Heuristics

When something is complicated we can use a heuristic as a short cut. Heuristics simplify the complicated into something more familiar and on our own terms.

An ‘educated guess’ is a common heuristic. It allows us to reach a conclusion without having to research a problem in depth. Another example of a heuristic is ‘common sense’. We can apply ‘common sense’ to decision making allowing us to find an answer based on our experience and our observation of a particular problem.

There are other ‘unnamed’ heuristics such as when we briefly recount the main points of a story to a friend, when neither of us have the time to go throw the full blow by blow account.

The heuristic is a useful shortcut to explain something without going into all the detail.

It however runs the risk that the short cuts I use may not be the same short cuts you understand. My heuristics are influenced by my bias, as are yours.

News as delivered by newspapers, television and radio is never really news. It’s not what really happened. With a short space of time and space (billboards and banner ads), news is a heuristic for the journalist to communicate what happened. Both their own and their publications’ bias get rolled in with the story.

This is why news should be regarded with some scepticism. The journalists’ ¬†heuristic and our own heuristic are unlikely to be the same.

Rather than believe what has been written, we should be figuring out the journalists’ heuristic.

Heauristics are useful as a short cut for a long story but they are not the same as the long story because they include the bias of the writer.

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Author: Dale Williams

Dale is based in Cape Town on the southern tip of Africa from where he maintains connections with people all over the world through his portfolio life.