The Decision Tree.

Run Program. Maybe.

In Freud’s time, the most advance technology was the steam-engine, so, naturally, he analyzed the human mind as if it were like a steam engine… people needing to “blow off steam,” things getting “bottled up until they explode,” our desires needing a “governor,” etc. More recently, with the advancement of computer technology, psychologists have started to explain the mind as if it were a computer (surprise, surprise!). It’s a handy metaphor, even if not a totally accurate one. (This info, mind you, isn’t my idea. I got this straight from my lecture notes from Art Markman’s Cognitive Psychology class… don’t be snide; it was a graduate class I took while I was a Ph.D. student getting the Ph.D. specializing in cognitive psychology… this ain’t no Freshman Psych 101 crap I’m regurgitating).

But I’ve been thinking about the mind=computer metaphor, especially in regards to my own crippling inability to make a decision and the unswerving devotion I have to a decision once it’s been made. Maybe you’ve had similar days/moments. So, maybe you want to know what my day is like? How do I manage my time? What do I do? What’s it like to be me, crippled by indecision and meta-analysis of my options? Well, in terms of the metaphor, I’ve got a buggy program that usually gets stuck in a loop. [Feel free to ignore my dorky life-as-computer-code essay and skip down to the Links!]

01 RUN (“Isn’t-There-Something-I-Should-Be-Doing-Right-Now.exe”)
05 Begin Decision-Time Loop Counter
10 Check Decision-Time Loop Counter
IF “Decision-Time” < 3h GOTO 15;
IF “Decision-Time” = 3h GOTO 200;

IF “Decision-Time” > 3h BUT < 5h GOTO 340;
IF “Decision-Time” ≥ 5h GOTO 500;
15 Wait. Am I hungry?
IF “No” GOTO 100;
IF “Yes” GOTO 200;
IF “Maybe” GOTO 10;
100 Really?

IF “No, not really, maybe I am hungry.” GOTO 10;
IF “Yes, really, I’m really not.” GOTO 110;
110 Okay. Maybe I should I go ahead and eat now, though?
IF “Yes” GOTO 200;
IF “No, I’ll eat later.” GOTO 120;
120 Wait. What time is it now? [Enter ‘T’]
IF ‘T’ = “9″ GOTO 130;
IF ‘T’ = “10″ GOTO 140;

IF ‘T’ = “<9″ GOTO 150;
IF ‘T’ = “>12″ GOTO 160;
130 Should I have a snack? Maybe I should go ahead and have a snack.
IF “No” GOTO 131;
IF “Yes” GOTO 133;
131 No, a snack would be unecessary and make me fat. Am I getting fat?
IF “Yes” GOTO 400;
IF “No” GOTO 10;

133 Chips or Candy Bar?
IF “Chips” RUN (“ChipsDecisionRoutine.exe”)
IF “Candy Bar” RUN (“CandyBarsMakeYourAssFat-
140 Oh, I should totally eat now.
GOTO 200;
150 Seriously? It’s not 9 yet? Did I eat recently?
IF “Yes” GOTO 155;
IF “No” GOTO 200;

155 Okay, then… am I just bored?
IF “Yes” GOTO 300;
IF “No” GOTO 10;
160 It’s already past 12? When the hell did that happen?
Oh god, when was the last time I ate?
[Enter ‘T’]
IF T = “8″ GOTO 161;
IF T = “10″ GOTO 155;
IF T = “<7″ GOTO 163;

161 GOTO 10;
163 Oh god, maybe I’m having a blood sugar crash. Oh god, am I giving
myself diabetes by not eating on a regular schedule?
IF “I wonder what Wikipedia says about bloodsugar?” GOTO 165;
IF “I should make an eating-schedule.” GOTO 300;
165 Open Wikipedia article in new tab
[Wiki Loop Counter]
IF ‘Time on Wikipeida’ < ‘3h’ GOTO 165;

IF ‘Time on Wikipedia’ ≥ ‘3h’ GOTO 10;
200 I’m hungry. Time to eat.
GOTO 120;
300 Ugh, my life.
IF “Yah, totally. This sucks.” GOTO 310;
IF “Nah, it’s cool.” GOTO 320;
310 Maybe I should blog this?
IF “Yes, yes I should. I should write a genius and hilarious and heartfelt
and witty blog about just this situation and how it’s relatable to other

situations like it that other people may or may not have had.” GOTO 330;
IF “No, you have more important things to do.” GOTO 340;
320 GOTO 310;
330 Hmm…blog…
IF “Yah, so… what should I write about?” GOTO 165;
IF “Yah, so, I’ll write about [Enter ‘TOPIC’]? GOTO 333;
333 IF ‘TOPIC’ = “I could write about my social life, y’know, if I had one,
which I don’t, but I used to have one. And I kind of have one now.

I mean, I know people. I go out. I do stuff sometimes, right?” GOTO 300;
IF ‘TOPIC’ = “Food.” GOTO 10;
340 What should I be doing? [LIST.ITEMS(“what”)]

342 Cool, a ternary ToDo list.
GOTO 165;
400 It’s true. I am getting fat.
LOAD “RollDie.exe”
QUERY die(“face-value”)
IF ‘face-value’ = 2 OR 6 GOTO 163;
IF ‘face-value’ = 3 OR 4 OR 5 GOTO 300;
IF ‘face-value’ = 1 GOTO 410;
410 Begin crying on the inside.

[Crying Loop Counter]
IF ‘Time Crying’ < ‘1h’ GOTO 133;
IF ‘Time Crying’ ≥ ‘1h’ GOTO 300;
500 Ack! F.M.L.
GOTO 01;

Field Music - You Can Decide
Field Music – You Can Decide (2005)

Open link in new tab: Y/N ?

Another score for the good guys in the Brains vs. Gut Feelings approach.
Scientific American Podcast: Take Time When Making a Decision

Information Technology: The ultimate study of decisions… kinda…
Scientific American: Expert Systems Fight Poverty

Now there’s a great idea… and another reason to love Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton’s iPad decision-tree

Maybe you can decide to do both, but your brain will still only do one at a time.
Scientific American: Motivated Faux-Multitasking

Decisions are there to help us feel certain, but Richard Feynman says it’s okay to be uncertain.
Fenyman on the Why Evolution Is True blog

I’m not a philosopher by training, but I sense some slippery semantics afoot.
Deriving “ought” from “is”

I wonder if this translates to how we treat our one-night-stands…

Scientific American Podcast: Fairness with Strangers May Be Invention of Large Socieites

Last but not least, I don’t know how this got left out of the decision tree. (NSFW)
Butt Magazine interview with Hawaii Speedo Student

And for an amazingly shallow view on life’s little problems… read this↓ article on that↑ dude’s blog.
What Is My Problem, by Hawaii Speedo Student


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