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There's choices, and then there are choices

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"Suicide is never an option," the therapist told the group.

"Actually, it is," I responded. "A bad and stupid option, but it *is* an option."

I did not win friends during my time on the psychiatric ward.

In studies, shoppers who were faced with an aisle full of options found themselves confused instead of empowered.

"I want to go to London," she told me. But she worked at Burger King, and barely paid the rent.

Choice is a weird thing. These three examples illustrate the different kinds of restriction of choice there are.

The economic kind is often mentioned, but the ramifications are often misstated. There's when someone has a choice - say, whether or not to buy a brand new car - but saying that someone has a choice does not make it so unless they have the economic means to make that choice actual.

The second restriction to choice is guided information; when a shopper has a clear preference or clear guidelines and the information about the product to make those choices, then the observed confusion disappears. I mention this, because all too often we hear this sort of thing mentioned as an excuse to limit choice. The problem is not the choices, but instead is the level of information present and available to the person.

The third limitation is structural and social. There are billions of options and choices available to every person every day - but the ramifications of them (even in terms of societal pressure) are enough to make these real choices into non-choices. Think about what you're doing right now. You could choose to do something else - but because of social, societal, and inbuilt (e.g. "moral" pressures) you're doing something else instead.

All three of these aspects must be addressed in order to actualize real change; in this there is no real choice.

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