not alphabetically prior. If we put Antecedence first, it's both antecedent and sinistral but ditto.

Aha, if we put Alphabetically Prior first, then it is farthest left, earliest, and at the head of the principles alphabetically. Problem solved.
posted by gleuschk at 1:36 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


But how do I decide which of those principles to use?

You use the principle of sinistrality unless the choices are not spatially related, in which case you use the principle of antecedence unless the choices are not temporally related, in which case you use the principle of alphabetical priority. This is dictated by the principle of sinistrality.
posted by painquale at 2:15 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


"All decisions should be made in less than seven breaths."

-Ghost Dog
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:30 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to give this plan a try (I kind of have experimented with it once or twice, actually) so long as the guarantee exists I will never inadvertently ask the soon-to-be-recently-departed self-named "Decider" to make any (more) decisions on my behalf.

No plans to travel to Texas any time soon, and he has no history of frequenting my neck of the woods, and probably I would recognize him, but he might don a disguise.

It's good to be careful while throwing caution to the wind.
posted by emhutchinson at 3:14 PM on January 17, 2009


Yeah, I'm totally in.
posted by tatnasty at 3:21 PM on January 17, 2009


I remember doing something like this with a friend, except instead of having random strangers make the decisions, we used the flip of a coin. Not much ever came of it other than us getting a bit lost in the city a few times. (Heads we go straight, tails we turn. If we're turning and there are two choices then heads we go left, tails we go right, and so on.)
posted by jamstigator at 3:24 PM on January 17, 2009


I can't decide whether this is cool or the stupidest damn thing I've read today. I am even foregoing the obvious joke, I'm so indecisive about it.
posted by Michael Roberts at 3:24 PM on January 17, 2009


I do this with exactly one person: the lady at the Peking Edo cart outside of the hospital. But lordy, she always gets it right. Dice + Chinese Menu never turns out well, though.

I wish I could let go of control a little more. On my road-trip to Utah, we always ate in the best places because our group leader was fantastic at asking people for advice. "Where would you eat?" We didn't hit a chain until SLC. I have a road-trip coming up. Maybe I can get it to work.
posted by cobaltnine at 3:38 PM on January 17, 2009


So why the hell do I still rely on the Magic 8 Ball?
posted by Gungho at 3:44 PM on January 17, 2009


BETTER NOT
TELL YOU
NOW
posted by maudlin at 4:25 PM on January 17, 2009


“The more decisions that you are forced to make alone, the more you are aware of your freedom to choose.” -- Thornton Wilder (playwright and author)
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 4:46 PM on January 17, 2009


I'm thinking about ways to computerize this. The big hurdle is timing. You want the computer to return non-randomized decisions with only seconds lag. One idea is to scour the Internet for advice about the relevant decision, but even that is probably a too-hard search problem.
posted by grobstein at 4:51 PM on January 17, 2009


But how do I decide which of those principles to use?

You use the principle of sinistrality unless the choices are not spatially related, in which case you use the principle of antecedence unless the choices are not temporally related, in which case you use the principle of alphabetical priority. This is dictated by the principle of sinistrality.


What if the decision is a simple "yes" or "no"? By these guidelines, the decision would always be "no" (if you're making your decision in English, French, or Spanish anyway; it might work out differently in other languages, such as German). Something about that doesn't seem right.
posted by fuse theorem at 4:52 PM on January 17, 2009


(You could of course electronically connect people with strangers to make their decisions for them, but that would require a lot of cooperation. Perhaps: a database of phone numbers of volunteer strangers to make your decisions; push a button to dial one at random.)
posted by grobstein at 4:53 PM on January 17, 2009


Meh. I'll stick with my Jump To Conclusions mat, thank you very much.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:58 PM on January 17, 2009


Screw this, letting other people decide is what got us eight years of W.
posted by Johnny Porno at 5:35 PM on January 17, 2009


Jeez... has no one ever explored a dom/sub relationship?
posted by matty at 5:47 PM on January 17, 2009


By these guidelines, the decision would always be "no" [...] Something about that doesn't seem right.

That new Jim Carrey movie is premised on the idea that he must say "yes" to every question he's asked. If you want to reject Dr. D's three principles and be more like Jim Carrey, be my guest.
posted by painquale at 6:04 PM on January 17, 2009


Note the the decision-making algorithm in the link fails to satisfy the categorical imperative. It is an affront to rationality.
posted by painquale at 6:17 PM on January 17, 2009


The Jim Carrey movie is based on a non-fiction book by Danny Wallace, BTW.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:59 PM on January 17, 2009


A college chum of mine taught me to never dither over a restaurant menu: order something you know you like, and ALWAYS order that selection. Hand the menu back to the waitress, tell her "the usual" , and you've just saved ten minutes of your life. Multiply that ten minutes by how many times you'll eat out in your life.

And at the very least, this will let you calibrate any new restaurant. ("Well, they can't make X worth a damn, I won't be back" or, "Hey, that was pretty damn good.")

Over the course of your life, it'll save you months of dithering over menus, AND you'll avoid regret over options not chosen ("Oh, how I wish I wish I had ordered (that other option) instead").

And I'm also I've faintly reminded of some pop psych book from a year or two ago that talks about how Too Much Consumer Choice is paralyzing us. Anybody remember that one?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:42 PM on January 17, 2009


And I'm also I've faintly reminded of some pop psych book from a year or two ago that talks about how Too Much Consumer Choice is paralyzing us. Anybody remember that one?

Perhaps you're thinking of Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert... who is actually a pretty clever guy.
posted by DrKatz at 7:57 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Close, DrKatz. It's The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. He gives a really neat TED Talk here, too.
posted by maudlin at 8:01 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


His dilemmas start with doughnuts? That's no dilemma.

Fresh. Hot off the machine. Cinnamon.

Anything else is heresy against the Doughnut Gods. Every other decision in life follows from this simple basic premise.
posted by Pinback at 8:32 PM on January 17, 2009


You know, if he keeps coming up with questions to ask strangers, eventually he's going to have to decide which question to ask of a particular person, and it's all downhill from there.
posted by ErWenn at 9:04 PM on January 17, 2009


"And I'm also I've faintly reminded of some pop psych book from a year or two ago that talks about how Too Much Consumer Choice is paralyzing us. Anybody remember that one?"

Perhaps you're thinking of Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert... who is actually a pretty clever guy.
posted by DrKatz at 10:57 PM on January 17


Close, DrKatz. It's The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz. He gives a really neat TED Talk here, too.
posted by maudlin at 11:01 PM on January 17


Somebody, please: decide for me, which one do I believe?
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 10:06 PM on January 17, 2009


There's another benefit of this as well. No remorse, no remorse whatsoever. You will never be unhappy with the decisions you make, because you make no decisions.

Sure, you might not care much for the biscuits and gravy at lunch, but at least you won't be blaming yourself.

This could work, within reasonable limits. Be interesting to see how for you could take it. Join the Marine Corps? or the Peace Corps?
posted by Xoebe at 10:11 PM on January 17, 2009


A college chum of mine taught me to never dither over a restaurant menu: order something you know you like, and ALWAYS order that selection.

Disagree, strongly. Always eating the same thing? Sounds a little boring. If you worry about spending ten minutes thinking over the order, just don't read the menu until the wait-staffer arrives. Scan the list once as the person next to you is ordering, and then just go for what seems good.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 4:02 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Disagree, strongly.

Me too. If you begin from the assumption that eating a variety of stuff can't make you happier, then of course you should always order the same thing. But I know that that assumption is stupid, at least as applied to me.

(Maybe this is why I want to live in a city?)
posted by grobstein at 4:19 PM on January 18, 2009


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