Summary of How to Choose?

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It’s the age of data-driven analysis, neural networks and machine learning. If you need to make a decision, tossing a coin or going with your gut seems irresponsible – even downright negligent. So why does a brief review of world cultures reveal that many of them happily allowed a healthy dollop of chaos into their decision-making processes? Even if you have little respect for ancestral traditions, you have to admit that it’d be unlikely for so many cultures to come to this practice if it didn’t work at all. getAbstract recommends Michael Schulson’s thought-provoking article to people who could use a little relief from the near-constant burden of rational decision making.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How past cultures have used random chance to make decisions,
  • Why employing lotteries can reduce prejudice, and
  • What benefits emerge when decision makers allow an element of chance into their processes.

About the Author

Michael Schulson is a freelance writer and associate editor at Religion Dispatches magazine. 



Throughout history, cultures have engaged in what may, at face value, look like useless prognostication. Naskapi hunters in Canada roast a caribou shoulder bone and then use the cracks that developed as a map to guide their next hunt. The Chinese consult dried yarrow stems to decide which part of the I Ching applied to a current quandary. The Kantu’ of Indonesia let a complicated method of bird-watching decide the locations of their next slash-and-burn farms as they deliberately abandon the previous year’s fields. Each of these practices allows a randomness, sometimes disguised as superstition, into major decisions.

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