23 <strong>Topic XXIII. Denver Bullet Study</strong>
Topic XXIII. Integrating Facts and Values
- How should (and shouldn't) values/emotions/goals/desires and conflicts of interest properly be woven together with science's hyper-rational elements in decision making processes?
- Reason by itself, without the arational elements of values, goals, priorities, principles, preferences, fears, desires, and ambitions, does not yield decisions: Decision-making requires weaving the rational with all of these arational elements that get humans to approach problems in the first place. Consequently, we must look for, study, and develop principled approaches to coordinating all these elements appropriately in our decision-making processes. Without such scaffolds, the rationality will frequently be what gets neglected. In the following classes, we explore some of the techniques that have been used to scaffold this kind of principled decision-making. None of these existing approaches accomplishes everything we would like. Nonetheless, they offer examples of techniques that we can recombine creatively with further new ideas and approaches to allow us to make better decisions in groups, appropriately applying rationality to achieve the complex goals of the relevant communities. We begin by exploring the desiderata that optimal decison-making processes should fulfill.
- Addressing the Question: How should we use science to make better decisions?
- Wisdom of Crowds
- Herd Thinking
- Exemplary Quotes
- "We have to find a way to work with all the elements of this group in order to move forward together, even though we have different priorities."
- Cautionary Quotes: Mistakes, Misconceptions, & Misunderstandings
- "We can't discuss anything with those people; they just want to talk about values!"
- A. ATTITUDES
- Acknowledge the inevitability of arational elements like fears and internally conflicting desires as part of the human condition.
- Acknowledge the need for an effective decision-making scaffold to cope with the inevitable arational elements at play.
- Recognize that arational elements like fear and ambition are not just unfortunate, inherent parts of decision-making, but can be useful to motivate people to solve problems.
- Respect for value pluralism (multiple principles & preferences).
- Respect for the difficulty and importance of figuring out priorities in light of personal and group value conflicts, especially in heterogeneous groups.
- Optimism about the possibility of considering and compromising on conflicting values and other arational motivators in a principled way.
- B. CONCEPT ACQUISITION
- Desiderata for Decision Making Process: Aspects of an ideal decision-making process.
- e.g. not ignoring crucial facts about the world, fairness, good outcomes, buy-in from constituents, etc.
- Value: In the philosophical and psychology of judgment and decison-making literature, we use the term "value" to refer to all values, goals, preferences, fears, etc., not only high, principled values (as often in colloquial speech).
- Value Pluralism: People often have multiple legitimate values (including both high principles and minor personal preferences), which sometimes conflict (within individuals or within groups).
- When an individual has multiple conflicting values, they often try to avoid compromising either value by:
- a. Buck-passing: Getting someone else to make the decision, so one doesn't feel responsible for compromising one of their values.
- b. Belief Overkill: Denying the facts that lead to value conflict.
- E.g., the large majority of people who think the death penalty is morally wrong also believe it is not an effective deterrent, while those who think it is morally appropriate believe it is an effective deterrent. Someone who believed it was effective but immoral would be faced with an internal conflict between their desire to deter murderers and their dislike of the death penalty.
- c. Sacred Values: Some values, which are considered "sacred" or "protected," people say they will not compromise for anything. This is not usually followed through all the way.
- E.g., saving children's lives is often considered a sacred value, while saving money is not. However, essentially no one contributes all the money they could to institutions which save children's lives and could save more lives with more money.
- d. Tragic Trade-offs: Sometimes a trade-off must be made between two sacred values, which makes for a tragic trade-off.
- E.g., deciding which of two children will receive a single life-saving organ needed by both to survive is a tragic trade-off.
- The value conflicts that arise from multiple values make people uncomfortable, but they are inevitable and coping with such conflicts requires compromise.
- C. CONCEPT APPLICATION
- Distinguish between technical, more inclusive use of "value" vs. narrower, colloquial sense of "value," and use appropriately.
- Identify multiple relevant values for individuals, for particular problems of what to do.
- Identify multiple relevant values for groups, for particular problems of what to do.
- Identify when value trade-offs are necessary, and when they can be minimized.
- Identify one's own fears, personal desires, and ambitions which come into play in a given group decision.
- Identify the fears, personal desires, and ambitions of others which come into play in a given group decision.
- Suggested Readings & Reading Questions
- Clicker Questions
- Discussion Questions
- Think about the last time you were tempted to go do something fun with your friends when you had work to do. How did you cope with this value conflict between having fun with friends/developing friendships and getting your work done/learning/doing well in school? How do you usually cope with that conflict? Is there any way to fulfill both goals more completely? Will there always be a conflict between them (at times)?
- Suppose you are the principal of a new charter school. You have a finite amount of money. Students and teachers want smaller classes. Teachers want better pay and benefits, and classroom equipment. Students want gym equipment, lockers, art and drama classes, and a track field. How do you go about prioritizing goals when your resources are limited and different stakeholders want different things?
- Class Exercises
- Homework Questions
- List your top five values (for society).
- What is one issue for which two or more of your top values might conflict? How do you cope with this value conflict? Do you have any beliefs about facts which allow you to avoid value conflict? If so, how sure are you that those beliefs are true?
- Consider [X complicated decision relevant to class, in our case, the decisions for which students were about to design decision processes in small groups]. In 1-2 sentences, state why this decision is important. Then list 5 desiderata (desirable features) that you would like to be captured in a process for making this decision. Use the course topics for inspiration. For example, what desideratum could help one address systematic/statistical uncertainty in the decision making process?