Thursday, October 9, 2008

Shadows of the mind

Since last quarter of an hour I’ve been wondering about the value of right hand. When no amount of money succeeded in luring me into parting with it, I turned to other body parts. So if on a cold dark night, I am captured by a seasoned sadist and he offers the choice to either part with right hand or with both the legs (third option being to die) , I’ll let go of my right hand. But if the choice is between left leg and right eye on one hand while right hand on the other, I’ll let him toss a coin.

Thinking about other currencies apart from body parts, I think a three year jail term in my youth with the guarantee of no sodomy comes close too in exchange for the right hand. Here you can play with the balance by varying the duration in prison.

The way mind makes choices is still not understood, probably can’t be “understood” and explained at all in near future. Homo-sapiens are intelligent, but not naturally “logical”. Take for instance the trades I mentioned above. You people might choose different values of the same currencies (body parts/ years in prison) for the right hand, but I assume most of us, who are reasonably happy with life and have certain hopes about the future, wouldn’t want to part ways with their right hand for money. However, now a new exchange offer is introduced: Take 100 billion dollars (let's call it A) for three years in prison (say B). I am tempted. But then I also put the value of suffering of loosing the right hand (say C) to be the same as that of three years in jail. No matter how illogical it sounds, we human beings are perfectly capable of bartering A for B, B for C , but not A for C . They call it Intransitivity .

Similarly, whom would I rather kiss: the puppy next door or Abhishek Bachchan. Hygiene advises against touching that puppy but I know my choice here.

There are certain decisions which though look illogical at first glance, need not be so when observed with some of acknowledgement of psychology. We must be prepared to accept psychological principles as axioms though. Examples abound in the seemingly logical field of economics. You would agree that if a rich emperor offers you a bet of Rs.10 with a fair coin (Heads: you win/ Tails: you loose), you might choose to play the game depending on your mood. The expected value of the bet is 0 (-10*0.5 + 10*0.5). However if you know that the coin is biased in favor of Heads (60% probability of tails), your mood shall take the back seat (unless you’ve just kissed Abhishek) and you’ll be glad to oblige the emperor’s highness. Expected value of the bet is 2 (-10*0.4 + 10*0.6).

Let’s make this interesting now. The coin in consideration is the same biased one, but you have to bet all your life’s past, present & future earnings. Here’s a chance to double your income with a 60% chance. But there’s a huge 40% chance of ruining your life’s earnings. Besides, I won’t benefit with two cars as much as I‘ll suffer after loosing my dear car Vinnie, no matter how cross she is with me. We put more value on what we already have and then diminishing marginal return (you’ll always enjoy the first bite of chocolate more than the third bite of your fourth.) along with risk aversion combine together to lead most of us to decide against taking the bet , even though the expected value out of that bet is positive .

Digressing, only slightly, let me talk about these hoardings put by DNA newspaper on Bangalore roads. They put good looking chicks on each hoarding and then post a question to all Bangloreans with two choices. I saw this one first:
What’s in Bangalore’s DNA?
A. Live-in
B. Marriage.

I’ve got little to talk about the question but a lot to say about “Why the question” but let’s not digress further. The other day I was breezing along in my Vinnie, when she hit a traffic signal. A tempo ahead was partially blocking another DNA hoarding. Only the following parts of the two options were visible to me apart from the thin babe in tight clothes:
What’s in Bangalore’s DNA?
____ uck the Issue.
____ake a stand.

The scrabbling neurons in my brain, cheered by the perverted ones, quickly came up with the letter F; single alphabet got me points for two words. The tempo moved and the real text was revealed:
What’s in Bangalore’s DNA?
A. Duck the Issue.
B. Take a stand.

Both the options pale before the combination “Fuck the issue and fake a stand”. Tell me if that’s not in your DNA.


piyush said...

I am sure that the first Alphabet ringing in every Guys head and I am not going but Intelligence or Logic will be "F".

mukta said...

Fuck the issue and Fake the stand sounds about right!

Kanchan D said...

awesome ! I love reading your posts ..

TinTin said...

chocolate example acha tha..

Unknown Indian Outsourcing Worker said...

have you read steven pinker?

Tragicomix said...

How true! Its a pity though...faking a stand. Perhaps "M" would be more appropriate to fill the blank???
M-ake a stand.

LOL...perhaps not!...coz then we'ed M-uck up the issue.

BrownPhantom said...


M is a fine choice too. It never crossed my mind :).