notes / kortina.nyc

Kortina // Enabling Individual Actors by Making the Behavior of Other Group Members More Predictable

Hints of information theory in The Road to Serfdom and The Philosophical Baby, two of the best books I have read this year.

The basic idea is that rules make the behavior of other actors within a group or society more legible / predictable to all participants, thereby reducing uncertainty and enabling everyone to act more confidently.

**Hayek in **The Road to Serfdom

The state should confine itself to establishing rules applying to general types of situations and should allow the individuals freedom in everything which depends on the circumstances of time and place, because only the individuals concerned in each instance can fully know these circumstances and adapt their actions to them. If the individuals are to be able to use their knowledge effectively in making plans, they must be able to predict actions of the state which may affect these plans. But if the actions of the state are to be predictable, they must be determined by rules fixed independently of the concrete circumstances which can be neither foreseen nor taken into account beforehand: and the particular effects of such actions will be unpredictable. If, on the other hand, the state were to direct the individual’s actions so as to achieve particular ends, its action would have to be decided on the basis of the full circumstances of the moment and would therefore be unpredictable. Hence the familiar fact that the more the state “plans,” the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.

**Gopnik in **The Philosophical Baby

Normative reasoning depends on rules. Making choices is hard — it means weighing all the complex information about what we want and what might happen and then making a single decision. Following rules makes that decision-making process much easier. It also lets me coordinate my decisions right now with my past and future decisions. Instead of calculating each time whether the benefit of doing my exercises outweighs the pleasure of Web surfing on the couch, I have a rule — it’s yoga every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and I don’t get dressed until I’m done. Rules also let us coordinate our own decisions with the decisions of other people. When all of us follow the same rule, I can predict how you will make choices and coordinate your choices with mine.