Heuristics

Tyler Cowen “offers confirmation”:http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2004/01/how_good_is_cho.html that a wealth of choice can overwhelm action. It’s a common experience: probably everyone has their own heuristics to guide choice—or to enable at least some action in the face of daunting variety.Information and attention are costly. Shortcuts match price to reward. The ‘null’ heuristic is to excercise no choice (‘indiscretion&#8217)and to leave everthing to ‘chance’ or ‘fate’ or ‘the universe’. This is Hamlet’s choice: bq. Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well When our deep plots do pall; and that should learn us,
There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will I’ve had more than one female friend who has considered this not merely an Heuristic but a sort of mystical guide: leave all choices ‘to the Universe’. Public lottery investors—particularly those who allow the agent to use a computer program to print a ‘random’ selection of numbers on the ticket—are devotees of the null heuristic. My own heuristics are not much more defensible on rational grounds. Here are a couple.

Wine lists
You’ve probably had the experience of being in a group and asked, or expected, to choose the wine and the smirking bastard at your elbow presents you with a wine list half as long as the telephone book. My solution is a cascade: choose the color or variety (shiraz, cabernet, pino, chardonnay, riesling etc) then select the *second least expensive* on the list. Never fails to please. Or, more correctly, I’ve never _known_ it to fail to please (which is not, of course, the same thing).
Choosing the right lane
You’re stuck in traffic. Should you stay or move? Which lane to pick? Allow a space to open up between you and the car ahead. If no car from the lane(s) beside you tries to fill the space then get out in either direction as soon as possible. Othewise move to the side opposite the side from which the space was filled. No idea if this works reliably even after years of observation. But it gives me something to do to pass the time.

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