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The Choice - Outline

Date: 2020-07-07
  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapters 2 and 3
    1. Parallels to BoI - Ch3
  3. Chapter 4
    1. Parallels to BoI - Ch4
  4. Chapter 5
    1. Parallels to BoI - Ch5
  5. Chapter 6
  6. Chapter 7
  7. Chapter 8

Chapter 1

One’s choice of how to perceive reality (with regards to problems) is (one of?) the most important and impacting choices of one’s life. It is necessary to live a full life. In the chapter it’s called the scientist’s approach.

Broadly, if one wants to live a full life one must make some core decisions, and particularly one decision. That is: problems are soluble, solutions are attainable, and that one CHOOSES to devote the time to understand the problems that come up and how to solve them. (though it’s not expressed in The Choice like this, I think BoI puts the idea simply, so use that language here.) The way to do this is the scientist’s approach: we can know about and prepare for the world in such a way that failures become opportunities to learn, and we can find that energising. Common perceptions of reality have two problems: avoiding using brain power because we think we don’t have it, problems & solutions must be super complex, so we don’t have the right tools; and an unwillingness to see reality for what it is, and applying the wrong knowledge in search of the solution. The chapter ends with the conjecture that complex reality is actually simple, and Eli and Efrat agree to analyse a big apparel company to figure it out, next time on The Choice.

Chapters 2 and 3

Main Idea: The demonstration of the common sense logic in ch1 (ch2) and Efrat’s reflection on said logic and the report from ch2.

Chapter 2 is a walk-through of the common sense referred to in chapter 1 via an analysis of “Big Brand” and possible improvements to their operation. It exposes several ways Big Brand fool themselves with language and methodology. It also details the chain of reasoning by which executives of Big Brand come to realise many of their problems are addressable with changes to the way they deal with supply and manufacture of their goods.

Chapter 3 is Efrat’s reflection on the idea of common-sense logic from ch1, the report from ch2, and on what that means for herself and one’s life and approach to life. She agrees the reasoning in ch2 is logical and common sense, but doesn’t see how she could do that herself.

She thinks there are two barriers: not prioritising the biggest problem, and dismissing options early due to perceiving reality as overly complex.

She posits that when people face undesirable situations (unable to make progress due to their belief in a complex reality and thus unwillingness to look for solutions seriously), a (maybe minor) breakthrough is required. There must be some knowledge creation to make progress. Furthermore, this breakthrough creates meaningful opportunities, and that it is not lack of brainpower which enables this, but a lack of efficacy in its usage.

A side effect of the typical way people deal with these problems (where they are convinced they cannot be fixed/removed) is to lower their expectations about life. In the context of Big Brand this manifested as focusing on minor improvements like cost reduction.

Finally, she concludes a good perception of reality is effective and powerful. The implications of this are not acknowledged at this point, but this is epistemically significant in a way Efrat has not yet realised.

Parallels to BoI - Ch3

  • elegance in hard-to-vary explanations
  • theory-laden results (forecast is bad => shortages and surpluses)
  • new knowledge proves some element of existing knowledge wrong (‘The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that I would never say, “Away with using a forecast,”’)
  • one’s perception of reality impacts and directs one’s life

Chapter 4

Main idea: problems are less complex than people typically assume, we can come up with explanations for cause-effect relationships in the associated systems, and these explanations have significant reach.

Eli suggests that the idea of “Inherent Simplicity” has a deeper connection to reality than people usually entertain. Efrat has made this mistake: “I’ve treated your teaching as a collection of excellent methods. Not as a way to reach a full life.” Eli notes that he doesn’t see a difference between methods of analysing reality and methods of living a full life; he takes reality seriously and is not an instrumentalist. Eli explains these ideas via Newton’s view, expanding on it slightly to make it more obvious that all reality is included, not just “nature” (physics, chemistry, etc).

He explains most ppl think asking ‘why’ leads to greater complexity, but the nature of reality is such that we can find good explanations. “Common causes appear as we dive down.” The reality is that asking ‘why’ over and over leads to simplicity, not complexity. Common causes.

Efrat claims this doesn’t hold for social sciences / psychology. Eli insists cause and effect reasoning can still be applied, pointing out a few reasons, and that if people were unpredictable we would be able to sustain a society. Efrat insists people are more complex than organisations, and Eli points out she didn’t think this “yesterday”.

complexity of systems: degrees of freedom vs information required to describe system. former is complex and hard to predict, the latter is easy to predict, and only has one degree of freedom (in the example). So for the latter system, one strategic choice can remove a problem provided you understand the causes and effects. Big Brand is the second type of system: ‘complex’ at first glance but interconnected, such that touching just one thing could solve a big problem.

one problem covered so far: the perception reality is complex.

Parallels to BoI - Ch4

  • reality is objective and consistent
  • power and reach of explanations
  • convergence (to a small extent)

Chapter 5

“As long as it’s just a philosophical speculation I really don’t care.” - Efrat not taking things as seriously as she should. She’s still somewhat open to be convinced, tho.

No contradictions in nature (“harmonious with itself”). Conflicts and contradictions are different. A conflict is an apparent contradiction in goals (e.g. wings of aeroplanes should be both light and strong). Goldratt: “it will lead in good situations to some acceptable compromise, and in bad situations to a stone wall”; I prefer: a solution exists which satisfies all goals; strength and weight have breakpoints and we know that many solutions exist which satisfy both goals (with different solutions for different configurations of the goals; e.g. model plane vs 747).

Undesirable effects are due to bad compromises (which in turn means we don’t have good enough solutions or don’t understand things well enough). Often there’s an underlying assumption that’s wrong.

Second obstacle is the belief that: when we have conflicts the best we can do is compromise.

Inherent simplicity => parts of reality we care about governed by only a few elements => find the incorrect assumption => eliminate conflicts.

Parallels to BoI - Ch5

  • bad explanations lead to unpredictable outcomes
  • new knowledge proves something wrong about what it replaces (e.g. gravity as a force false according to general relativity, but not newtonian gravity)
  • objective reality; no contradictions in nature

Chapter 6

Goldratt didn’t bother with a full analysis of Big Brand because he didn’t need to. Believing that there was a way to deal with the problem (“the undesirable effects”) meant he could look at just the components that were a part of that, and via cause and effect logic to find the root cause and deal with that directly. Also: “I took for granted that the root cause is a conflict that doesn’t have an acceptable compromise.” Bad effects are due to a bad compromise.

Smaller problems can be isolated from that compromise so they can be handled without handling the root problem (common in business). Investigating small problems don’t necessarily lead to finding the root cause. Focusing on big problems has a higher return on time/effort.

“Part of the belief in Inherent Simplicity is that any conflict, including root conflicts, can be removed by removing one of the underlying false assumptions.”

Efrat asks why Eli kept looking for “better and better solutions”, and Eli responds that he didn’t, but after changing a deep assumption the situation changes. Looking into the consequences of that change lead to a new ‘big picture’ and many of the other improvements ‘dropped out’, as such.

Eli claims an important component is still missing from their conversation thus far.

Chapter 7

Ch 7 is about harmony/elegance in nature and good explanations.

Chapter 8

Table of contents

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