Item: On superiority of simple solutions to complex problems and other fairy tales
Title: On superiority of simple solutions to complex problems and other fairy tales
Proceedings: International Snow Science Workshop, Davos 2009, Proceedings
Authors: Bob Uttl1,* and Jan Uttl2 1 Mount Royal College, Calgary, AB, Canada 2 Avidata.ca, Cochrane, AB, Canada
Abstract: The simple is desirable; the complex is confusing. The Avaluator Avalanche Accident Prevention Card (Haegeli & McCammon, 2006), a Canadian government avalanche accident prevention initiative, was designed to help recreationists to avoid avalanche accidents. It consists of a Trip Planner and Obvious Clues tools. The Trip Planner helps the user select appropriate terrain based on the avalanche danger rating whereas Obvious Clues help the users “determine whether a slope is safe enough to cross” (Haegeli & McCammon, 2006). The authors, the Canadian Avalanche Center (publisher of the Avaluator), Canadian avalanche educators, and the Canadian government all extol the Avaluator's simplicity as its main virtue and something that makes it superior to European decision support tools such as the 25-item Nivo test. A leading avalanche safety educator, Albi Sole, explained to the media: “I say keep it simple. Seven clues is plenty.” and opined that the 25-item Nivo test is too complicated for most backcountry users, even though thousands of French have mastered its use. We examine this fixation on simplicity. First, we demonstrate the undesirable consequences of dumbing down curriculum in response to students' preferences for simplicity and easiness. Second, using psychometric theory, we demonstrate that the Avaluator's Obvious Clues method is too simple to be reliable, valid, and useful for making decisions about slope stability. Third, using Avalanche danger ratings and terrain classifications, we demonstrate that the Trip Planner is so simple that it recommends that users do not venture out most of the winter except perhaps on flat avalanche-free plains.
Keywords: avaluator, obvious clues, simple solutions, complex problems, avalanche avoidance
Digital Abstract Not Available