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Daily Choices as a Market

Every person makes hundreds of choices each day. And I would contend that most of the choices made are incorrect. Whenever you aren’t being productive, you could be. And when you are being productive, there are steps that could have been taken to maximize that efficiency. Instead, as is evidenced by my writing of this post 90 minutes before the deadline, we make incorrect decisions: we procrastinate; we eat poorly; we inefficiently use our time.

I think that many incorrect decisions can be boiled down to a single concept. Despite knowing better, we greatly prefer choices that benefit us sooner at the cost of time and effort later. From a markets perspective, every task available at a given time provides to us a certain utility. For example, eating a cookie surely has a very high utility while you’re eating it, and a measurably negative utility for the rest of its stay in your body. In this way, we could theoretically map our lives as the cross product between points in time and the choices available at those points in time. To take this a step further, we could approach this set as a problem from which we are trying to derive the greatest utility. Therefore, every decision made is actually just an attempt to minimize the loss of utility caused by subpar decision-making at a certain point in time.

What results is, given values, a very basic problem in dynamic programming. What path of choices, each of which provide a utility over the span of a time, throughout my entire life would yield the greatest overall utility. In this game we have no enemy, no opponent; the only limiting factor is our primitive brain that is entirely incapable of making the right decision time after time. We can strive to minimize the loss of utility, but ultimately, I’m still going to eat a cookie every now and then, and I’m still going to submit my assignments an hour before the deadline.

 

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