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Daniel_Burfoot comments on Harmful Options - Less Wrong

23 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 25 December 2008 02:26AM

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Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 25 December 2008 06:27:54AM 3 points [-]

(If I order dessert on a menu at all, I will order quickly and then close the menu and put it away, so as not to look at the other items.)

I do something similar when ordering at a table with several other people. I don't even look at the menu. I arrange to order last, listen to what the other people order, and then just copy one of their orders.

The whole paradox of choice problem can be viewed through a Bayesian lens. In order to make a consistent choice from a set of 2^N options, you need at least N bits of information. This doesn't seem like a lot, but in most cases our information is totally corrupted by noise (do you really know you like cream sauce more than red sauce?). So reducing the size of the option set makes it more likely that you will be able to make the correct choice given the amount of information you have. If I'm dining with four other people at a restaurant with 64 menu options, my strategy decreases the number of bits I need from 6 to 2.

Many other techniques can be interpreted in this light. One notable example is Warren Buffett's "buy and hold" strategy for investing. Most investment strategies involve the investor buying and selling various stocks at different times, based on whatever analysis he has conducted. Obviously this requires repeated decision making. An investor applying buy and hold makes a far smaller set of decisions, thereby maximizing the power of the information he has obtained.