Monday, November 11, 2013

Rules, rules, rules

Ryan is currently summarizing Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow. I resist the urge to do a series of summaries of his summaries, but I do still want to encourage this public service, so I will instead offer some comments.

In the second post, we learn that rules can serve not only to make us do things, but also to do them at lower cost, by eliminating the need to make a costly decision.

This is one of the many reasons a well-functioning society or community or company has a system of rules in place, whether they take the form of social norms or laws or something more informal.

Say what you will about the agony of getting yourself out of bed for work in the morning; the fact remains that by having a regular structure imposed on you, it is probably easier to get up in a timely manner.  You don't have to decide whether it's worth it.  You just get up, because you have to.

Maybe that is not the best example, because there is some wiggle room about when exactly you have to get up.  But to the extent that it's a struggle, isn't that exactly the reason?  The existence of wiggle room?  People buy alarm clocks that roll off their nightstands, or even fly away, just to save themselves from dealing with the wiggle room.

There are so many decisions to be made in life.  In order to get a lot done in a limited time, it helps to trivialize as many of those decisions as possible. One way to do that is through rules.

(Of course, in a post like this, there should be at least one sentence acknowledging that rules can go terribly, terribly wrong.)

No comments:

Post a Comment