Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Siberian dilemma

The Siberian dilemma has been around a long time. The narrative goes like this:
It's a seriously sub-zero day on a frozen lake
You're walking across the lake and fall through a weak spot in the ice

If you stay in the water, you'll die in 5 minutes;
If you get out the water, you'll die in 2 minutes.

The dilemma: stay in the water and live longer, or get out and die sooner?
Damned if you do; damned if you don't.

Risk management:
You could frame this as a case in risk management:
  • There's no risk to manage if you stay in the water. Circumstances and outcomes are fixed, so there's no opportunity for management intervention. It's like a coin toss with both sides tails.
  • There is limited opportunity for intervention if you get out the water. At least the circumstnaces of chance -- die in two minutes --are not fixed. Perhaps you could run around to generate body heat and circulate blood faster. Perhaps there is nearby shelter. 
Aggressive management 
The dilemma is mistated. A better rendering:
  • Stay in the water and accept a certain outcome, or get out and "do something" to change circumstances
"Do somethng" is always better than "do nothing".
Franklin Roosevelt had a take on this:
If it doesn't work, try something else; but always try!

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