[ Question ]

Is there a guide to 'Problems that are too fast to Google'?

by Vaniver 3mo17th Jun 201913 comments

48


It seems to me like problems come in a variety of required response speeds, but there's a natural threshold to distinguish fast and slow: whether or not you can Google it. The slow ones, like getting an eviction notice from your landlord or a cancer diagnosis from your doctor, can't be ignored but you have time to figure out best practices before you act. Fast ones, like getting bit by a rattlesnake or falling from a high place, generally require that you already know best practices in order to properly implement them.

Also useful would be the meta-guide, which just separates out which problems are fast and slow (or how fast they are). Getting bit by a tick, for example, seems like it might be quite urgent when you discover one biting you, but isn't; you have about 24 hours from when it first attaches to remove it, which is plenty of time to research proper removal technique. Getting a bruise might seem like you have time, but actually applying cold immediately does more to prevent swelling than applying cold later does to reduce it.

Of course, this is going to vary by region, profession, age, sex, habits, and so on. I'm sort of pessimistic about this existing at all, and so am interested in whatever narrow versions exist (even if it's just "here's what you need to know about treating common injuries to humans"). Basic guides also seem useful from a 'preventing illusion of transparency' perspective.

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4 Answers

There is a word for important problems that must be solved at once, with no time to learn how: emergencies. Learning how in advance is called emergency preparedness. Someone has mentioned first aid. On similar lines there is knowing how to handle a breakdown in the middle of nowhere, being able to fight, situational awareness, knowing how to interact with unfriendly policemen, and so on, all the way up to knowing where your towel is when Yellowstone explodes.

I'm not aware of any such guide, but it's a good idea. Here are some thoughts on how we might break this down if we ever want to start such a guide:

  • Problems vs. opportunities: This may or may not be a meaningful distinction. They would seem to be two sides of the same coin, as both are concerned with utility-maximizing in a narrow time-window. I bring it up because it may not be intuitive, and may spark some ideas.
  • Context: For completeness sake, as you already brought it up. Who might encounter this problem, and under what circumstances?
  • Problem speed: Again, for completeness sake, as you already brought it up. Are we only interested in "too fast to Google", or would it be useful to cover a wider range? A problem may be slow enough to Google, but still require certain resources to solve (like a first-aid kit).
  • Cost to prepare: How much time / space / energy / money will it cost to be(come) prepared? Is it simply a matter of remembering a fact? Does it require training? Does it require ready cash? A first-aid kit? A fire extinguisher? A phone? A camera?
  • Reward for being prepared: When a given problem occurs, what's the net difference in outcome between being prepared and not being prepared?
  • Resources: How would one go about becoming prepared?

Those would be useful aspects to track. People who are generally interested in becoming more prepared could filter by context, start with the low-cost high-reward items and work their way down. Furthermore, it would be useful if each item could be separately discussed and voted up/down by the community.

Thoughts?

When I did jujitsu we learned to fall. The important things are to tuck in your head, and to strike the ground - like, slap it as hard as you can with your hands - before your landing to reduce the force with which you hit.

First aid seems very close to this category, consisting of immediate assistance to an injured person. The major differences are that (a) it's specific to physical injuries and (b) it involves things one person can do to help another, rather than things one should do to help oneself.

I've taken first aid training in Berkeley, California, and the guide to CPR was helpful, although the rest seemed to be mostly about meeting legal requirements and not that effective in actually teaching stuff (as evidenced by me not remembering it).