Precision economy

When you program computers, you are often dealing with questions of economy. Much of it comes down to how precise you want things to be.

In computer graphics you can squeeze a red, green or blue color value into a very small space, but for the x,y, or z coordinates that describe where something is located, you need a much larger space.

It occurs to me that this is a kind of metaphor for things we deal with in everyday life. We need some things to be very precise, but other things can stay sort of fuzzy.

If you want to pick up and use a knife or fork, you had better know exactly where it is. But you don’t need to know exactly how much money you have in your bank account, unless funds are very very tight.

We only have some much attention to pay to things, so we generally keep a lot of things fuzzy in our minds, reserving precision for just a few things that need to be absolutely correct.

In a way, we are constantly negotiating a kind of precision economy. Because our time and attention is limited, there is only so much precision to go around. A precision economy is the inevitable result of an attention economy.

People tend to be very good at this without even thinking about it. After all, if we thought about it too much, that would not be an economical use of our limited attention budget. 😉

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