Have you ever tried to make a decision, but held yourself back because the results were unknowable? That’s because, in situations like these, reason often lets us down.
This is a more common situation than you might think, yet there is a way to find a good solution – a solution which is the result of an extraordinary bet, made back in the 17th Century.
Mathematician Blaise Pascal wanted to decide whether it was worth believing in God, even though it cannot be known whether or not God exists. Pascal’s solution was to look at all of the consequences:
- So if you believed in God and your belief was well-founded, you stood to gain eternal bliss.
- If you believed in God and He didn’t actually exist, there was no consequence.
- Equally, if you did not believe in God and your belief was proven true, there was no consequence.
- However, disbelief – if proven false – has the terrible consequence of eternal damnation.
So Pascal concluded that it was worth believing in God, because there was no upside in believing that He doesn’t exist.
Now, Pascal’s wager is somewhat frivolous, but it does show us how to figure out a better decision in the absence of complete information. Think about it a second – how often do you have to make choices based on incomplete information? I suspect that most of us make decisions like that nearly every day.
So take a moment to look at all of the consequences and you might just thank Pascal for his insight – and make better decisions as a result.Make better decisions, based on a wager by firstname.lastname@example.org