a16z Podcast: Seeing into the Future — Making Decisions, Telling Stories

There’s a lot of research and writing out there on “thinking fast” — the short-term, gut, instinctual decisions we make, biases we have, and heuristics we use — but what about for “thinking slow” — the long-term decisions we make that both take longer to deliberate and have longer spans of impact on our lives… and the world? Because we’re not only talking about decisions like who to marry (or whether to move) here; we’re also talking about decisions that impact future generations in ways we as a species never considered (or could consider) before.

But… why bother, if these decisions are so complex, with competing value systems, countless interacting variables, and unforeseeable second- and third-order effects? We can’t predict the future, so why try? Well, while there’s no crystal ball that allows you to see clearly into the future, we can certainly try to ensure better outcomes than merely flipping a coin, argues author Steven B. Johnson in his new book, Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter Most.

Especially because the hardest choices are the most consequential, he observes, yet we know so little about how to get them right. So in this episode of the a16z Podcast, Johnson shares with a16z crypto general partner Chris Dixon and a16z’s Sonal Chokshi specific strategies — beyond good old-fashioned pro/con lists and post-mortems — for modeling the deliberative tactics of expert decision-makers (and not just oil-company scenario planners, but also storytellers). The decisions we’re talking about here aren’t just about individual lives and businesses — whether launching a new product feature or deciding where to innovate next — they’re also about even bigger and bolder things like how to fix the internet, or what message to send aliens with outcomes spanning centuries far into the future. But that’s where the power of story comes in again.

 

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