Friday, August 10, 2007

Decision Making: An Overview

It has been said that our destiny is not shaped by how our circumstances mold us, but by the decisions that we make to mold our circumstances. This, I have some level of certainty, is the basis for “there are [insert number here] of kinds of people in this world” pearls of wisdom. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity, driven by information, and forged by the decision-making process. As Newton once postulated, every action has an opposite but equal reaction. When you exert force onto something, that object will push back with the same amount of force, per inertia, with the excess energy that you put into the system being used to propel the object onto the trajectory that you want it to move.

In a manner of speaking, you live in an open system: You are part of a community, a larger whole, following your world-line throughout a daily routine, interacting with the world based on your innermost values and behaviors. Behaviors are extensions of values, by way of self-discipline—selective training of thoughts, words, and actions. Self discipline is a deliberate set of actions that can have linear and non-linear payoffs; one’s personal investment in self-discipline, however, is much less than the price of not having self-discipline in many circumstances.

The opposite of self-discipline, by contrast, is impulse. If rational decisions are to be strived for, decisions made impulsively are the introduction of chaos into the decision making process, enough to make them an irrational behavior. Irrational behaviors often add unnecessary entropy to a system—read, your world—and thus form the other end of the continuum from disciplined decision making as a rational, intelligent and deliberate act to the other end of being impulsive, often irrational, and lacking distinct and quality information to justify the action with.

This power of choice and free will, coupled with the other assets provided by the human mind makes it the most powerful tool in the universe. The most important thing that we can do with our minds is to make calculated and rational decision with it. There was once someone who said that the secret to engineering is not asking what more you can add to something, but that there is nothing left to take away. We can draw from this that the best decisions are made deliberately with quality information, but not too much of it. I get ahead of myself, though: Let’s re-visit this point later.

Back to the continuum for a moment: Oftentimes the most calculated of decisions can take the most time, as copious amounts of information are required for it; on the other hand, we often have very little (if any) information to support the decision that we have made, making rationality a function of the amount of information involved, right? Not necessarily. The quality of the information, along with the quantity, comprise a crucial factor in the decision making process. Oftentimes make what they feel are the best decisions, based on a good amount of information…but they are basing decisions on bad information. The cause for this can range from personal biases to disinformation.

So, to the previous point: When are the best decisions made? Bayes Theorem is a mathematical powerhouse of a formula which introduces the concept into the decision making process of re-evaluation once there is a change of the amount of information in the decision-making process. The best decisions don’t rely on the quantity of information, but the quality. While it is unlikely that a single bit of intelligence…information, as it were, could offer you the necessary impetus for you to make a decision, it’s just as possible as receiving far too much information on your required decision and thus having your judgment be clouded with too much information.

How do we attain this elegance in decision making abilities? Understanding the decision making process and experience are the best guides in this: Understanding the process allows one to comprehend the proper framework for which sound decisions are made, while experience develops what is better known as instincts. Instincts are simply our visceral reaction to data that we have seen in the past. In the hands of the logical minded person, proper instincts paired with the application of the never-ending cycle of processing decisions, achieving consistent elegant decision making will only take a matter of time.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

You 2.0

You 2.0 Article from Psychology Today.

Why be yourself today when you can be the you of tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Combat Leader's Guide to Decision-Making, Part 1

“Warfare is a great matter to a nation; it is the ground of death and of life; it is the way of survival and of destruction, and must be examined.”
Sun Tzu, “The Art of War

In combat and business, there are many roles filled by many people: They range from the soldier on the front line conducting a series of drills on the frontlines of combat up through the chain of command. Just as the infantry is the branch of the Army that produces the result of liberating land from the enemy, just are those that produce for the organizations which we want to succeed. Staff positions and aides can be found at all levels, also, but ultimately all answer to the business leader that commands all of these assets.

This business leader, or commander, does more than just manage and lead. Whereas managing is the art of conducting and directing resources, leading involves influencing and directing the performance of group members towards the achievement of organizational goals. However, all of these are driven by his or her ability to make decisions. This can often be a monumental task, even for the most experienced leader.


Intelligence drives forces on the battlefield of business—industries, markets, etc. It tells you where your resources are needed and in which amounts.

All probable battlefields on which you could do battle with your opponent and their respective maneuver areas are considered to be part of the battlespace. This battlespace is a two-dimensional, multi-faceted environment with very specific geometries about it. The role of intelligence in the battlespace is to give depth of data for each portion of the battlespace: The more data in a given portion of the battlespace allows for greater opportunity for success in it: Success being defined as a function of opportunity meeting preparation.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Women and the Psychology of the Lie

Recently, 5,000 British women were questioned about their behaviors regarding lying to others. Ninety-six percent of them, or about 4,600 of them, admitted to lying. There were several interesting results that came from the survey, offering some keen insights into the psychology of women and why they lie.

Let’s start with one that is a shocker: Thirty-three percent of women would stay with their husband if they discovered that he was secretly a transvestite. By comparison, seventeen percent would tolerate him if their husbands refused to wash.

What is the reason? I pose that the predominant mentality of those surveyed sought personal harmony through harmony in the environment around them. While it could seem a controversial thesis at first, let’s continue to take a look at some of the other findings starting with the 45 percent of women surveyed that admitted to telling “little white lies” on a daily basis.

A quick web search shows the definition of a “white lie” as one characterized as an “often trivial, diplomatic or well-intentioned untruth.” Going on to say that, “however, the ethical ramifications of being in conflict with an otherwise consistent personal moral theory are far reaching and often involve self-deception. While the white lie is the most common amongst this demographic, 83 percent of women surveyed in The National Scruples and Lies Survey said that they had told a large-scale, life-changing sort of lie at least once; about one in ten women, or 13 percent, admit to doing so on a regular basis.

What sorts of things can a woman say to make her environment a more harmonious place, though? About 1 in 4 women (27 percent) would tell a man if he was “hopeless in bed,” while a bit more than a third (36 percent) would tell their friends about his performance in the sack. More than half, or 54 percent, wouldn’t tell a man he was fat if asked—the remaining 46 percent would tell him the brutal truth. In contrast, they will expect the brutal truth in return: More than 6 in 10 (61 percent) want you to tell them the brutally honest truth, no matter how fat she looks in those pants.

Who is she most apt to be lied to?

Partners (70%) are most likely to be lied to by women, with friends (65%), parents (64%), customers and clients (58%) and bosses (57%) also being deceived.

The top fibs? “No, you don’t look fat,” or lying about shoes.

This only is the tip of the iceberg, though, when it comes to the depth that women will lie to get what they want. If they’re married and have acquired a sexually transmitted disease, 59 percent of women would tell their partners and future partners about it. If they were single, this number nearly flips: Sixty-five percent would not tell partners about it. Once they’re married, about 4 in 10 women—42 percent—would lie about contraception in hopes of getting pregnant, regardless of input from their partner. Once pregnant, if the child was not his and she wanted to stay with him—there is a 1 in 2 chance that she would not tell their significant other.

What these numbers really show is something that psychologists, and anyone with some life experience, has known all along: While men are often competitive and overtly approach things to be overcome, women have a propensity to be more secretive and covert about their competitive nature and wily about accomplishing their personal ambitions. Whereas the classic man is likely to confront someone else, by the time the woman confronts another person, it is often too late.

One could go into an examination of how this has evolved into modern culture from how girls, young ladies, and women were brought up in centuries past, but the cynic in me is likely to boil the matter down to a piece of wisdom from a wonderful poster.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Potpourri: A Couple Current Relevant New Stories

Today I thought I would share some news items currently filling up my “Blog Content” bookmarks folder in Firefox. Aside from the news, I might just have a perspective or other opinion to offer on the matter. Read on to find out!

Australian Survey Shows That Men Are Happiest With Educated Wives

From a survey reported in the Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Every extra year of education a wife has under her belt significantly increases the chances her husband will report being highly satisfied with life. But Shane Mathew Worner, of the Australian National University’s economics program, says it may be that an educated woman’s earning power is her biggest asset.

This only goes to reinforce a point that I’ve been making for years regarding men and women: Men—you don’t necessarily want to marry the hot girl that doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. Sooner or later any novelty or benefit of her “hotness” will wear off. When you get past that, you may want to carry on a civilized conversation about something, I don’t know, educated. While you can certainly set your sights on the beautiful woman in the room, it might be wise to make sure that she hasn’t checked her gray matter at the door.

Why Slim People Dislike the Overweight

This is an interesting one from the University of British Columbia:

Antipathy toward obese people is a powerful and pervasive prejudice in many contemporary populations. Our results reveal, for the first time, that this prejudice may be rooted in multiple, independent mechanisms. They provide the first evidence that obesity serves as a cue for pathogen infection.

And the reaction from one half of the “Two Fat Ladies,” show that aired in the late 1990s on BBC and the Food Network, Clarissa Dickson Wright:

In the 1960s there were a lot of bigoted people who were anti-black, anti-Jewish, anti-everything but when they couldn't get away with that any more they turned into food-Nazis instead and began attacking people who were fat.

People tend to take on the traits and habits with those which they socialize. Does it really matter if it is a behavioral or biochemical matter?

Monkey Mondays: Want Your Monkey Back? Sue!

No monkey left behind!