Re: The Tyranny of Choice

From: Thomas Buckner (
Date: Sun Mar 28 2004 - 15:38:29 MST

--- Emil Gilliam <> wrote:
> This article is in the Apr 2004 issue of SciAm, but
> unfortunately, it's
> not freely available online. Here is a preview:
> D9FB-1055-973683414B7F0000
> The Tyranny of Choice, by Barry Schwartz
> Logic suggests that having options allows people to
> select precisely
> what makes them happiest. But, as studies show,
> abundant choice often
> makes for misery
> - Emil

I read this article, and it speaks to a major
dislocation of our society. When I want cold medicine,
I don't feel like standing in the supermarket staring
at sixty different packages. Give me one that works!
It's the same reason almost all my socks are black.
Some things just are not worth thinking about for more
than ten seconds.
In a way, making choices in an information-glut is a
type of halting problem, and deliberately choosing not
to second-guess adequate solutions (i.e. damping
regret cost) is a helpful approach to terminating it.
This phenomenon exists in software design (creeping
featuritis, aka feeping creaturitis). I have
encountered new software that has a horde of new
features I don't need while losing some of the best
functions of software I used ten years ago. Simplicity
is not necessarily stupid.
It will not take an AI long to notice that while we
have created more and more variety in the supermarket,
we have allowed our consumer appetities to make the
natural world less varied (there are far more plastic
flamingoes than real ones). We are not entirely honest
with ourselves about this, and it will notice that too.


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