A Strange Dream

Cruelty of Ultimatums


The act of presenting an ultimatum either assumes a choice can be made and justified or that the choice itself is the sacrifice, or there is no loss and choice does not matter.

EX: The choice between saving your mother's or sisters' life and not both.

  1. mother had a longer life, save sister
  2. mother can have more children, save mother
  3. is a terrible loss, forcing a choice is guilt no matter the outcome


Forcing a choice through ultimatum creates a zero sum or negative game and reduces future trust.

EX: Genericize above. You want two things. You can have one or the other but not both simultaneously.

  1. either/or limits (refuses any alternate solutions)
  2. all future outcomes can be traced to the ultimatum decision, chooser guilt (burden of outcome is on the choice-maker)
  3. giver resents needing to give ultimatum in the first place, questions the outcome decision, and choice-maker's dedication to it


Ultimatum fractures life flow or emergent/evolutionary progression.

  1. may force pre-emptive decision
  2. choice-maker may come to decision without prompt
  3. parameters for ultimatum may change rapidly (they are given with only snapshots of life, they do not evolve with life and life constantly changes)

Other thoughts

What changes when the ultimatum giver has a vested interest in the choice-maker's decision?