Fleeting memories

July 15, 2009

I was chatting today with a former Harrier Pilot in the US Marines, now in a senior position in Boeing after a period as a test pilot. The subject including the role of fragmented narrative in patterning the brain and consequences for decision making. He came up with a brilliant example of this. Some years ago he overheard two other pilots talking about a corrective action if the nose of your aircraft went up unexpectedly on take off from a carrier. I can’t do justice to the description of this I am afraid as I am not up to it technically, and the detail (which considerably enhanced the story) is beyond my recall. The corrective action was not in the manual. it was one of those things that experts learn through experience. A few years later, the incident forgotten he took off only to encounter the same problem. A fleeting memory of the overheard conversation came to him, and he took the corrective action immediately and instinctively.

It was a great story, and an excellent illustration of the way that we pay attention to fragmented anecdotal for good reason, its recall is far easier than a manual or best practice document, and it has higher utility.

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