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Latest revision as of 23:05, 16 October 2016

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1800 xkcd comics, and only 28 (2%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

[edit] Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Decision Paralysis
Good point--making no decision is itself a decision. So that's a THIRD option I have to research!
Title text: Good point--making no decision is itself a decision. So that's a THIRD option I have to research!

[edit] Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Please change this comment when editing this page and not remove it too fast.

This comic illustrates a common problem in the internet era, where, with the wealth of knowledge available to us at all times, one puts undue weight on otherwise arbitrary decisions. This is taken to a comedic extreme by showing how cueball is unable to make a critical, time sensitive choice without putting hours of research in to justify it, at which point any benefit to researching his imminent decision of "which car will get me to my destination fastest" will both be offset by the time it takes to make that decision, and wholly worthless, as the bomb mentioned by Megan will likely have detonated. The title text continues this absurdity by bringing a third option to the table, the choice of inaction, a choice here that seems unacceptable, but the time spent mentioning (and researching it) simply adds to that already spent researching the two cars.

See also 1445: Efficiency, which describes this exact situation. Comics 309: Shopping Teams and 356: Nerd Sniping also portray similar situations.

Although presented as joke, this is a very real problem in electronics design. Buridan’s principle by none other than Leslie Lamport states[1]:

A discrete decision based upon an input having a continuous range of values cannot be made within a bounded length of time.
  1. Leslie Lamport. Buridan’s Principle

The problem of choosing between cars with different accelerations and top speeds is the center of the car customization mechanic introduced in the seventh installment of the Mario Kart series.

[edit] Transcript

[Megan and Cueball are standing next to two similar cars. Cueball holds his smartphone in his hand. Megan points excitedly at the cars.]

Megan: There! If we steal one of those cars, we can get to the base and defuse the bomb!

Cueball: Hmm, the one on the left accelerates faster but has a lower top speed.

[Obviously still checking his research results]

Ooh, the right one has good traction control. Are the roads wet?

[caption below the frame]

Protip: If you ever need to defeat me, just give me two very similar options and unlimited internet access.


Is this out of date? Clicking here will fix that.

[edit] New here?

Last 7 days (Top 10)

Lots of people contribute to make this wiki a success. Many of the recent contributors, listed above, have just joined. You can do it too! Create your account here.

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • There are incomplete explanations listed here. Feel free to help out by expanding them!
  • We sell advertising space to pay for our server costs. To learn more, go here.

[edit] Rules

Don't be a jerk.

There are a lot of comics that don't have set-in-stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to (and helping everyone better understand) xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited). Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

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