Friday, May 18, 2007

A recurring challenge to human decision making is that when an alternative is inconvenient or undesirable, we are very good at convincing ourselves that it won't happen. For example, when the dog is barking late at night, we could worry that there is a burglar, but instead, we assume it is a bird or raccoon and yell at the dog to shut up. Hopefully, it really is a bird, or at least the burglar won't steal much.

Unfortunately, this challenge manifests in proportion to the importance of the decision. For really really really important situations, the inconvenience is likely to be huge (war for example). One that we are seeing more now is global warming. This recent article in Fortune explains it well. The conclusion: "To the extent that dealing with global warming is a) expensive and b) inconvenient, it isn't going to happen any time soon."

The reality is that we have to make small changes now or big changes later. The big changes later will be much more inconvenient. But because we are avoiding the small inconvenience now, we are forcing our kids to deal with the big ones later.

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