Less is more

I was lucky enough to have some time to kill this past weekend.  I was in the mood for a comedy, so I turned to NetFlix and Amazon Prime.

Online on-demand video services are the Pantheon of small screen entertainment, housing tens of thousands of options.  Television show or movie?  What kind of comedy?  Romantic comedy, regular comedy, serious movies with comedic moments, comedies with a political message, sitcoms, sitcoms all about hooking up, sitcoms about absolutely nothing, comedies about being a doctor.  The list goes on.

The decision was difficult to make as I simply kept scrolling down to see the next page of choices – why settle for the second best choice you could find when the first might be on the next page?

Finally, I got frustrated and ended up turning on the TV and surfed between The Godfather, Harry Potter, and Chopped – none of which were comedies but did the trick of providing thinking-optional entertainment.

I knew the choice is almost trivial. In fact, I was fully aware that making the choice was creating unnecessary frustration relative to the marginal “better experience” it would create.  I knew what mattered was not the precise category, or the cast, or even the type of show/movie.  But there is something about having all these choices that made the decision difficult to make.

Yes, choosing a TV show is a trivial, first-world problem, but that is precisely the point.  We now live in a country where almost every decision is complicated not by the lack but by the abundance of choices.  We are taught to decide by placing these choices side by side and pick the better one.  Although logical, this approach sometimes leads to unnecessary agony as the mental angst in differentiating outweighs the marginal improvement that the better choice provides.

Sometimes we might be better off not having thousands of choices to choose from and just going with whatever happens to work.  Just turn on the TV, watch whatever happens to be on, and chill out.

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Howard Chen
Vice Chair for Artificial Intelligence at Cleveland Clinic Diagnostics Institute
Howard is passionate about making diagnostic tests more accurate, expedient, and affordable through disciplined implementation of advanced technology. He previously served as Chief Informatics Officer for Imaging, where he led teams deploying and unifying radiology applications and AI in a multi-state, multi-hospital environment. Blog opinions are his own and in no way reflect those of the employer.

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