You can choose a ready guide, In some celestial voice, If you choose not to decide, You still have made a choice 🇨🇦🤘

A reader sent me this. From my inbox to your comments: An excerpt from David Stark’s “The Sense of Dissonance”:

Each evening during their hunting season, the Naskapi Indians of the Labrador peninsula determined where they would look for game on the next day’s hunt by holding a caribou shoulder bone over the fire. Examining the smoke deposits on the caribou bone, a shaman would read out, for the hunting party, the points of orientation of the next day’s search. In this way, the Naskapi introduced a randomizing element to confound a short- term rationality that would have concluded that the one best way to find game would be to look again tomorrow where they had found game today. By following the divergent daily maps of smoke on the caribou bone, they avoided locking in to early successes that, while taking them to game in the short run, would have depleted in the long run the caribou stock in that quadrant and reduced the likelihood of successful hunting. By breaking the link between future courses and past successes, the tradition of shoulder- bone reading was an antidote to path dependence in the hunt.

I am not arguing that we should organize search with a roll of the dice. Nonetheless, the lesson from Labrador does nicely express one group’s attempt to deal with the counterpart, in that region’s ecology, to the nonergonomic QWERTY keyboard. Indeed, studies in evolutionary economics and organizational analysis do suggest that organizations that learn too quickly sacrifice efficiency. Allen and McGlade, for example, use the behavior of Nova Scotia fishermen to illustrate the possible trade-offs of exploiting old certainties and exploring new possibilities. Their model of these fishing fleets divides the fishermen into two classes: the rationalist “Cartesians,” who drop their nets only where the fish are known to be biting, and the risk-taking “Stochasts,” who seek new schools of fish. In simulations where all the skippers are Stochasts, the fleet is relatively un- productive, because knowledge of where the fish are biting is unutilized; but a purely Cartesian fleet locks onto the “most likely” spot and quickly fishes it out. More efficient are the models that, like the actual behavior of the Nova Scotia fishing fleets, mix Cartesian exploiters and Stochastic explorers.

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