Thursday, September 30, 2010

"complexity breeds confusion and dissatisfaction"

- Henry David Thoreau

I really love this quote as I think it encapsulates current Westernized culture. How did Thoreau foresee this over a century ago? A more modern day example is Barry Schwatz's book Paradox of Choice. It has inspired many ideas that are constantly swarming through my head. Choice is obviously a good thing, but at what point does it hit that ceiling or reach that threshold where it becomes too much? Too confusing, too overwhelming, and too overbearing. 

I certainly experience this paradoxical phenomenon when it comes to finance. There is just too much "financial data" out there that it becomes difficult to discern how much information is enough information. Additionally, being able to figure out which information is credible and which is faulty, whether intentionally or unintentionally, adds another layer of confusion. I'm sure I'm not alone in echoing the sentiments of foreigners who came the this country and were absolutely floored at the amount of choice from seemingly functional-only goods such as toilet paper, toothbrushes, and milk. And while I don't see this changing anytime soon, I think it'll take a whole industry to corroborate together to limit the number of choices available for that specific product. Unfortunately I think it's an idea valued ideologically but not practically. As long as free market economics is in place, competition will always exist. Fewer competitors breeds future competition.

Further evidence on this issue can be seen here:
A study done by Columbia and Stanford professors about having too many choices. The study explores how subjects given many choices of chocolate are not as satisfied with their choice as those only given a few choices. The basic premise being that the opportunity cost of not choosing the plethora of other options actually hinders their satisfaction.

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