Grand Theft Auto, Scottish Independence and Heat

15 Sep

It might seem strange to link Grand Theft Auto 4 and the referendum for Scottish independence but there is a decision making link-

During one of the many storyline scenes in GTA 4, the crew (a team of professional criminals) are planning their big heist, worth millions. Crime, of course, does not come without a price, and unlike most decisions to make money the worst case scenario is laid out in sharp relief- failure leads to a life in prison. The crew are forced to consider, and plan for, the worst case scenario. One member of the crew asks another whether they are going to be able to stand the “heat”, the aftermath, the getaway, the police investigation. In other words, we’ve got a pretty good idea of how bad things are going to get, so the question is- have you got the resilience and the resources to handle the heat that’s going to be coming your way?

Decision making can be fraught with so many errors- confirmation bias, affective forecasting, competitor neglect, fixation among others. All these serve to narrow the frame, to see what you want to see, whilst blinding you to potential consequences of action. The crew of GTA 4, operating in a fictional representation of high risk/high reward crime are forced into prospective hindsight thinking- imagine everything has gone wrong, why has this happened? As a study of decision making it’s fascinating, the domain forces the crew to consider risks and consequences on a level of detail most businesses would come nowhere near. It’s got something to do with Taleb’s (2012) skin in the game heuristic, the crew will be personally, and completely, affected by their actions, so they think think these things
through. In certain forms of business there is very little skin in the game, accountability can be fuzzy at best, and this can lead to wild (and sometimes criminal) gambling at other peoples expense.

So what does this have to do with the Scottish referendum? It comes down to this, if the yes vote wins, is everyone prepared for the heat? I have no idea what will happen to an independent Scotland, but there is going to be heat, maybe for a couple of generations. If everyone who is voting yes has a pretty good idea what that heat will feel like, and is confident that they have the resources to deal with it, perhaps even for a lifetime, then it’s a well made choice. Most of the time this is what decision making comes down to, getting as much information on the heat as you can and then assessing your physical, emotional, financial resources to see if you can deal with it.

Leaders of all types have an obligation to let those who will be influenced by their agendas and decisions to know what the heat will be like because sometimes no matter what happens, the leaders will be sitting just fine while the pain, and the heat, is felt a long way down the line.

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