Using the Wrong Tools to Make Decisions (A Math Thought)

I saw this movie a few days ago and immediately thought we could put together a nice teaching moment using this scene from “No Country For Old Men”.

The characters are Carla Jean (Kelly MacDonald) and Chigurh (Javier Bardem).  Carla Jean is the wife of one of the main characters.  Chigurh is a killer who lives by a code. Obviously, Chigurh’s code is twisted but it is a code of ethics.

Chigurh is going to kill Carla Jean.  Eventually, he pulls out a coin and flips the coin.  Chigurh is offering Carla Jean a chance to live.   Chigurh is thinking he is offering Carla Jean a fifty percent chance of living and that the moment will be determined by chance.

“Call it”, he says.

Carla Jean properly responds to Chigurh’s request.  This moment is not a moment of chance.  It is a moment of choice and the choice is Chigurh’s to make. This moment is not a moment for statistics or random or machines.  This is an organic human moment for thinking values.  Chigurh can choose a different fate for Carla Jean by choosing not to murder her.

The coin toss is an incorrect tool to use when making human agreements where one can control the outcome.

By the way, the next scene is a moment of chance.  It is not shown on the video and creates a nice bookend to distinguish what is random and what is human designed.


About Christopher Hessenflow

Christopher Hessenflow is a financial planner in the Chicago area. He works with all sorts of people who are much more interesting than he is. He enjoys his career which lends him time to think and, sometimes, be creative. Chip was born bald.
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