Inside Track ERIC P. HARDING
Possibilities and Probabilities
I HAVE AN ADMISSION THAT MAY LOSE ME SOME CREDIBILITY among my esteemed readers—I like
to gamble. If the Powerball jackpot grows to a size that merits coverage in the national media, you can be
sure I’ll buy a ticket. I enjoy the buzz and bustle of the casino floor. And my rooting interest in my hometown
sports teams is amplified if I have something on the line. (One of this magazine’s department editors was the
beneficiary of the Cleveland Indians’ collapse in the World Series last year.)
But it’s not just the moment of winning a bet that I enjoy.
From the moment I lay my money down, the future has two
possible paths—I win or I lose. And during this period of dual
possibilities, I’m free to imagine what the world would look like
after my horse comes in.
Yes, it’s the period between making a wager and seeing whether
it pays off that’s exciting. That frisson of the unexpected is worth
the price of admission for me,
In “A Rigged Game?” (page
22), Carlos Fuentes takes a look
at the current U.S. health care
landscape. Using the principles
of game theory, this feature
examines how human nature
may drive the health insurance reform discussion. After
delineating the stakeholders—the players—Fuentes analyzes how
these players interact strategically, examines the current marketplace—the game—and draws some conclusions about possible
mid- and long-term outcomes.
The headlines are full of stories touting the benefits of technological advancements. But what unforeseen results of these new
technologies should we be considering? In “Dollars and Sense”
(page 28), Shiraz Jetha explores how advancements in the fields of
automation and robotics could change the labor market forever. In
such an environment, he argues, we may need to change how we
think about several fundamental economic ideas: money, labor,
and leisure. The piece discusses a concept called universal basic
income—the idea that a government provides a sustenance-level
stipend to all citizens—and lays out potential positives and drawbacks to such a scheme.
We shop quite differently today than we did even 10 years ago.
Online retail, targeted marketing, pop-up boutiques—today’s marketplace has become more personalized and on-demand. Could
insurance offerings follow suit? In “Insurance as Experience—A
New Paradigm” (page 34), Shivathsan Karanai Margan examines
how that shift is already underway. Insurers are looking at ways to
differentiate their offerings and add value for their customers, he argues, and they’re increasingly
positioning themselves as
helpful partners rather than
faceless financial entities.
Our final feature, “Too
Much Data” (page 42), looks
at how companies are using
the surge of new consumer
data to help make strategic
business decisions—and how
that process can sometimes
go awry. Big Data is a useful tool, argues author Kurt
This issue also contains a new department. International Corner
will take a look beyond our borders so we can learn from other
nations’ experiences as we attempt to improve our systems. The
inaugural series begins with “Insights From Worldwide Health Care
Systems—An Introduction” (page 64), which lays out a framework
of data exploration. Future articles will look at various countries’
health care systems and outcomes; could we improve our system
by learning what works elsewhere in the world?
Thanks, as ever, for reading. I bet you’ll find something in this
issue worth sharing.