Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Thought 158: Choice and Outcome

There is said to be a universal paradox in the shape of being free in one's choices but never free when it comes to the consequences of those choices. The reasoning has it that a good choice will have good effects and a bad choice will create bad consequences. 

Yet bad consequences may follow from a choice that was a good one to start with - such as dropping out of university leading to more free time and better mental health - and what is more precious than well-being? - but with the result of monetary troubles rearing their head years down the line due to a lack of qualifications. 

Alternatively, as the author of points out in one of his comic strips, you may have made a choice to bet on the most likely eventuality - thus, an objectively rational, good choice - yet the outcome, by an unlucky roll of the die, fell against that outcome taking place and thus harmed your interests.

To take the same university example, someone may have decided to complete a course and not drop out and get indebted and mentally unhappy as a result with the hope of getting a career out of it - because that is theoretically a more likely eventuality if you have a degree qualification - only for that prediction and ambition to fall through at some later stage due to fierce competition and labour market scarcity.

This pinpoints the role of luck in the positive or negative outcomes of choices that were good ones at the time of decision-making but potentially turned out to be rife with bad consequences at a later stage due to the role played by factors outside one's control which were initially unforeseen or unknown. 

As a rule, speaking from my own personal preference, I am loath to sacrifice present well-being for a reward in a future that exists only as prediction and in the imagination. Nonetheless I consider present well-being as including restraint from instant gratification, because self-control is immediately rewarding. This choice of mine may yet still prove to be my undoing, however, due to externalities outside my control, including the role of mass perception. 

Ultimately, however,
"Nobody comes out of here alive"
and that is a consoling thought when caught in the fatalistic nexus of choices and their consequences.