This thread concerns the costs and benefits of thinking and non-thinking. Economically, it seems sensible for people to think more if one can demonstrate that the cost of not thinking is fantastically high, while the cost of thinking is considerably low. As such, one would be able to demonstrate that it is in one's rational self-interest to think. The trouble is, paradoxically, that in order to have thinking carefully considered this way one would have to think first, which may or may not be the case.

Moreover, the line between the true costs of thinking and not thinking may be blurred for other reasons. For instance, a soldier on the battlefield may pay the ultimate cost (loss of his life) in both situations where he overthinks or forgets to think. In the first case, contemplation of myriad contingencies in a situation constrained by time can lead to irresolution, the kind of irresolution that prevents action. Inevitably, this leads to an idle position, the kind of idle position that can (and often does) make a soldier more vulnerable to attack. If the contemplative soldier is attacked and killed, then we can establish that the cost of thinking exceeded the gains of thinking. Thus, the extent to which he thought was non-rational, and less thinking is to be preferred. Alternatively, we can conclude that the soldier was not thinking in the right way, since optimal thinking would have factored in time into its calculations and generated a timely and applicable solution that could have preserved his life, all things considered. In the second case, thoughtlessness--careless blunders so to speak--can also cost lives. It could be a blunder made on a battlefield or a thoughtless impulse to check one's self out in the mirror while one is driving but without looking first, which leads to an accident, and the loss of one's life. One could then make the case that if the solder had a little more of the hunter's instinct on the battlefield, and if the barbie checking herself in the mirror thought just a little, each would have been better off.

Yet, if we allow for the consideration outlined above, that the type of thinking is important (and the soldier who dies because of over-thinking is really a soldier who is thinking incorrectly under those conditions) then we discover that on balance thinking is to be preferred to thoughtlessness. The utility of such a preference is contained in the following matrix:

Benefits: Discovery (ex: gravity), happiness (either from contemplation itself or from thoughts that are a corridor to happiness), thoughtfulness (ex: calling Mother on Mother's Day), understanding/clarification/internal organization/efficiency, identity-related, etc.

Costs: Under certain conditions, feeling can be a cost. For instance, if one is following the letter rather than the spirit of another human and only giving their words the exact meaning (irrespective of tone, dynamics, accents, emotion, and so forth) then one foregoes the feeling side of communication. They will rationalize and think through jokes that were designed for emotional appeal. In short, under certain conditions where highly dispassionate thinking occurs where the cerebrum is fully employed and void of most, if not all, emotion, an argument can be made that the opportunity cost of such thinking is foregoing feeling.

Benefits: Non-responsibility as compared to thinking counterparts. The reason is that one cannot hold one's self responsible for something that was never thought about, because to acquire a sense of responsibility would require one to think first and thinking is not thoughtlessness. It follows, therefore, that where thought is absent so is a sense of responsiblity that might otherwise be present. Second, if the foregoing of feeling can be a cost of thinking, then feeling can be a benefit of thoughtlessness. If one is always acting in tune with one's feelings and impulses, rather than following the dictates of critical thought and reason, then one might be able to reap certain short-term benefits of utility. (Note: here I use the term 'short-term', which is to be sharply distinguished with 'long-term.' The distinction is particularly critical. For instance, in chess if one is only looking one move ahead then the best move can be much different than if one is looking 10 or 15 moves ahead. Indeed, it could be the case that the best move if one is only looking one move ahead is a catestrophy 5 moves down the line. Thus, we can establish that a short-term and short-sighted move was not in the chess player's long-term rational self-interest).

Costs: The costs of thoughtlessness are the highest of all. I guess the most obvious example is war after war after war, where people were led to do the bidding for their leaders, and which gave them tiny or no benefits while costing them torn apart families, plundered resources, lives taken, and so forth. This is often for a policy that soldiers know nothing about, do not think about, and therefore cannot be responsible for. They are merely instrumental, acting out the thoughts of their authorities, but with no capacity to evaluate it. On the other hand, if a soldier does have a capacity for thought, understands the minimal level of responsibility for what he knows, and has the capacity to evaluate the authority figure's ideas on policy, then he faces a different set of costs and benefits depending on how he acts on the information. But such an analysis under these conditions is beyond the scope of this post.

Given the possibilities and given that rational choice theory requires that one choose the most utility-maximizing option among the competing alternatives, it follows that the rational thinker, by definition, being motivated by the discovery of truths and the attainment of utility ought to adopt a preference for thinking, all things considered. Still more, by David Ricardo's law of comparative advantage, gains are made from trading between unidentical economies (if economies are identical, there is no reason to trade). Similarly, the rational thinker already has an advantage in thinking and therefore will be able to cash in on that specialization at a considerably higher rate of return than if the thinker foregoes thinking for thoughtlessness.