Three Option Theory: Deconditioning Duopoly
Always imagine three options before acting.
Three option theory is a single sentence to help expand imagination in times of need. Always imagine three options before acting. It’s not a practice for every task, just the ones that require it. Concise and straightforward, it can reveal hidden truths—if you can remember to use it.
At any given moment, there are more options available than we understand. Some may be unconventional, going against traditional understanding and knowledge. Others hidden in plain sight. Few will be ideal, and many will disappoint, but they exist. The defining factor of universal humanity is our ability to transcend circumstances. We would benefit significantly by infusing this knowledge in the hearts and minds of our people.
Many of us already practice it in our personal lives. When faced with two bad options, it’s not uncommon to work at developing a third. The fourth, fifth, and sixth alternatives all follow the three option theory as well. We practice compromise with our friends, partners, and co-workers—looking for situations that create the maximum benefit for all parties involved.
So why is that our social and legal organization doesn’t subscribe to the same model? Through our interactions with social arrangements, we all experience situations that offer no alternatives where options exist. It’s no accident. These institutions come in many forms. They primarily function to self-preserve—ensuring those at the top of the pyramid remain. Surrounded by crisis, Americans must question the very nature of the reality we convince ourselves to believe.
Option limitation is a common practice throughout global society. We find it deeply embedded in our institutional structures, which in turn, influence our personal choices and behavior. For much of our history as a species, social organization stemmed from rigid hierarchies built on generations of conquest and aggression. Today open access to technologies and information rapidly influences our shared understanding of the inherent flaws of these models.
We have a nearly endless supply of social structures that we could criticize for their rigidity. Our interactions, both with and within them, shape our perceptions of the universe. They are influencing how we navigate life in all directions—barriers binding thought to times far gone.
If we limit our ability to imagine, we unwittingly deny our transformative potential. Our challenge of overcoming duopolistic thinking is difficult because we’ve been training ourselves for centuries. It explains why so many are so hesitant to progress despite our institutions’ inadequate performance when facing our present needs. We can explore a few options to illustrate the argument better.
We have a federal government that can reach impasses with no resolution. When the two political parties cannot agree on a bill, there are only two options, rewrite the proposals and try again or table the measure and move on. The result is a stagnating government, where politicians stall change to the detriment of our people. Most frustratingly, this is precisely how it was designed to be. As Michael Klarman argues in The Framers Coup, the purpose of the Constitution was “to constrain the influence of public opinion upon government.” 
Applying three option theory to the government impasse creates a simple solution. Proposals put forth, but unable to reach consensus are put to a public vote. We provide the public with summary breakdowns a minimum of one month before the vote. Voting can take place at set intervals such as every three months through paper ballots or local secure digital networks. This way, we give interested parties time to learn about the proposals. The timeframe also ensures we keep voting frequent enough to remove the power of elected officials to stall progress. Delivering this program is as simple as an informational website—a low-cost investment with far-reaching benefits.
The COVID-19 crisis demands quick and decisive action for the general health and wellbeing of our people. Instead, we have two sides of Congress fighting about how much money they should give to large corporations. They argue back and forth while people across the country struggle to figure to pay their bills and wonder where they will find their next meal.
Three option theory in government removes the inherent inhumanity of governance of the majority by corporate-sponsored candidates. It allows for more rapid change, likely resulting in a more people-centric shaping of government. By eliminating ill actors like much of our current Congress, we break their power of an elite few to hold the majority hostage.
Another example of the systemic limitations of a two-option theory is our laws surrounding technology ownership. In all of society’s productive verticals, there is a consistent and expanding trend of the hyper-concentration of technology and knowledge within a small group of organizations. A comparatively small number of companies hold the majority of these advantages, prohibiting innovative competition from arising. These advantages primarily take the form of patents, ensuring the full legal protection of the companies at the top against those below.
The same can be said about our laws of property and contract. They draw from ideologies of a past designed by wealthy elites, prioritizing their interests over that of the majority. It’s another example of two option theory applied to social systems. Our laws offer two options—you own something, or you don’t. On the surface, this framework seems fair, but in reality, it stifles change. They are slowing collective progress, so a few can financialize to the highest possible degree.
Innovation happens in nearly every direction of the human experience. More often than not, this progress provides net benefits to collective humanity. Therefore it is logical that we would want to maximize this benefit to the highest degree possible. The three option theory alternative would be to consider property rights from a different perspective, one of selective and time-limited ownership.
We can imagine this taking form in several directions. Designated types of new patents would receive non-extendable time limitations to exclusive ownership. Term lengths will vary depending on the creation. We can get creative considering factors such as development time, application intention, and weighing the public benefit of giving much more access to the knowledge. Additionally, if organizations do not meet development commitments, we might include use clauses nullifying exclusive rights.
Thinking experimentally, we may customize patent laws depending on verticals. Deciding democratically which innovations we want to prioritize and developing ways to disseminate them. For example, when it comes to medical progress, we may wish to ban exclusivity outright. Innovators outside of the original organization are granted temporary usage rights and training in exchange for sharing rewards with the original inventors for periods of time. This type of licensing agreement allows for more rapid experimentation while still maintaining incentives and covering costs of developing new technologies.
We can apply three option theory to any private vertical in the United States and create new alternatives. We’re entering an era of technology ascendency, where the speed of change continues to increase dramatically. The most significant barrier to these advancements spreading throughout the world is ownership. If we’re unwilling to see past the binary choices of yesterday, we willingly stagnate our tomorrows.
If we’re willing to take a broad view of our total picture, we can begin to connect the dots, evolving three option theory with other revelations. Physicist Lee Smolin argues that we misunderstand our relationship with time and the evolving laws of the universe . Embracing that our most fundamental understandings can and are subject to change forces us to consider what type of social arrangements would best empower the transformation. Sounds fantastical, but we already have evidence of our government experimentally applying this mindset with anti-gravity technology .
When it comes to human society, we are self constraining. Not everyone has the tools necessary to think critically about social organization. Still, for those who do, it’s time to imagine more. That’s easier said than done because we have to decondition a long history of the duopoly.
One of the greatest ironies of duopoly thinking is that we’re born practicing three option theory. An infant observes with total focus, building an understanding from nothing. The adolescent bubbles over with endless inquisitiveness, an insatiable hunger to know. We fail the child, who, by entering public institutions, begins a lifetime of programming, molding behaviors and incentive drivers to fit an outdated narrative.
Our conscious coordinates always limit our experience. While we understand that other perspectives exist, we can never truly experience them. What is perceived one way by me can rightfully be radically different to you.
Three option theory is relevant now because we are observing the influence of two options on our society today. Centuries of law and religion dictating a strict right and wrong, systems always serving the powerful and punishing the poor. Generations of traumatized individuals cascade into our moment’s struggle, lost and trying to make sense of policies that abandoned them long ago.
Now we witness dramatic cultural breaks, shreds of a social fabric woven around consumerism and war. The career con artist turned president merely an avatar for wizards behind the curtain. Much of the damage already done, and more is coming. These wounds will take time to heal, and what happens next is unknown. If American society is to continue, it must wretch itself free from the mental prisons of men long dead.
Deconditioning duopoly is no simple task. It takes root in one of the most fundamental aspects of humanity: insiders and outsiders. At every stage of survival as a species, these two concepts have been our foundation. More importantly, there is no eliminating this facet of our being. Grouping is a natural human function, and by definition, it creates circumstances of inclusion and exclusion.
What is different now is our ability to analyze and think critically about our moment in time. There is a stark difference between personally preferring groups and legally organizing ourselves around them. Winners write history because, for much of human history, education and information were only accessible by a privileged few. Those with the money and the armies made the rules. Unsurprisingly their designs were more about power maintenance than just governance. Today we recognize this as two option thinking, hard lines defining winners and losers.
In many respects, we’re still bound to these systems. The baby boomer generation holds the levers of power throughout the world. We see their unwillingness to transcend their traumas through the geopolitical circus they are conducting. Many are belligerently stampeding forward, attempting to isolate power and resources in a time of crisis. History will remember their lack of cooperative insight poorly.
For many millennials and younger generations, duopolistic thinking is a way of the past. We know for a fact that your experiences shape the physical and mental makeup of your brain. It is difficult to limit them to binary systems when entire generations have grown up with the world’s information at their fingertips. This conflict further splinters the already weak U.S. democracy, resulting in significant popular resistance to change that reinforces institutional barriers.
To practice the three option theory is to embrace your individual and collective limitlessness. In our personal and professional lives, we should consider circumstances not as they are, but as they should be. Working backward, we can develop conclusions for how to act and organize in ways that would otherwise escape us.
In an era where technology is rapidly reshaping what is possible, we must actively work towards developing systems to encourage evolution. We see the old thought regimes breaking, but lack consensus on proper replacements. We win the battle for imagination by putting personal practices into the world.
The next time you find yourself in a place of stress and anxiety about your options, take a deep breath. Have you considered all possibilities? Could other options exist simultaneously? If so, what would they look like? From there, imagine backward, thinking about the missing puzzle pieces needed to complete the picture. Within your power is infinite imagination, now is the time to free it. Always imagine three options before acting.
 The Framers’ Coup: The Making of the United States Constitution by Michael J. Klarman Oxford University Press 2016
 Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe by Lee Smolin Houghton Mifflin 2013
 Craft using an inertial mass reduction device U.S. Patent #10144532B2