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Satisficing

Interesting idea (and Herbert Simon is an interesting man):

Herbert Simon was a remarkably fertile thinker in the social and "artificial" sciences (The Sciences of the Artificial - 3rd Edition (1969, first edition)). His most celebrated idea was the notion of "satisficing" rather than "optimizing" or "maximizing" in decision-making; he put forward a theory of ordinary decision-making that conformed more closely to the ways that actual people reason rather than the heroic abstractions of expected utility theory.

Essentially the concept of satisficing takes the cost of collecting additional information into account as a decision maker searches for a solution to a problem -- where to eat for dinner, which university to attend, which product to emphasize in a company's short-term strategy. And the theory commends the idea that we are best served overall by accepting the "good-enough" solution rather than searching indefinitely for the best solution. Rather than attempting to inventory all possible choices available at a given point in time and assigning them utilities and probabilities, the satisficing theory recommends setting parameters for a problem of choice, and then selecting the first solution that comes along that satisfies these parameters. It means searching for a solution that is "good enough" rather than optimal.

And why not go for the optimal solution? Because the cost of collecting the additional information associated with a broader choice set may well exceed the total benefit of the current decision. This is obvious in the case of the decision of which restaurant to go to; slightly less obvious in the case of the decision of which university to attend; and perhaps flatly unpersuasive in the case of decisions where the outcome can influence life and death.

Rents on information, of course -- as we see in the extreme in E right now, but all the time -- increase the cost, and hence decrease reach of information gathering, and hence increase "satisficing" behavior. What is "good enough"? Like so many social scientists, Simon leaves power relations out of the equation.