Rational Decision Making Versus Reasonable Decision Making, The Difference, And When To Use Which

Thanos

On the one hand you have a decision-making system which focuses on analytical ability, problem solving, facts, and numbers. The accuracy of this system is such that it is correct all the time, i.e., 100%. This system sees everything as a means to an end, with focus on efficiency and effectiveness. Emotions are left out of the equation, and only decisions that are self-serving are allowed. Anything that does not contribute to the end is discarded.

For example, you could ask this system how to ensure the Universe survives on the existing and rapidly depleting resources. You would get an answer on the lines of wiping out half the population of all species to restore a sense of balance and correction. Does this sound familiar? This is pretty much what Marvel Super-villain Thanos set out to achieve, and succeeded in the film Infinity War.

Another example of such a decision maker include Spock from Star Trek franchise and Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. I admit all these are fictitious characters, but there is a reason why they are fictitious. The closest things that come to this in real life are computers and computing systems, including AI and ML. They are cold and calculative, and only consider pure logic even if/when absurd moral and/or ethical sacrifices are part of the game.

Live Long and Prosper

These systems are called rational decision-making systems.

On the other hand, you have a decision-making system which also focuses on all of the above, but has an added ingredient called equitable outcome or a fair outcome. The focus is not just on a means to an end, but affording a due consideration to all viewpoints, and all possible outcomes. Consideration, due process, empathy, and compassion are characteristics of this system.

For example, you could ask this system how to ensure the Universe survives on the existing and rapidly depleting resources. You would get an answer on the lines of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, education, enabling and empowering people, becoming more resource efficient.

The 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

The point I am trying to make is, there are two approaches to making decisions, both of which have their place. If the situation assures you that deciding based on facts and logic alone will have no ethical/moral consequences, then that is the best thing to do, go rational. However, if the situation is such that decisions made by you will have ethical/moral consequence, then you must consider all options and arrive that the best outcome, which is much trickier.

To summarise this, my three points for today are:

  1. There are two decision making systems, the rational one and the reasonable one
  2. If there are no ethical/moral consequences, go with the rational approach, which is less tricky
  3. If there are ethical/moral consequences, go with the reasonable approach, which is trickier

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