speaking guttish


When we think, we can tangibly understand and relate to our thoughts. They have a language. Our language. It’s like a conversation. We can hear or see our thoughts. We can reason with them. Disagree with them.

When we think, we can tangibly produce outputs. Pros and cons. Information and data. Benefits and implications. Decisions. Choices.

But when our gut feel is in use, it can be harder to understand and relate to. Often we don’t know what the feeling means. There is no language. In fact we often struggle to find a language for the feeling, let alone interpret its intent for us.

So what does that mean for a decision based largely or completely on gut feel?

The flipism normative decision theory suggests making a decision based on a coin toss. Not a decision based on the toss itself, but on the feeling associated with the outcome. The theory being, if your gut really wanted the ‘heads’ outcome, you will feel positive if that’s the result and disappointed if the toss comes down ‘tails’.

But how do we know a positive feeling from a disappointed one? And what if our feeling on the outcome isn’t ‘disappointed’, but is ‘sad’, or ‘let down’ or ‘futility’ or ‘shame’… How do we interpret a sensation in our body and know precisely what it means? If the outcome our gut seeks is ‘satisfied’, do we know if the feeling is that? What if it’s ‘kind’ or ‘justified’ or ‘rewarded’ or ‘acknowledged’…?

Yet we make gut feel decisions daily. Often these are among our best decisions. The ones we accept readily without a desire to revisit, unlike some of our thinking decisions.

It seems building our language in this area might be useful? Building a way to communicate with our own bodies, helpful?

what if I’d had a latte?

choice matrix

I have had to make a decision today.

We make them all the time of course, many at a relatively mundane level – what coffee shall I have? Should I walk or take the lift? What vegetables go with this meal?

Sometimes we make more important decisions.  Is it safe to cross the road now? Can I afford that holiday? Is it right for me to apply for that promotion?

Sometimes we make major life decisions. Shall we start a family? Should I opt for that major surgery? Should I move in with my partner?

My decision today was significant. I didn’t know I had to make it until yesterday and I had to make it by tomorrow.  I don’t know all the facts; there are many future options, unknowns and uncertainties. My decision though could have implications for the rest of my life. Curiously, I’m strangely relaxed about it.

Interesting how we respond to decision making.  Sometimes they are almost unconscious, often fleeting with little pause for true reflection. Sometimes we pore over the decision for a long time, considering possible outcomes, pros and cons; very conscious, measured decisions. Sometimes we make significant decisions on a whim. This decision making process doesn’t always line up to importance – I’ve spent ages choosing my main course in a restaurant before, yet picked an expensive holiday in a moment.

Sometimes, after the event, we dwell on the implications, the outcomes, the ‘what ifs’ of decisions we have made, sometimes not.

Personally, I’ve never wondered ‘what if I’d had a latte?’

And now, I’m not wondering ‘what if I’d chosen differently today?’

denuding me

image

Much in our lives is seemingly over engineered.

This is the ‘Velofeet’, a unicycle with stabilisers that the rider sits astride and walks. Yes, a sitting walking device.

I have a new electric toothbrush which throbs to tell me when to move to another part of my mouth and has a light which flashes should I press too hard. There are forks that do something similar if you eat too much, too quickly!

I saw an article the other week about a toilet that is internet enabled, so that you can raise or lower the seat using an app on your phone before you arrive at the bathroom.

There’s a ‘smart mug’ with a sophisticated temperature and light system to tell you whether your drink is still warm or is too hot to drink.

Don’t get me wrong, technology is a remarkable thing. I still marvel at the ‘magic’ that is… my microwave oven.

But this kind of technology led innovation, trumping any consumer led need is a growing phenomenon. Over engineering products, because we can.

It denudes us of our human reflection, thinking, judgement and decision making.

My toothbrush makes me lazy. It stops me thinking. I start to rely on the light and the throb, rather than thinking about what I’m doing. Personally, I’ve had this issue with SatNav for a while. I stop noticing. I become blind to my route, landmarks, orientations, distances. I stop seeing what is around me and instead become a slave to a voice, or a picture, telling me to turn now. The result being I have no learning. I don’t learn how to get somewhere, I just learn to rely on the technology.

This stripping away of the natural use of our senses, diluting our reading of the signs, removing our need to think, taking control of our judgement and decision making, denying us learning, is impacting our interaction with each other too.

Bit by bit we become less human.