'Attempt #158: I’ve finally mastered the tungsten carbide battle axe. I can rip through a Mimic’s endoskeleton with a flick of the wrist.'
'Learning what would get you killed and how to get your enemy killed— the only way to know a thing like that is to do it.'
- Hiroshi Sakurazaka, All You Need is Kill.
The movie Edge of Tomorrow is based on the Hiroshi Sakurazaka book.
'Attempt #158' refers to the 158th time that the main character Keiji Kiriya or Major William Cage in the movie, is fighting a battle against the 'Mimics' - alien invaders.
Major Cage is a slick public relations officer, a natural with the the PR patter, but with no combat experience. He finds himself on the front line where he is infected by a substance from one of the aliens when he's mortally wounded. It 'resets' him back to the beginning of the day of battle each time he's killed.
Each time he's reset, Major Cage has to relive the day from the beginning, although with the benefit of knowing what is going to happen. He uses this information to anticipate and evade the source of his death last time. He lives a little longer with each 'reset' - until a new threat happens and he dies - and is reset back to the morning of the battle.
Far from making life easier for Major Cage, his advanced knowledge of what lies ahead makes it harder. With each new life, he spends hours reviewing, training, planning, strategising and finally applying his growing skills to advance him a few seconds further in his quest to defeat the aliens, only to begin all over again.
The more that he learns, the harder he has to work at thinking and acting. The harder he works, the greater his exposure to new information about his battlefield surroundings and new ways to die. He inches his advance towards the alien control centre, and is challenged by more information that he has to incorporate into his understanding of his environment to be able to survive a few seconds more.
A good decision is one that advances us towards where we want to be.
Good decision making is a deliberate process of inquiry that advances us towards where we want to be.
A good decision teaches us about where we are in relation to where we want to be.
We incorporate that new understanding into our next decision, and so on.
We have three reference points - constants amidst the uncontrollable chaos:
- Where we are
- Where we want to be
- Our process.
The first obstacle to good decision making is if we don't know where we want to be - our Widget.
The second obstacle is that we don't have a fixed process into which we can plug each variable - new information.
The third obstacle to good decision making is that it's hard work.
The more good decisions that we make - the more we learn - the more we learn, the more we have to incorporate that learning and apply it. Repeat. Forever.
Each decision exposes us to new information and therefore to the shame of ignorance.
It resets us back to where we began.
Our truth is dead, or at least discarded in the same pile as other people's opinions.
Either way, it hurts.
Kahlil Gibran described pain as the breaking of our shell of understanding.
Good decision making is painful.