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How We Decide Where to Go (nautil.us)
50 points by dnetesn 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments





For everyone else who may be similarly confused as I, due to associating this with Golang or the direction of a startup: take this title literally.

Subtitle is "Neuroscientists discover a mechanism for brain-wide communication when selecting a route toward a destination."


My own prefrontal-thalamo-hippocampal circuit is so fucked up. I think modern technology has actually fucked it up really badly with nav systems.

I used to carefully think through where I would drive (like 10 years ago) because if I started driving I wouldn't know where the heck to turn, etc.. I had to actually pre-map things out with a map or printed google map directions. You know that step-by-step print out they used to provide (maybe they still do?)

In any case, it's gotten really bad. I start driving - like totally cavalier like I know what the fuck I'm doing now. I have no clue half the time what my destination is. But I know within seconds I can get my phone routed somewhere by saying "Navigate to starbucks".

Problem is, like many other things that comes with driving, I get extremely frustrated when my cell signal is too weak to communicate to Google. It actually drives me bonkers. My wife is always telling me to route before I start driving. 99/100 times I will ignore that sage advice and get frustrated instead. So yeah, I really need to exercise my "prefrontal-thalamo-hippocampal" in like a Yoga class or something.


To think how we used to work out detailed instructions from maps oriented north to get to where we need to go and now these apps are flipping orientation around and I have no idea which direction to go - driving while hunting for the setting to north. Uber has twice convinced me to cross busy streets erroneously and then I have to jaywalk thru traffic to get back.

Remember the first time as a kid when you'd been driven everywhere and you're told to walk to school the first time? Unless you'd been paying attention at 8 or 9, you had no idea how to get there.

I can't imagine what life would be like if I hadn't visited most metropolitan areas before the smartphone.


Now I'm reminiscing about driving with printed out MapQuest directions on the passenger seat. Now I use my phone to make sure I'm taking the fastest route even when I know the way.

I no longer get panicked phone calls from my wife where she's lost and needs me to get her going in the right direction, even though she doesn't know where she is. I'm OK with this new reality.

You might want to enable offline storage for your route/map, in which case you don't care about cell signal :)

It wasn’t mentioned in the article, but I’ve always been curious if the paradox of choice / cognitive load of making decisions apply to choosing routes as well. In other words, does going to the same location (typically an office) via the exact same route at the exact same time daily reduce cognitive load? Does it have an effect at all?

As a remote worker, I’ve often wondered if I’d be more productive and able to “think more deeply” if I just went to the same coffee shop every morning at the exact same time, rather than stop and decide where to go.

Strictly adhering to a specific route seems to have worked for Kant. [1]

1. https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/1963-immanuel-kant-the-errr...


I think you're making an implicit assumption: your brain's cognitive load is capped singularly. This may not be the case; we may have separate, independent caps for personal decision-making and work-related problem solving. If you choose to go to the same coffee shop every day, you may just be increasing your capacity to make more personal decisions but not really affecting your work.

”we may have separate, independent caps for personal decision-making and work-related problem solving.”

That seems highly unlikely to me. Evolution isn’t fast enough to have evolved separate systems in the time since we first started separating “personal” from “work” (at best a few thousand years, more likely at most a few centuries ago in my layman’s estimate)


I remember here in a discussion about user interface design, someone mentioned the idea of willpower being akin to (or specifically not akin to) a resource. I just searched "willpower resource design" and find a few resources discussing that.

"Attention units."



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