The ‘Heuristic Trap’ and Other Human Hazards

April 2018


I spent part of this winter in central Oregon, where it snowed often and ice frequently accumulated on the roads. One early March morning I confidently headed out for groceries in a Nissan Pathfinder and very briefly lost control of the vehicle. I’d misjudged the Pathfinder’s four-wheel drive, my own competence and the road’s slick surface. So, with that event still fresh in my mind, I’ll open this month’s recommendations for what to read, watch and listen to with a piece in the most recent New Yorker.

[Read or Listen] Black ice, ice, baby. I was riveted by John Seabrook’s chronological account of his F-150 truck careening out of control on a New England road. He deftly weaves physics with personal narrative that anyone who’s driven in freezing rain can relate to. One interesting tidbit is what Seabrook refers to as “the heuristic trap” (a term someone else coined). We fall into such traps when we respond overconfidently to potentially dangerous situations, such as driving dangerously in worsening weather. As a bonus for the more aurally inclined, there’s an audio version of the same story.

[Read or Watch] I’m not ready for my close-up. I confess I’ve underdressed when participating in webcasts, knowing people are paying attention to my words, not my wardrobe. That may change if the newest trend in webinars continues to gain hold in content marketing. Within days of reading this article about how to up webinar engagement through livecasts, I attended such a webcast for Harvard Business Reviewsubscribers featuring the CEO of a viral marketing company that decided to become a bigger agency. The production’s glitches were minor, and I admit I was far more engaged than usual, from the live viewing to the stream of comments and questions coming in on a chat line.

[Watch] Silicon Valley’ Returns for Season 5. One of my favorite shows is HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” Even if every character fits a stereotype (on purpose…it’s satire), I love that there’s a cable show that captures the cradle of technology and all the strange characters that succeed in a world of cutthroat coders, startup savagery and wealthy posers. I find the oddball cast members both funny and comforting, and the feast-or-famine story arcs all too true to life. I just sometimes wish it was more than 30 minutes per show.