I’ve been hearing quite a bit lately about the paralyzing effects of having too many choices. I hear it most frequently in the context of students choosing majors, but it also applies on a lesser scale, perhaps, to the grocery store cereal aisle, long distance carriers (do people still do that?), and cable TV channels (again, do people still do that?).
The idea is that the human brain cannot adequately process the complexities created by a surfeit of choices. That’s why in our very diverse society we tend to keep things simple: Republican/Democrat; Coke/Pepsi; Boxers/Briefs. The reality is usually much more interesting and complex. But interesting and complex don’t really sell very well, so… keep things simple.
I like choices. I like complexity. It may be my buddha-nature shining through. My allergy to artificial choice reduction. Buddhists call it non-duality.
I most recently embraced my love for choices while eating dinner at Firehouse Subs. Last Saturday, I had dinner at Firehouse. They’ve got a brand new, shiny soda fountain that features a touch screen with your basic drink options and then a sub-menu to put a different flavor twist on each of these main options. First you select Coke and then you decide if you want regular Coke, cherry Coke, orange Coke, vanilla Coke, etc, etc.
I flipped out. This is, of course, the 21st century soda fountain. The soda fountain was an institution my generation pretty much entirely missed out on. Sonic tries to give you the same experience but it isn’t really the same.
What a lovely machine to offer so many ridiculous options and subtle variations. You could visit something like 120 times and never experience the same drink twice. Fascinating.
Of course, my wife thinks I just like to touch buttons on screens. She may be right. It was almost an iOS soft drink experience.
In case you are wondering, I started with vanilla, cherry Coke and then refilled with raspberry Coke. Both terrific. Only 118 more flavors to go.
I like choices. Let’s keep choices, please.