Why “Do the ends justify the means?” is the wrong question d
Outcome bias versus moral philosophy
In a recent article, I wrote about outcome bias and the core principle of decision analysis:
The quality of a decision should be evaluated using only the information available to the decision-maker at the time the decision was made.
If you’re new to the topic, I recommend checking out my gentle intro. This article is a footnote for my fellow nerds.
The 3 main perspectives on moral philosophy
- Consequentialism: consider the consequences!
- Deontology: do your duty!
- Virtue ethics: be virtuous!
Moral propaganda or decision intelligence?
Don’t misunderstand outcome bias as propaganda against consequentialist morality.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s about that if you’ve been subjected to flatfooted explanations of outcome bias that play fast and loose with the words “intentions” and “consequences.” …
Experts in decision analysis have a nifty trick for sniffing out unskilled decision-makers. Curious to know what they’d say about you? Find out by revisiting our quiz from last week with a follow-up question.
Heather is Canadian, kind, friendly, smart, and loves animals. She is a sustainability consultant. In college, she studied math and psychology. She likes going for long walks and lives near several hiking trails.
Which is more probable about Heather?
- Heather has a PhD.
- Heather has a PhD and owns a dog.
Make sure you’ve prepared your answer before you scroll down!
For added flavor, take my quick quiz before you read on.)
Learning is a good thing, but don’t learn the wrong lessons by misdiagnosing your mistakes. Sometimes, life throws you a random curveball you couldn’t have anticipated no matter your level of decision genius. When that happens, adjusting your decision process is bad thinking.
Let me explain with an example.
Imagine that you’re about to observe the simultaneous flip of a fair coin and roll of a fair six-sided die. Before it happens, you are offered the choice between two gambles:
- Gamble on the coin, ignore the die: get $100 if it’s heads, nothing otherwise. …