Sunday, December 1, 2013

On the subject of "satisficing"

Turning to Wiki to get a feel for that wacky word:
Satisficing is a decision-making strategy or cognitive heuristic that entails searching through the available alternatives until an acceptability threshold is met. This is contrasted with optimal decision making, an approach that specifically attempts to find the best alternative available. The term satisficing, a portmanteau of satisfy and suffice, was introduced by Herbert A. Simon in 1956, although the concept "was first posited in Administrative Behavior, published in 1947." Simon used satisficing to explain the behavior of decision makers under circumstances in which an optimal solution cannot be determined. He pointed out that human beings lack the cognitive resources to optimize: We can rarely evaluate all outcomes with sufficient precision, usually do not know the relevant probabilities of outcomes, and possess only limited memory. Simon formulated the concept within a novel approach to rationality, which takes into account these limitations. He referred to this approach as bounded rationality. Notice furthermore that some consequentialist theories in moral philosophy use the concept of satisficing in the same sense, though most call for optimization instead.
Well, that's good enough for me! (See what I did there? Didja??)

I brought up satisficing in a previous post in which I described my goal when building the airplane as attaining "safe and airworthy" as my standard, rather than "award-winning" or "better than store-bought." Allow me to rush to add that I see nothing at all wrong with the opposite end of the spectrum; I have nothing but respect and awe for people that can craft award-winning, as-close-to-perfect-as-possible things. I wish I had the native ability, patience, and time to be one of them myself. I grant that patience is probably my biggest weakness in this area, but laziness gives it a run for its money.

Case in point: The Curious Case of the Basement Lights.

Here's the background: the basement lights inexplicably stopped working one recent day. There are three switches: one at the top of the stairs, one at the bottom of the stairs, and one by the cellar door. Realistically, only one of those switches ever needs to be used; the one at the top of the stairs is the only one that makes sense to routinely use.

After all, why would you ever turn off the light way down there?? Or wait until you got down there to turn them on???

I tried all of the switches and reset the circuit breaker a dozen times. No help. A general contractor looked at it and postulated "maybe a bad switch." He also noted that it all worked fine if the switch at the bottom of the stairs was left in the 'off' position.

I took two of the three face plates off of the switches and inspected the wires. None were broken or hanging loose. There were only two possible approaches: go buy and replace all three switches, potentially making the problem worse, or I could........

As long as no one messes with that switch, all is well.

So, does that count as "fixed?"

The satisficer says yes. Yes it does.

On the other hand...

One of the new features that came with the Version 7 firmware update to the Dynon Skyview was georeferenced instrument approach charts.
To georeference something means to define its existence in physical space. That is, establishing its location in terms of map projections or coordinate systems. The term is used both when establishing the relation between raster or vector images and coordinates, and when determining the spatial location of other geographical features.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, egg head. Wiki often leads to more questions that answers.

A picture (or series of pictures displayed at a high rate of speed) is worth a thousand Wiki articles:

If you were patient enough, you would have noticed the little airplane icon creeping along on the chart.

And that he was using an iPad rather than a purpose-designed unit like the Skyview.  The Skyview works just as well, if not better, assuming you don't want to play Solitaire while you're droning through the approach.

That behavior of the little plane icon moving on top of the chart is enabled by someone taking the time to add precise latitude and longitude information to the image file that contains the visual representation of the chart. "Chart" is actually incorrect usage in this case; that chart is actually called an approach plate, but the distinction isn't important for this conversation.

The point is, the Skyview software update added that capability to my system for free, but it didn't include the electronic approach plates. There is effort involved in georeferencing a chart, one presumes, and the people that put forth that effort like to be paid for it. In this case, the subscription cost is $99 per year. Compared to more mainstream vendors like Garmin, that price is a steal, but even so I decided that I didn't need it. I no longer fly instrument approaches.

Two recent events changed my mind. I was no longer satisficed.

The first event was actually two separate events, but they were of the same nature. On two separate flights, I found myself in legal VFR weather, but struggling to find the airport through the haze. In one case, I basically tripped over it and had to make a steeper than normal approach to land. In the other, the weather was better, but we were flying into the setting sun and the haze yet again made it hard to find the airport.

That was enough to get me thinking that IFR or not, these charts would be good to have from a safety aspect.  I decided to look into it again.

And that's when I found the 'two years for the price of one' Black Friday deal.


I paid the money and downloaded the data files, which took quite a long time. There are a lot of them! So many, in fact, that I had to go buy a new memory card to hold them all. The Skyview's on-board memory isn't sufficiently large to hold them - nothing bu a 16GB memory stick can hold them all. The memory stick has to remain in the airplane for that to work, but the slot for the stick is under the avionics shelf, right where it is at risk of being hit with a knee.

Luckily, these things have gotten incredibly tiny - I added the little piece of wire to delay the eventual loss of the thing:

That little gadget could hold more than 50,000 books.

It could also save my life someday.


Leon said...

with regards to the light switch problem you have two three way switches and one four way. the one at the bottom of the stairs is most probably your 4-way. seeings as you already know which breaker controls the light you are way ahead of most people and well on your way.

turn off the breaker and remove the switch. it should have a bare wire...leave it alone. if it has three other screws then you have a 3-way...4 a 4-way. see if there are some white wires in the back of the box in a wire nut. if so good. with a voltage tester see where the power is in each switch position. (one lead in the white wire nut the other touching a screw which you will have turned the breaker on for(be careful)) new 3-ways have a brownish screw that power comes in one end on and out to the light on the other. the two golds go to the other switch. a 4-way ought to have 4 gold screws and goes between three way. adding another 4-way will make it a 5-way and etc. (all this is assuming they used 3+bare wiring and the black and red ought to be on the runs between switches.)
hope that helps.

Leon said...

i left out the most important part. if you switch the switch and it goes form having power on two screw heads and then only has power on one the switch is bad. if it goes from having power on two and you switch it and the power moves (as it should) to another head you have bigger problems...always check and suspect the easy things is what i say.

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