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Thread: Rabbit holes

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    Default Rabbit holes

    We live in an age where there are a multitude of fountain pens available, with more and more new models produced each year, to say nothing of the smorgasbord of (mostly working) older pens, some dating from the fin de siècle, that are also there for the sampling. On top of this, look at inks. From a time when there were few colours - mainly black or brown - through the cautious introduction of blue, red and green, to the current firework display of endless variation.

    In other words, there is a lot of choice. A real lot.


    The other day I caught a recording of George Carlin, and in it he said "Too many choices America, it's not healthy". He was talking about something else, but it struck a chord.

    Well, leaving out the "America" part I wondered if there was any kind of debate on this, and it turns out that there has been tons. Far too much to mention here. A short internet search led me to a book by psychologist Barry Schwartz - The Paradox of Choice, Why more is less. This in turn led to another website all about voluntary simplicity, and from there a winding path through history to the likes of Diogenes and so on. Hence the rabbit hole in the title.

    It would seem, from a cursory reading, that having too many choices reduces our happiness in significant ways. And yet, here we are in a culture of rampant consumerism.

    So, I am a bit baffled. Is our assessment such that the supposed happiness assigned to acquisition outweighs the apparently well-known happiness that accrues with living more simply?



    Note, for the most part I would exclude collection that is done with the spirit of preservation of historical (past and present) artifacts from this question.
    Be a little more open into accepting other viewpoints, if you can, as it really deepens the experience. - Jon Szanto

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    IMHO, the issue is not the number choice, but a lack of satisfaction in the choices we may. If choice are random vs strategic, it might be more difficult later to ask yourself why you acquired a particular pen. I recently read that is it wrong to think of emotion and reason opposed to each other because it can be the emotion that drives the reasoning.

    In other words, if I can acquiring something because I've convinced myself that I must have this or that, later I might feel silly of letting something like a FP cause so much concern. Whereas, if our acquisition is based on a strategy of only going after an example of a pen design in the color that suits our preference, later we can reconstruct our decision.

    I do not equate simplicity with having fewer choices or that having less is necessarily more happiness producing. A couple of authors once used the concept that happiness is a choice.

    George Carlin would not be my source for wisdom. After all, he took advantage of a variety of substances to cope with his life choices. He seemed unhappy and vulgar. And, he chose a "7 dirty" words to construct his craft. Perhaps this is why he felt too many choices was not good....LOL!! In that context, I have to agree.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Things that trigger thoughts can come from any source. The source is irrelevant in many cases, as it is here with Carlin. However, that is why I mentioned the Barry Schwartz book. The guy is a psychologist, so it is reasonable to accept that he may know what he is talking about.

    From his book:

    "Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically."

    — quoted from Ch.5, The Paradox of Choice, 2004


    After a little further reading I find that there is still much debate in the field about choice and happiness.

    Anyway, I found it interesting enough to punt it here for discussion.
    Be a little more open into accepting other viewpoints, if you can, as it really deepens the experience. - Jon Szanto

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Throw in the idea of the illusion of choice and the whole thing gets murkier.

    The mile-long cereal aisle for me is just more noise and waste to wade through.

    The amount of time spent in the process of making choices in a day may not be any happier (whatever that means) than time not spent in the tension of choice making. Ask an anxious person.

    Sent from my Moto E (4) using Tapatalk

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Is there really so much choice? I can fly various airlines and have an equally miserable experience. Cotton socks that fit me and aren’t ugly? There are none! At the polls, i can choose between Tweedledee & Tweedeledum.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Quote Originally Posted by TSherbs View Post
    Throw in the idea of the illusion of choice and the whole thing gets murkier.

    The mile-long cereal aisle for me is just more noise and waste to wade through.

    The amount of time spent in the process of making choices in a day may not be any happier (whatever that means) than time not spent in the tension of choice making. Ask an anxious person.

    Sent from my Moto E (4) using Tapatalk
    Throw in the illusion of scarcity — arbitrarily limited editions, products going away (until they come back), etc. — and attendant FOMO to muddy things further.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Random responses:
    1. Who decides how many is too many.
    2. For every person who is troubled by difficulty choosing ther are a dozen born shoppers.
    3. Is there a problem with too many choices of studies and psychologists that prove both sides of any issue?
    4. Why do we think that acquiring an object will provide happiness? Is "happiness" our goal in life?


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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Soviet Union communism provided an alternative in consumer choice. Was that any better?
    Dan Kalish
    Fountain Pens: Pelikan Souveran M805, Waterman Expert II, Waterman Phileas, Stipula Splash, and Sheaffer Sagaris

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Consumer "choice" and planned obsolescence go hand in hand to artificially sustain the automobile industry.

    Same thing happens with fashion.... The effect on our environment is horrendous.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    The original premise is not about whether our choices make us unhappy, but rather that being presented with too many choices leads to indecision and stress.
    Be a little more open into accepting other viewpoints, if you can, as it really deepens the experience. - Jon Szanto

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Smartwool socks - longest lasting by a very long way, and all-round most comfortable socks I have ever used.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Things that trigger thoughts can come from any source. The source is irrelevant in many cases, as it is here with Carlin. However, that is why I mentioned the Barry Schwartz book. The guy is a psychologist, so it is reasonable to accept that he may know what he is talking about.

    From his book:

    "Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically."

    — quoted from Ch.5, The Paradox of Choice, 2004


    After a little further reading I find that there is still much debate in the field about choice and happiness.

    Anyway, I found it interesting enough to punt it here for discussion.
    For me, his conclusion is that "we don't seem to be benefitting from it psychologically" is a good example of gross generalization. In fact, he is close to confirmation bias.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    The original premise is not about whether our choices make us unhappy, but rather that being presented with too many choices leads to indecision and stress.
    Yes, too much choice leads to indecision and stress. https://hbr.org/2006/06/more-isnt-always-better

    But once a choice has been made, it tends to be rationalized as the best choice. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choice-supportive_bias

    So, consciously simplifying the burden of choice by limiting one's choices (living more simply, consuming less, etc.) should contribute to less indecision and stress, assuming one does not start second-guessing choices.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Naill View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Things that trigger thoughts can come from any source. The source is irrelevant in many cases, as it is here with Carlin. However, that is why I mentioned the Barry Schwartz book. The guy is a psychologist, so it is reasonable to accept that he may know what he is talking about.

    From his book:

    "Autonomy and Freedom of choice are critical to our well being, and choice is critical to freedom and autonomy. Nonetheless, though modern Americans have more choice than any group of people ever has before, and thus, presumably, more freedom and autonomy, we don't seem to be benefiting from it psychologically."

    — quoted from Ch.5, The Paradox of Choice, 2004


    After a little further reading I find that there is still much debate in the field about choice and happiness.

    Anyway, I found it interesting enough to punt it here for discussion.
    For me, his conclusion is that "we don't seem to be benefitting from it psychologically" is a good example of gross generalization. In fact, he is close to confirmation bias.
    The thing is, Chuck, that he is not making a conclusion. He is offering an opinion based on observation, experience, and learned skill. The picture is likely more nuanced than presented here, but for the moment I tend to agree with his basic idea. It's kind of like the Buridan's Ass paradox.
    Be a little more open into accepting other viewpoints, if you can, as it really deepens the experience. - Jon Szanto

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    I do agree which much that is said here. But ... there is not much consumer choice these days, that's an illusion. The more industrialized we get the less choice there is. There is more choice with less industrial intervention. Take for example the choices when you're sewing a shirt for yourself. Even with the material at hand, how are you going to lay it out. Maybe there's a pattern, which gives a hundred decisions to make there in how you lay it out. Making your writing desk? Any piece of wood requires a lot of choices in how you relate to the grain, which side up etc. These choices effect design choices which are in the millions. There aren't that many choices to make when you go into a store and the only have 20 writing desks to choose from. Do they even have that many? Of course not, they have two pre-mades where all the decisions are made for you. And that's my point. In and industrialized society, most decisions are made for you.

    I'll give an example using young children of how "consumer choice" works. The scene is you're trying to get your four year old dressed. You give them a sweater. "Put this on". Where upon you get a prompt "No!" OK, so you try a different tactic. "Would you like the blue sweater or would you like the red sweater?" That gives and illusion of choice, and you get an answer which is more agreeable to you. "The blue sweater!" Problem solved. Or, in consumer language: "SOLD!"

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Those are interesting examples, but they are also (in the most part) examples of things where there exists less choice.

    So, let's give a counter example: I'm offering a pen user one specific pen, but they say they don't want that pen. So I give them all the options available, which results in having to make a choice between hundreds of models over dozens of brands from dozens of retailers (which can be subdivided into online, bricks and mortar and so on, which may influence their decision). Not to mention various offers that may exist, or the type of nib they want, whether it's available in the pen body they want, what kind of trimmings they expect, aftersales service variations, and on and on.

    The point here is that, with respect to this hobby, we aren't being presented with just one or two simple options, a red pen or a blue pen (to borrow from your jumper example). The choice is huge and mulitfaceted. There is also the additional burden that occurs after you have selected a pen and decide to buy another of whether to get something similar or different.

    A lot of choices, and this in a relatively obscure hobby. God knows what indecisions abound in more popular pastimes.
    Be a little more open into accepting other viewpoints, if you can, as it really deepens the experience. - Jon Szanto

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    I think there's a difference in perspective possible when we talk about choice. Perhaps I'm personally a little odd in that I don't like being told what to do. In other words if I'm looking for something and you show me a hundred "choices" that are not what I'm looking for, I just find that irritating. Why? Because I don't actually have a choice of things I want. Now another person who is used to being told what to do, as in they're easily influenced, would look at those 100 hundred items as choices, and not just as noise.

    To clarify. I think "choice" can be seen as either being a selection of what you want, OR a selection of what someone wants to sell.

    Frankly, I don't care what someone wants to sell. That's not my business or interest.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    You could offer me an endless variety of options that do not interest me. It does not mean I have endless options since my criteria is all that matters which may result in very few options. I'll provide an example. Presently I am only interested in lever fill, gold and plastic, screw in nib section, Triumph gold two tone nib pens. It is possible you don't have one. So, the choices are limited even if you have thousands of pens to offer.

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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    I see what you are saying, but feel that is kind of a different argument. The number of choices of fountain pens available, in my example , is unaffected by your criteria for making a choice. The point being that you are already in the process of making choices by being interested in the types you mention. Note that you have already made four choices. Please don't take this as a criticism, it is assuredly not one. Apart from a complete novice to the field, most of us already impose some restrictions on our choice, though for many (me included) that restriction can be quite broad.

    A collector by contrast may have an exceptionally narrow set of constraints. For example, a someone who says they are only collecting Peliakn pens made between 1930 and 1950 has already significantly reduced the choices. Furthermore, for a collector who is a completionist, the order in which their catalogue is filled likely is not too relevant, as long as they ultimately get all the models to satisfy the collection.
    Last edited by Empty_of_Clouds; July 12th, 2020 at 02:52 PM.
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    Default Re: Rabbit holes

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole Juul View Post
    I think there's a difference in perspective possible when we talk about choice. Perhaps I'm personally a little odd in that I don't like being told what to do. In other words if I'm looking for something and you show me a hundred "choices" that are not what I'm looking for, I just find that irritating. Why? Because I don't actually have a choice of things I want. Now another person who is used to being told what to do, as in they're easily influenced, would look at those 100 hundred items as choices, and not just as noise.

    To clarify. I think "choice" can be seen as either being a selection of what you want, OR a selection of what someone wants to sell.

    Frankly, I don't care what someone wants to sell. That's not my business or interest.
    Understood. However, in the general retail world, the choice is the stock that someone is selling, and the only other options are similar items sold by different retailers. From your perspective then the consumer's only initial choice would be whether to select from what's on offer or not. Am I reading you correctly? I cannot imagine a situation where someone was selling only the things that I want, but am open to an real world example if it will help me understand it.
    Be a little more open into accepting other viewpoints, if you can, as it really deepens the experience. - Jon Szanto

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