Choices are all around us and seem so infinite; but do you ever get the feeling the choices we make somehow are predetermined and not of our own choosing? #conspiracy ;)
Like many of us I enjoy Netflix. A majority of programming I spend watching is on this service, it’s great. What I find interesting is how it recommends what I should be watching next. It has intellectually profiled my viewing habits and essentially learned who I am, based on what I watch.
For intelligent software to predetermine my habits is extraordinarily sophisticated. We might take this for granted but a lot of what we share and do online is cataloged, analyzed and adapted for us by smart computers. Is this something we need to worry about? I like to think, not really. We ultimately still have to choose even if the choices have been predetermined. Whether we choose to click on an ad or decide to watch a movie is still our very own decision to make. What are more concerning choices are the ones that face us daily. The ones that matter and change lives. How are they determined and how can we make them better choices.
I hate to be a kicker,
I always long for peace,
But the wheel that does the squeaking,
Is the one that gets the grease.
-Josh Billings (1870)
Ever hear the expression ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’? It comes from this wonderful Josh Billings poem. In many regards a true statement, but what if that squeaky wheel is just broken?
The gift of free will is in essence a quality that defines what it is to be human. We have the benefit of choice and are indeed the architects of our lives, but are we always making the right choices?
How do we come to making any decisions at all? That’s difficult to answer; we are all so diverse and process information differently. We can assume many of the factors that define us as people is a direct result of our environment, culture,religion, education, experience and social trends. If so, we can agree that many of the decisions we make are influenced by all those parts. In our waking life, decisions are far more complex than choosing on Netflix. Mathematic algorithms might one day figure out the human variable but till then it’s up to us to do the heavy lifting.
Difficult decision making is never more evident than during election time. American primary elections have intrigued me for quite some time. This year’s race has been delightfully entertaining and yes David Letterman did pick the wrong time to retire; but as much of a circus it may seem the profound truth of it all is paramount.
Looking in as a Canadian I can see the appeal of certain candidates. When a country becomes so polarized shock value politics thrive and make an impact. The scary part of that comes when we choose to believe it. Talented politicians are wonderful story tellers and if they happen to be imaginative speakers; bring out the fireworks! Sometimes to create interest seeking dialogue loud, silly things are spoken by politicians. Much like when children are craving attention. So how can we take the things they say all too serious? Imagine these are the people appointed to represent us, shouldn’t we hold them and what they say in a higher regard?
Look at it from this perspective, would we invite racist Uncle Bob for dinner? Would we be comfortable having him around our partner and children? Would we let loose and have some drinks with our friends and good ol’ Uncle Bob? Would we let him be the resident bully in our home? Uncle Bob might not be a very good dinner guest but maybe he’s a great shot and when the zombies attack we can invite him over for that.
We as people are attracted by success. Successful people are in a way inspirational. Some of the candidates in the American primary are very successful people in their respected fields. That’s a great thing but not necessarily the only defining quality to becoming a nation’s leader.
The choices we make are important. They have a direct affect on the ones closet to us and a ripple effect on everyone around us. To enable us making better choices a humanitarian outlook might be a good place to begin. The 'us and them' solutions to social and economic problems just create more discord. A good look and time spent into current events says it all. If we choose to believe truth and chase it, the lies in our lives become more evident and easily dismissed as rubbish. When we reach a fork in the road and need to make important choices, knowing truth can help lead us into a promising trajectory. Isn’t that mathematical algorithm worth figuring?
Squeaky wheels all around us,
Barking loud and none of cheer,
But if that wheel is somehow broken,
Mind your step and just stay clear.
-Danny J. Ricardo (2016)