Can life be reduced to binary choices?

I've been thinking: computers can do an increasing amount of amazing things. AI is moving forward, simulation, VR, you name it.

At the lowest level (discounting quantum computers), everything in a computer is represented by I or O, on or off, 1 or 0.

Do you think the choices we face in life can be reduced to binary choices in the same way? Like: yes or no, do or don't, etc?

  • Yes
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  • No
    Vote B
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Most Helpful Guy

  • Well, what is your favorite color? Is that a binary choice?

    I guess you could do a "binary seach" of sorts across the spectrum of hues until you arrive at your favorite, but that is many, many, many choices to get to a final choice so that doesn't seem to qualify.

    • I like the example. But I would argue that the number of choices is unimportant.

      But maybe more so for computers because they can make so many calculations per second. For human beings, reality might have changed significantly in the time it took to do the binary search, so good point! :)

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    • I don't know. I though the whole point of uncertainty was that when you try to measure one thing, you lose track of the other, so you can never win.

    • Thanks for MHO! Everything has a cause and effect perhaps. The issue would be accounting for all variables which is a staggering amount of information. But if it can be done, do you then have free will or is everthing related. Certainly in the physical world in the universe everything is related. But what about my thoughts and choices or yours? Interesting thoughts. Perhaps we don't have to wait so long to find out if there is an afterlife. Take care.

Have an opinion?

What Girls Said 1

  • Yes, everything can be simplified if you break it down enough, right?

    • I hope so :) Thanks for answering!

    • You're welcome! :)
      Really, I think you're on to something. Life is all about the simple little choices we make every second which add up to greater consequences, weather those consequnces are good are bad depends on our choices (obviously).

    • Thanks, and yeah, that is true :) My only doubt is the whole quantum thing. It must be nice being a physicist who has a grasp of these things.

What Guys Said 5

  • Binary is a way of representing data and information in a simple manner that could be understood at the computer level. However, binary is not meaningful on its own. You could for example have an entire language with only three letters in its alphabet, but that would make things much more complicated and extremely inefficient on a day-to-day use. The computer runs basic calculations (transformations) of 0's & 1's, but it, in no way, is able to translate those binary digits into meaningful data without engineering or programming (ex. finite sate machines). Having a 2-bits system would allow us to have four different possibilities at any given time (i. e. 00,01,10, and 11) what those possibilities stand for or mean is entirely up to the programmer.

    Binary, or the language of coins, is merely a language that utilizes the natural elements of Earth to facilitate life for humans. Wires use electricity, where a zero is often represented by the occurrence of a negative potential difference, and a one occurs at a positive PD. Optic fiber is a medium that transmits light and therefore, a zero is represented by the absence of light and a one is represented by its presence.

    • I agree that it is impractical.

      On the other hand, a lot of people these days struggle with ambivalence, choice overload and decision fatigue.

    • True, but irrelevant. All I was trying to explain is that computer language is not entirely dependent on 0's and 1's, or yes and no questions. Binary is used to represent information through a stream of bits. For instance, the stream 01010111010 could have virtually any meaning, depending on how the computing device was programmed to interpret it.

      Forgive my stupidity, but I cannot quite understand what is meant by your question.

    • Maybe my computer analogy was just bad.

  • It could, except for the fact that people have emotions and feelings. Because of this that binary system wouldn't work for everything. For instance, it's logical not to try and save a dog from a potentially dangerous situation. A computer which would use purely logical reasoning would conclude its obvious not to risk it's life for a dog. but what if as a human, that dog was your best friend and had been with you your whole life? Because of this, you don't want to posibly die, but your emotions for that dog make you become irrational. You have two answers in your head, the logically binary solution and the emotionally binary solution. Each solution is different but equally important to you, each as powerful as the other. At that point it's a stand still, and those binary solutions become utterly meaningless.

    • Also then what about the question is there even a need for a solution. Humans exist on a spec of dust out in the immense expanses of space. With absolutely no control over the laws of how things work and interact. People can use these laws but can't bend them, we are at the whim of those laws. Because of all these things you could say our lives are completely meaningless. Because even if you disagree with that, it doesn't matter because your opinion is also utterly meaningless. So if that were to be true, those binary solutions would be pointless.

    • I agree, and it's a good point. But doesn't the binary choice then become: emotions or reason?

      Regarding the second point, you can create a robot that runs mazes, and has no power over how that maze is constructed, and where the whole exercise is essentially meaningless. But the robot could still navigate that maze by means of an algorithm.

  • You have two choices: fuck a girl who's passed out drunk, or draw the most humiliating stuff on her. Which do you choose?

    I choose to fucking walk away.

    • That choice could be reduced to: be an asshole, or be a decent human being.

    • All right, fair enough. Here's another choice presented by terrorists: kill 30 hostages and save yourself and your wife and kids. Kill yourself and save every one else. Or kill your wife and kids so that the 30 innocent people can live.

    • I think the reason why a choice like that is difficult is that it is hypothetical for most people, and terrible, and therefore we haven't developed a standard algorithm for processing it.

      But if forced, everyone would end up making the choice anyway. Probably according to personal values.

  • well maybe in some situations, but in most general situations there may be too many factors that could effect the whole outcome at times so I think no in my opinion : )

    • I agree that it is not really practical, what with the complexity of the world. But since computers can do it with an increasing number of tasks, I wonder whether it is hypothetically possible. Or indeed the only possibility.

    • I guess you could if you came up with a mathematical formula of some kind perhaps maybe? : )

    • Yeah, like we already do it to an extent, just by using computers as an extension of ourselves. Or when you flip a coin.

      I actually read that people who invested in random stocks following a fixed system did better than people who chose the stocks themselves. So that begs the question of whether some of us would be better off just flipping a coin every time we have a decision to make...

  • I don't think so, no

    • Okay, thanks for answering :)

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    • elaborate a bit
      I don't get your last phrase lol
      what do you mean when you say isn't it possible to take each of those parameters and weigh it in relation to the rest?

    • I mean like a league where all teams play each other, and are ranked according to results.