Sunday, August 23, 2009

Garth Brooks: A Celebration of Risk Preferences?

(from The Dance)
And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance

Unfortunately, no good youtube video to accompany this but I'm sure everyone remembers it. Though it should be born in mind that Garth Brooks is expressing these sentiments after the fact. Had he been offered the chance to reduce uncertainty prior to the event, most models would predict that he would have chosen to do so. Having said that, if he was given the knowledge in advance but not the means to change the outcome, then he may have been better off not knowing. Also, if he was told it would turn out badly he would need to have at least some sense that other courses of action wouldn't turn out worse. He may also be simply telling us that the intensity of his preferences for the benefits derived from the early part of the sequence were so strong that even though the end was bad, the overall sum of benefits were higher than for alternative courses of action. Listening to the song here in the background though, I sense that he might also be telling us that an element of risk actually makes things feel better than simply taking the safe option.

Looking at it slightly more deeply, he is telling us that he is glad he didn't know the outcome because he wouldn't have chosen the initial course of action, and thus he would not have experienced the good part at the start. This is trickier and not something he should sing if he is a rational actor. See Shane Frederick's excellent lecture that explains these types of preferences using the philosophy of identity and choice developed by Derek Parfit.

Though let me stop now lest I risk killing a great song!

1 comment:

Martin Ryan said...

Ah, good old GARCH Brooks...